(Gromphadorhina portentosa) -- (Last updated on July 2, 2001)

Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches are found on the island nation of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches perform an important role in nature. As decomposers, they eat leaf-litter on the forest floor and other decaying plant and animal tissue. Their bodies then break down this material into more simple chemicals for nature to reuse.

The hiss of these insects can be heard from up to twelve feet away. This defensive warning sound is produced by small openings on the roaches' side which are used for breathing. Air is forced out of these small openings called spiracles.

Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches are almost identical to fossil roaches over 300 million years old, older than the dinosaur era.

Cockroaches seem to be almost indestructible. Some roaches can survive freezing for more than 2 days, go without food for 3 months and are able to live through nearly 100 times the radiation dose that would kill a human.

In the wild, cockroaches are scavengers and eat just about anything that falls to the ground. New England Science Center cockroaches eat a mixed diet of dogfood, fruits and vegetables.

--This text is from one of two live exhibits at the EcoTarium (previously,
New England Science Center) in Worcester, Massachusetts
(transcribed by A. Richard Miller, Feb. 1997)

Dick Miller adds:
These appear to be the giant cockroaches inflicted upon Natick, Massachusetts by U.S. Army Natick Laboratories in 1974. Those were said to be three inches in length, "As long as a man's thumb." The ones at NESC measure about 2 to 2-1/2 inches actual body length but they do grow to 3 inches (and hey, our local ones caught plenty of rays :-). They are used for school demonstrations and for laboratory experimentation.

Cockroaches at MMS? No, thanks! This page is to better understand what other Natickites learned the hard way.