The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

  • By: Charles Coleman
  • Date: April 2, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

When you hear the word “cockroach,” the last thing you might think about is the fascinating world of the Madagascar hissing cockroach. These insects are unique in their appearance, behavior, and, of course, their distinctive hissing sound. This guide will take you on an enthralling journey to learn more about these remarkable creatures and how they differ from other cockroach species like the American cockroach or the German cockroach.

Understanding the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Anatomy and Appearance

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are quite different from other cockroach species you might have encountered. They are a dark brown color and can grow up to 3 inches long. Unlike flying cockroaches or cockroaches with wings like the Asian cockroach, these insects do not have wings and are unable to fly.

Hissing: A Unique Form of Communication

What sets the Madagascar hissing cockroach apart from other cockroach species is its distinctive hissing sound. While many insects produce sounds, the hissing cockroach is one of the few that uses its spiracles – small holes on the sides of its body used for breathing – to create this unique sound.

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The hissing serves multiple purposes, including:

  1. Territorial displays: Males will hiss to establish dominance and claim territory.
  2. Courtship: Males hiss to attract females for mating.
  3. Defense: Both males and females will hiss when they feel threatened.

Habitat and Diet

As their name suggests, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are native to the island of Madagascar. They prefer warm, humid environments, making them ideal inhabitants of the island’s forests. In the wild, they are primarily scavengers, feeding on decaying plant material, fallen fruits, and even small animals.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach as Pets

Believe it or not, Madagascar hissing cockroaches have become popular pets among insect enthusiasts. They are low-maintenance, easy to care for, and can be fascinating to observe. If you’re considering a hissing cockroach as a pet, here are some tips to help you provide a suitable environment for your new companion:

  1. Housing: Provide a secure, well-ventilated enclosure with a tight-fitting lid. A 10-gallon aquarium or plastic storage container will suffice.
  2. Substrate: Line the bottom of the enclosure with 2-3 inches of a moisture-retaining substrate like coconut coir or peat moss.
  3. Hiding spots: Provide plenty of hiding spots using cork bark, egg cartons, or cardboard tubes.
  4. Temperature and humidity: Maintain a temperature between 75-90°F and a humidity level of 50-70%. A heat pad can help maintain the desired temperature, while misting the enclosure with water will help maintain humidity.
  5. Diet: Feed your hissing cockroach a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources like dog or cat food. Ensure they have access to a shallow dish of water or a water gel.

Dealing with Cockroach Pests

While Madagascar hissing cockroaches are unlikely to infest your home, other species like the Australian cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, and the baby German cockroach can be problematic pests. To deal with these unwelcome visitors, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the infestation: Look for signs of cockroach infestations, such as droppings, shed skins, and egg cases. Use this guide to identify the specific cockroach species you’re dealing with.
  2. Eliminate food sources: Keep your home clean and tidy, store food in sealed containers, and promptly clean up spills and crumbs.
  3. Eliminate hiding spots: Remove clutter, seal gaps and cracks, and repair any water leaks.
  4. Use traps and baits: Employ roach bait stations or Advion cockroach gel bait to target cockroaches where they live and breed.
  5. Apply insecticides: Use roach spray, borax for roaches, or diatomaceous earth for roaches to kill and repel cockroaches. Always follow the product’s label and safety guidelines.
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If your infestation persists, consider hiring a roach exterminator to eliminate the problem professionally.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach in Popular Culture

The intriguing Madagascar hissing cockroach has not only captured the hearts of insect enthusiasts but has also found its way into popular culture. They have appeared in movies, television shows, and even commercials. The hissing cockroach’s unique appearance and sound make it an ideal candidate for creepy crawly roles and a perfect addition to educational exhibits in zoos and museums.

Fun Facts about Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

  1. Longevity: Madagascar hissing cockroaches can live up to 5 years, much longer than many other cockroach species. For comparison, the lifespan of the American cockroach is around 1-2 years.
  2. Speed: These insects may not be as fast as other cockroach species (the speed of a German cockroach can be up to 50 body lengths per second), but they can still scurry away quickly when threatened.
  3. Size: Madagascar hissing cockroaches are among the largest cockroach species, rivaled only by the giant burrowing cockroach of Australia.
  4. Molting: Like other insects, Madagascar hissing cockroaches molt as they grow. After molting, they will be vulnerable and pale in color, similar to an albino roach, but they will darken as their exoskeleton hardens.


Q: Can Madagascar hissing cockroaches bite?

A: Although these cockroaches have strong mouthparts, they are not known to bite humans. Their primary defense mechanism is their hissing sound, which can be quite startling.

Q: Can Madagascar hissing cockroaches infest my home?

A: It is highly unlikely that Madagascar hissing cockroaches would infest your home, as they are native to Madagascar and have specific environmental requirements. However, if you are concerned about cockroach infestations, check this guide for more information on how to identify and deal with potential problems.

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Q: Do Madagascar hissing cockroaches carry diseases?

A: Like all cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches can carry bacteria on their bodies, but they are not known to transmit diseases to humans. As pets, they pose minimal health risks, provided their enclosures are kept clean and properly maintained.

Q: How do I know if I have a Madagascar hissing cockroach or another species?

A: Madagascar hissing cockroaches are quite distinctive in appearance, with their large size, dark brown color, and lack of wings. Additionally, they are the only cockroach species that produce a hissing sound. If you are unsure about the type of cockroach you have encountered, use this guide to help identify the species.

Q: Are there any other hissing cockroach species?

A: While the Madagascar hissing cockroach is the most well-known hissing species, there are a few other species of hissing cockroaches native to Madagascar. However, none of these species are as well-documented or popular in the pet trade as the Madagascar hissing cockroach.

Q: How can I tell the difference between male and female Madagascar hissing cockroaches?

A: Males and females have some physical differences. Males have larger, more pronounced “horns” on their pronotum (the plate-like structure behind their head), while females have smaller, smoother pronotums. Males also tend to be more aggressive and territorial than females.

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