Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Gromphadorina portentosa

DIETDecaying plant material and fallen fruit, smaller insects and animal carcasses

RANGEMadagascar

HABITATLowland rainforests on the forest floor under leaf litter

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

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Program and General Information

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is native to the island of Madagascar, where it lives on the forest floor and eats fallen fruit and plant matter. This cockroach has a special niche in the food chain as a decomposer, but is also a food source for small animals such as lemurs and birds.

There are many reasons this insect is considered unique, including its hissing noises. Unlike other insects that create sounds by rubbing their wings or legs together, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches push air through their spiracles to create their signature hissing noise.

Common Physical Features

In size, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is approximately 2-4 inches long and weighs ¼ to 7/8 ounces.

They are reddish brown or black, oval-shaped insects that are wingless and possess a pair of antennae. The males have large horns, which are used in battles with other males.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female look different. The males have noticeable humps called pronatal humps, whereas females will have very small bumps or none at all. Males can also be distinguished by having much brushier antennae.

Habitat and Global Range

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are from the island of Madagascar that is off the coast of Africa. They live on the forest floor, hiding amongst the leaf debris, logs, and other plants. They are most active at night, when they go out to scavenge for food.

Diet

In the wild, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is a detritivore. They feed on fallen vegetation and fruit that is decomposing on the forest floor.

Behavior and Life Cycle

They live in large groups called colonies for safety. When a predator is spotted, they will warn the rest of the colony by hissing.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach has a unique reproductive cycle. The females create a cocoon-like egg-case called an ootheca and use this to carry their eggs inside of their bodies. The eggs hatch inside the case and as many as 60 nymphs are born.

Males will use their horns to fight other males as part of the mating ritual as well as integrating hissing into the ritual. Typically, the winner will hiss louder than his competitor.

Fun Facts

  • Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches hiss by expelling air through the spiracles in their abdomen.
  • Female roaches incubate their eggs inside of their body, which is unique for an invertebrate.
  • Cockroaches eat the exoskeleton they shed after the molting process.
  • The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is one of few species of cockroach to not have wings at any point during its life.

Conservation Messaging

Cockroaches have a very important role in the environment as decomposers. They are necessary to help recycle nutrients in plant matter and also as a food source to larger animals. They are a key link to the food chain and forest ecosystem.