February 9, 2015
Sealed with a Hiss
- as seen by -Craig Gibbs
As Valentine’s Day approaches, and we continue with our highly successful opportunity from the Wildlife Conservation Society to name a roach after a loved one, I was asked to write a few words about Madagascar hissing cockroach romance.
You may be surprised (possibly shocked) to learn that there is only one scientific paper on the mating behavior of Gromphadorhina portentosa, the Madagascar hissing cockroach, even though it is a well-known insect. Kids have them as pets, they have been in movies, and there are 10,000 roaches that call WCS’s Bronx Zoo home. The single paper, written by Robert H. Barth, Jr. in 1968, is an absolute must read for roach fans. As I perused its pages, I couldn’t help but see the similarities of the cockroach courtship that Mr. Barth describes and our own love lives.
In the paper, the first observed encounter between the male and female roach is by chance. The researcher removes the partitions separating the two bugs, and they “bump into” each other. Once they meet, they engage in some antennal fencing. (This is the roach equivalent to people chatting.) Mr. Barth notes that the male roach behavior is much more subdued when he is with the female roach rather than other males. (How many of us guys out there can talk to the fellas with no problem, but put a woman in front of us, and it is a different ballgame all together?) The female then takes some time to examine the male, during which time he remains motionless. (I am sure sucking in his gut and sticking out his chest.)
Now, it is the male’s turn. He circles the female, hissing softly. The hissing associated with courtship is much more subtle than the hiss of alarm or aggression. (I guess you would call this the roach equivalent to sweet talking. We all try it – and with varying degrees of success.)
I might be accused of skipping the good part here, but I need to keep this short and sweet. Lets just say that if cockroach matchmaking does the trick, in approximately 60 days, 15 to 40 babies, called nymphs, will emerge.
Now, that’s a deal that is sealed with a hiss.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Take a great photo of red in nature and submit it to the blog. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating the color for this month’s assignment. Again this year, you can also give a hiss to your special someone, just like these roaches.