Cockroaches the best feeder insect, an easy first pet or simply just a pest?

Whether you are looking for cricket alternatives to feed your pet, interested in keeping the ultimate low maintenance pet or are worried that them three dubia cockroaches that escaped two weeks ago will infest your home then you have come to the right place.

Cockroaches as feeder insects

Without a doubt cockroaches are our favourite feeders and if you have a bug eating baby and you haven’t tried cockroaches as a feeder yet then you are missing out.

There are several advantages to cockroaches over other feeders. Unlike other popular feeders such as crickets; cockroaches are easier to keep alive at lower temperatures, do not stink, do not chirp and are much less likely to injure your pets.

Cockroaches come in a range of sizes from the very small (1/8 inch) to the very large (3 inch). Adult Dubias and Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches make excellent feeders for larger reptiles such as adult bearded dragons. Whereas the nymphs are ideal for juvenile beardies or geckos.

Turkistan Roaches are a lively roach and are excellent at triggering a tarantula’s feeding response.

Will feeder roaches infest my home?

If you live in the country with a cooler climate, it is highly unlikely that your feeders will infest your home.

Both Dubias and Turkistans are not able to climb smooth surfaces so for them to actually get out of their enclosure in the first place is quite low.

If any do manage to escape, in my experience living in the UK, they will normally turn up dead somewhere around the house from lack of food or water.

If however you live in a warmer climate, or your home is cockroach friendly (warm with plenty of food and drink lying about) then as with any insect (ants, flies etc) there is always a possibility of them taking up residence.

Are feeder roaches illegal to import?

Not as a general rule, however if you live in a tropical climate it is recommended that you check with your local authorities before importing any feeder roaches as some species are illegal in some countries and states in america.

Cockroaches are generally more nutritious than other feeders

In addition, cockroaches are nutritionally better for your pets than many other popular feeders. Studies have shown cockroaches to contain more protein and less fat than mealies and morios.

Although cockroaches will provide your pet with many of its required nutrients, it is recommended to gut load and supplement your cockroaches with vitamin A and E before being fed to your pet.

Popular species of feeder cockroaches include DubiasTurkistans and Lobsters.

Cockroaches as pets

If you or your children have an interest in creepy crawlies then a pet cockroach might be the ideal pet for you.

handling hissing cockroach

The most popular pet cockroach is the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

They are a large species of cockroach and are easy to care for. You can either keep them in a very basic setup with just a hide and a dish for food and water or you can go all out and create a full bioactive vivarium.

While Hissers cannot fly, they can climb very well and can easily climb up any smooth surfaces, including glass. It is therefore important that whatever setup you choose it has a secure lid.

Caring for your pet cockroaches

Most cockroaches can be kept much in the same way and Hissers are no different. They will eat pretty much anything but it is recommended that you feed them a variety of food, especially if they will also be used as feeders for your other pets.

Their typical diet can include things like breakfast cereal, fruit and vegetables, dried pet food for protein as well as commercially available roach food. Kitchen scraps are a roaches best friend.

To avoid mould it is important to remove any uneaten vegetable matter after a couple of days. It is also recommended that your setup is well ventilated to allow air to circulate to reduce the chance of mould growth. If you use a mesh screen for ventilation make sure it is made from metal as roaches are able to eat their way through plastic screens.

While you can keep your hissers fairly dry to avoid mould you should ensure that they have an area of some humidity so that they can shed their exoskeleton properly.

hisser cockroach moulting

Handling Cockroaches

While cockroaches do not need to be held, if you or your kids do decide to hold them, as with handling any other animal, remember to practise good hygiene by washing your hands afterwards.

Do cockroaches bite?

In theory, as cockroaches have mouths which they use to eat, they probably could bite. However cockroaches have no interest in biting people and I have never been bitten by any of my cockroaches. Cockroaches prefer to eat vegetables and plant matter.

Is it true that roaches can cause allergic reactions?

Yes, it is true that some people are allergic to roaches. In fact, around half of the population are allergic to roaches and the reaction can be very similar to that of a cat or dog which results in rash like symptoms on the skin (red itchy bumps), nasal congestion, wheezing or coughing.

Asthma sufferers are particularly prone to experiencing these symptoms. While simply holding your roaches could cause rash like symptoms, the other symptoms are more likely to occur during cleaning or rehousing your roaches.

Cockroaches as pests

Cockroaches have a bad reputation worldwide and are often associated with filth and squalor. But is it fair to tar all roaches with the same brush?

In fact there are over 4,500 different species of cockroaches and only about 30 of these are considered to be pests and only 4 of these are considered to be invasive.

Are cockroaches dangerous?

In themselves cockroaches are not dangerous, however cockroaches are prone to carrying and spreading bacteria. Cockroaches are not fussy when it comes to their living conditions or when it comes to what they eat.

Cockroaches will happily scavenge through household waste one minute and then crawl across your kitchen table the next.

It is this contamination that makes cockroaches dangerous as they can cause illness associated with food poisoning. Salmonella Typhi and Poliomyelitis which causes Typhoid and Polio respectively. If you are concerned you have a cockroach problem your first step should be to make sure you cleaned up everywhere with bleach and/or detergent. While cockroaches do not care if your house is clean or not, they do care where there is readily available food.

While the above is less of an issue when it comes to feeders and pets as they will be confined to their own enclosures, if they are handled it is always good practice to wash your hands to avoid the spread of bacteria and other germs.

Are there cockroaches in the UK?

Fortunately for countries such as the UK which have a colder climate, the cockroaches that give all the others a bad name (the German, American, Australian and Oriental cockroaches) without suitable conditions indoors find it difficult to survive nevermind thrive.

How do I rid cockroaches from my house?

As with many issues, prevention is usually better than the cure. If however you are reading this because you already have an infestation then your only effective solution may be a professional pest exterminator.

If you are not yet at the infestation stage, following the below to prevent your problem from getting any worse, together with the use of a good ant or roach killer such as the excellent Raid.

How do I stop cockroaches infesting my house?

While it is easier said than done, the best way to stop cockroaches entering your home is to make it physically impossible for them to enter. Close up any nooks and crannies, install insect mesh over air vents, keep doors and windows closed.

As the above is not always practical, other ways of keeping cockroaches out of your house is to make your home less attractive to them.

Cockroaches are simple creatures.

In general, in order for cockroaches to thrive, they need all three of the following:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Heat

Cockroaches are able to live for one month without food and only one week without water. While many cockroaches are able to survive in lower temperatures, most cockroaches need high temperatures and humidity in order to breed effectively. Making hot water pipes and airing cupboards particularly attractive.

To minimise the risk of infestation it is advised to fix any leaking water pipes, clean up food and drink and empty waste bins regularly.

Popular feeder and pet cockroaches

  1. Dubia Roaches (Blaptica dubia)
  2. Turkestan Cockroach (Blatta lateralis / Shelfordella lateralis)
  3. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)
  4. Domino / Question Mark Cockroach (Therea petiveriana / olegrandjeani)

Dubia Roaches (Blaptica dubia)

  • Species: B. dubia
  • Genus: Blaptica
  • Origin: Central and South America
  • Temperature: 24°C – 35°C
  • Adult size: 4.5cm (1.8 inches)
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Climb smooth surfaces: No

Dubia Roaches, also known as Orange Spotted Roaches, Guyana Spotted Roaches and Argentinian Wood Roaches, are probably the most popular feeder cockroach.

These Roaches are often incorrectly referred to as Dubai Roaches but as you can see from their origin they have no connection with Dubai other than their name looks similar.

Dubia Roaches are popular feeders as they are easy to maintain, cannot fly or climb smooth surfaces and are relatively slow moving.

They are sexually dimorphic and it is easy to tell the difference between adult males and females.

The biggest difference between males and females is that males have wings that span their whole body whereas females have smaller stumpy wings. Males are generally faster than females and will more likely try to flee which can be great for triggering your pet’s feeding response. Whereas females and nymphs are more likely to either bury themselves in the substrate or play dead.

Males also tend to be a little slimmer than the females and also not as dark or shiny due to their matt looking wings. Despite having fully formed wings the males do not fly but they can glide or flutter to the ground from a height.

Dubia appear to have live birth

While most roaches are oviparous and lay their eggs in a sac called an ootheca which develop outside of the female’s body, Dubias are ovoviviparous which means that they carry the ootheca internally until the babies are ready to hatch.

Baby Dubia Roaches (nymphs) which resemble the Common Woodlouse go through several moults from the time of being born to the time of reaching adult. After each moult (see above) the exoskeleton of the cockroach will be soft and white and will harden and darken over the next day or so.

Turkestan Cockroach (Blatta lateralis / Shelfordella lateralis)

  • Species: B. lateralis
  • Genus: Blatta
  • Origin: Central Asia and North Africa
  • Temperature: 24°C – 35°C
  • Adult size: 3cm (1.2 inches)
  • Lifespan: 1 year
  • Sexual maturity: 3-4 months
  • Ootheca 20-40 babies monthly
  • Climb smooth surfaces: No

Turkestan Roaches, also known Turkistans, Rusty Red / Runners or simply Turks or Lats, are in our opinion one of the best feeder roaches.

As you will have guessed by their nicknames, Turkistan Roaches are a rusty red colour and are extremely fast.

In fact, due to their ease of care, fast speed, lack of flight or ability to climb glass / smooth surfaces these are our number one feeder for tarantulas.

Similarly to Dubias, Turkistan Roaches are also sexually dimorphic with the males having longer wings. The males are also paler in colour and slightly smaller than the females. While they are not in the same league as locusts, male Turkistans do have the ability to jump and flutter so extra care must be taken when transferring them to your pet’s enclosure.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)

  • Species: G. portentosa
  • Genus: Gromphadorhina
  • Origin: Madagascar
  • Temperature: 25°C – 28°C
  • Adult size: 7.6cm (3 inches)
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Climb smooth surfaces: Yes

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (commonly referred to as Hissers). As the name suggests these cockroaches originate from Madagascar and make a hissing noise when they are either alarmed, mating or fighting.

They make this noise by squeezing air through their spiracles (respiratory openings) on their abdomen.

There are several different species of hissing cockroach from Madagascar that are kept as pets. The G. portentosa is the most popular but other species include:

  • Tiger Hisser & Black Tiger Hisser (G. grandidieri / ‘Black’)
  • Wide-horned Hisser (G. oblongonota)

Unlike most roaches, Hissers do not have wings and as such the males and females are more difficult to tell apart. The males tend to have larger, hairier antennae and larger horn like bumps just behind their heads.

Similarly to Dubias, females carry the ootheca internally and will release the nymphs once they have developed.

Madagascar cockroaches enjoy nothing better than being inside a dark, damp, rotten log.

As noted above, Madagascar Cockroaches make great pets, but while the are unable to fly, they can easily scale glass and other smooth surfaces so their enclosures should be secured with a lid.

In fact, since they are surprisingly strong, we highly recommend that their lids are also clippable or lockable as we still have one on the loose out of a dozen that managed to lift their lid off and escape.

Domino / Question Mark Cockroach (Therea petiveriana / Therea olegrandjeani)

  • Species: T. petiveriana / T. olegrandjeani
  • Genus: Therea
  • Origin: Southern India
  • Temperature: 25°C – 35°C
  • Adult size: 2.5cm (1 inch)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Climb smooth surfaces: Yes

We have decided to group these two species together as they are very similar in care and appearance.

Both roaches are flat, roundish and black with contrasting white markings on their backs. Males tend to have longer wings and antennae.

The Domino Cockroach, also known as the Indian Cockroach or as the Seven Spotted Cockroach name suggests, has several white spots on its back resembling a domino.

The Question Mark Cockroach, while similar in appearance, has squiggly shapes on their backs resembling a question mark rather than spots.

If you are interested in keeping cockroaches as a pet and you already have some hissers or if you just fancy something a bit different, then these are two very popular alternatives.

We do not recommend these cockroaches for handling as they are very skittish. The best pet cockroaches for handling are hissers.

If however, you would like some beautiful pet cockroaches which you can simply watch and admire then these are a great choice. As with keeping tropical fish or even an ant colony, watching these species in their enclosure can be fascinating and even relaxing.

If you do decide that you would like to keep these species as pets then you must be aware that they can easily climb glass and smooth surfaces and are very fast.

Nymphs they are more likely to bury themselves in the substrate than to climb but it is worth bearing in mind that when they are babies they are tiny and will be able to squeeze through the smallest of gaps so a fine mesh is recommended.