Trembling with mixed excitement and fear, I slid back the wire screen on top of the glass tank and slowly reached in to touch a pile of the huge sleeping bugs. I jumped back in fright as the creatures reacted with a sudden hissing noise and running from my fingers. I tried again, this time determined to pick up one of the crawling critters to hold it, quickly grabbing one of the squirming “giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches” before it could get away. I could feel the suction of the insects little legs clinging stubbornly to my fingers, so I just let it hang in there for a while as I looked at it from several different angles, realizing this giant cockroach in my hand was actually a pretty cool little creature. The next day while I was letting some kids “pet” one of my new giant roach buddies, it fell on the floor as one of the kids tried to pick it up out of my hand. I could hardly believe the irony of the situation as I got down on the floor to chase down my runaway roach, saying to all the kids “Oh! Hold still – don’t step on him!”
At first glance, giant hissing cockroaches may look like nasty, creepy crawly critters – they’re roaches and my first reaction is usually the desire to stop on them. However, these roaches are actually pretty unique, cool critters. Classified as Gromphadorhina portentosa, females carry their young in an egg case, called an ootheca, bearing live roaches in the nymph stage, which later develop to be full- grown giant cockroaches – about 2-3 inches long. They’re bodies are amber colored and they have a single pair of antenna and no wings. The males have bump-like horns on the top of their heads that may, from a distance look like they should be the creatures’ eyes. However, it’s face and eyes are actually below these horns, pointing out in front of the roach.
Of course, one of the most interesting things about these creatures is the hissing sounds they make, usually as a defense mechanism. While many other crawly critters use hissing sounds, the mechanism the giant Madagascar roaches use it pretty unique. Unlike other creatures, these roaches do not use the vibration of rubbing body parts together to make their hissing; rather, the sound is made as the roach exhales air through its breathing holes, causing to air to move along the segments of its body and creating the hissing noise. It’s interesting to see how the Lord used His creativity, designing these cockroaches with a different way of hissing than many other insects use.
These roaches are garbage guys – their primary food in Madagascar is rotting wood. They eat decaying plant materials, cleaning up their environment. Roaches are specially equipped with an ability to resist diseases that are often found in what they’re eating. It’s amazing to see the way God created each creature with different purposes throughout His creation, all functioning together with various roles in their habitat. Even though God’s original perfect creation has been corrupted by sin, introducing thorns, disease, suffering, and death into the world, by His mercy He has equipped living things with the genetic flexibility and ability to adjust to the challenges of our fallen world. In a similar way, our Creator does not leave us (as humans) hopeless, even in our sinful state, giving us a choice of redemption and a new creation to come.
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, July 2015
National Geographic “Hissing Cockroaches”. Last web accessed July 17, 2015 : http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/madagascar-hissing-cockroach/
Also, special thanks to information from Curtis Baker and Dr. Rod Butterworth of the Creation Ministries of the Ozarks “Creation Experience Museum” in Branson, MO