Thursday, April 3, 2008

Better Know an Insect: Hissing Cockroach

As promised, more critters!

This beauty is a Madagascar hissing cockroach. This one is a male. I borrowed him and a female (henceforth "Hissy" and "Missy") from my friend Eugene earlier this semester for a class project.

You can tell this little guy is a male by the large horns (bumps) on his pronotum. (The pronotum is the part that looks like a shield over his head.) Females are much smoother.

As you might expect for something that is roughly snack-sized for a lot of creatures, hissers are not fond of being lifted. When you pick them up, they flatten against the ground as best they can and expel air through a series of tubes in their abdomens. This creates a loud hissing sound -- and even when you expect it to happen, it can still startle you! Missy wasn't particularly prone to hissing -- I couldn't get a peep out of her -- but Hissy up there was not fond of being lifted and hissed at me repeatedly before I got him up.

Once you pick them up, though, they're very happy to sit for pictures. (I suspect that they liked how warm my hands are; they're tropical and my apartment doesn't frequently reach 85 degrees!) Their legs are strong and they can hold on to almost anything. Eugene says that they can climb glass, and I definitely saw them climbing the walls of their plastic tanks.

They also constantly test the air. In the photo you can see that Hissy's antennae are blurry; that's because he was moving them constantly despite the rest of him being completely still. It's important for potential snacks to know what's going on!

I hope you like my hisser photo. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of Beatrice.

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