Pest Identification

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Do Cockroaches Hiss?

If it wasn’t bad enough to see several stomach-churning cockroaches running across your floor, what if they stopped and hissed at you? Fortunately, your average American kitchen cockroach does not make sounds like an angry feline. However, for those folks who live on the island-nation of Madagascar - hissing cockroaches are just as common as hissing cats.

Technically, the 20 species of large, flightless cockroaches on Madagascar are collectively called Gromphadorhinini. While you might make hissing sounds trying to pronounce that word, Madagascar hissing cockroaches do not need mouths to make their windy music. The shiny, brown, oval-shaped roaches exhale air through their respiratory openings called spiracles. They are the only known species of insect with this talent.

Like most things in the world of sentient creatures, the hissing noises are related to mating. Male Madagascar hissing cockroaches sport unusually large horns which they use to fight over the ladies. When two of the roaches go at it, they hiss madly while ramming their horns into one another like rutting elks on a mountaintop. The roach with the loudest, most astonishing hisses tends to be the winner. Having impressed the girlish roach of his choice, the male continues to hiss as the mating ritual ensues. During less exciting times, the roaches will also hiss to sound an alarm if threatened.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are about twice as big as your average kitchen-crawling cucaracha. The good news is, like 99 percent of other cockroach species, they are not pests and do not invade homes. These bugs live in the forest and scavenge for rotting fruit and plant material among the leaf litter and logs.

Because of their impressive appearance and ability to hiss like banshees, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are valued as pets. They can live from two to five years and are pretty docile; they don’t mind being handled. To top it off, the roaches love carrots—a small colony of hissing cockroaches can eat a large carrot in a single day. So, if you see a giant roach in your home and it hisses at you, it must have escaped from a neighbor’s aquarium. Give it a carrot and place some “found cockroach” fliers around your neighborhood.