Madagascar Hissing CockroachScientific Name Gromphadorhina portentosa

Conservation Status Least Concern


Madagascar Hissing cockroaches have a black to mahogany brown exoskeleton. On the abdomen are orange markings. They have 6 legs. On the feet are pads and hooks which give them the ability to climb smooth surfaces such as glass.

Males are distinguishable from females due to the large bumps behind their head known as prenatal humps. They also have hairy antennae. Neither gender can fly unlike most cockroaches.

Adult Madagascar hissing cockroaches measure 5 to 7.5cm long (2 to 3in). They can weigh up to 22.7g (0.8oz).


In the wild lifespan averages around 2 years with individuals in captivity being able to live for up to 5 years.


The Madagascar hissing cockroach is an omnivore. The majority of their diet consists of rotting fruit and meat. This important service keeps the floor of the forest clear of rubbish.


The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is found solely on the island of Madagascar.

They make their home on the forest floor. Here they will hide within leaf litter, logs and other rotting materials.


A Male Madagascar hissing cockroach will use its namesake hiss to attract a mate. They have a long-range hiss which they can use to attract a female and a shorter-range hiss used for courtship.

At the end of the male’s antennae are sense organs which allow them to detect the odour emitted by females which Madagascar Hissing Cockroachattracts and stimulates them.

A male maintains a territory in which he will maintain exclusive mating rates with the females. He uses the prenatal humps on his head to fight off rival males. They will also hiss with the louder male generally winning.

When he finds one to which he is attracted to he hisses and touches her antennae.

Following a successful mating the female will produce an ootheca (this is an egg case like a cocoon) in which they carry their eggs inside their body for around 60 days. Once they hatch they will give birth to up to 60 live young.

Young insects undergo 6 moults before they reach maturity. This process generally takes 7 months.


The Madagascar hissing cockroach is nocturnal and will avoid light.

Males are not social living alone and defending their territory. They will only come together to mate. Females and young will tolerate one another being around and don’t keep others from entering their space.

These animals are known for this hiss. It is quite unique amongst the insects as instead of being made by rubbing body parts together it is made by exhaling air through their spiracles which are breathing holes on the abdomen.

Their hiss can be changed to suit four different situations. One is for male combat, two are courting and the last is alarm to ward off predators.

This species has a range of predators including arachnids, tenrecs and birds.

Quick Facts

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is commonly kept as an exotic pet.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are also referred to as simply the hissing cockroach or hisser.

Photo Credits:

Top – Public Domain

Bottom – By Matt Reinbold (Aren’t They Cute? on Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons