The Giant Cockroach Journal

The day-to-day lives of two Giant Burrowing Cockroaches

Name:
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Giant Cockroach Journal is moving

To enable easier access and even easier reading, The Giant Cockroach Journal is moving to:

http://thegiantcockroachjournal.commscentral.net/

All future updates will be made to this site.

Credit where credit is due

It is time to acknowledge the inspiration for the adoption of Brigid and Pan and for the creation of The Giant Cockroach Journal.

Nugget, Delicata and Ha'Penny were three Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches who lived in Nevada. Their carer, Asha, documented their lives and gave wonderful insight into the world of these beautiful little creatures. I began reading with an open mind and found that I could not stop until I reached the end. It was then that I made the decision to give Pan and Brigid a home.

Delicata's, Ha'Penny's and Nugget's story can be found here. http://www.ashabot.com/cockroachdiary/pg1.htm

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Giant Cockroach Journal 14th June 2006

At 0200, the sounds of Brigid and Pan bustling about filtered through the haze of sleep and woke me. I lay still in the darkness listening to my little noctural road workers widening their tunnels and negotiating the logistics of stock piling leaves and twigs underground. Every so often they surfaced and the transportation phase began again.

By morning, the shift was completed and although I was tired, I couldn't help but feel that I was in on the secrets of one of nature's most efficient recycling teams. The day broke sunny and cold but the memory of night time forays made me smile.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Giant Cockroach Journal 13th June 06

All was quiet on the cockroach front during the night. I didn't hear a peep until after breakfast.

I entered the room to find Pan walking around very quickly as though taking his morning exercise, slowing down only to skirt the edge of the water dish and stop at the damp tissue ball like a marathon runner at a drink station. I knelt down to watch him. He must have seen me because he immediately called a halt to his run, pushed his face into the substrate and tunnelled into the ground as though his life depended on it. (For all he knew, maybe it did!) The only sign that he had even been out was a large hole in the ground after his rear end disappeared from view.

Poor Brigid remained in her tunnel under the substrate while all this was going on. I wonder if soil from her ceiling landed on her every time Pan completed a lap up above?

The Giant Cockroach Journal 8th June 06

I am enjoying getting to know my giant cockroaches. They arrived on Tuesday. The female is a giant, about as long as the palm of my hand and quite heavy. She seems very docile and she has dug a large burrow to live in. The male is about a third smaller than the female and was quite stressed about coming to live with me. When I put him in their new enclosure, he hissed very loudly and tried to get away, like my gorgeous python Osiris does when I take him to the vet! Pete at Roy Pail's place assured me that he does not normally behave like this and that it was simply the stress of the trip from Ballarat to Sydney.

Both cockroaches are a beautiful glossy dark brown in colour and they look like giant slaters in shape. They have short powerful legs for digging and pretty triangular faces with short antennae that constantly wave about.

Their new home is a high triangular glass fish tank filled with damp EcoEarth substrate to a depth of about 25cm and covered with a layer of dried eucalyptus leaves as they are the cockroaches’ staple diet, without which they will die. They also have a little water container filled with sponge pieces so they can drink without falling in and drowning, as well as a damp tissue ball incase they prefer to drink from that.

Last night they both kept me awake. I could hear digging and scurrying noises and cracking noises as the dried eucalyptus leaves were cut up, taken to the burrows and eaten. I didn't turn my bedroom light on to watch them as I was afraid I'd scare them while they were eating. This morning when I got up, there were cockroach droppings scattered about the place, which are about the size of rat droppings. Neither of them touched the carrot I left for them, so today I will try apple or banana as a treat.

I will attempt to handle the cockroaches on the weekend. Apparently they don't mind being gently dug out of their burrows so long as your hands are wet so they don't get dehydrated. If you drop them, they die of internal haemorrhaging, so I'll have to be very careful.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Giant Cockroach Journal 12th June 06

I was woken much earlier than I intended this morning by scraping sounds coming from the cockroach tank. I dragged myself out of bed and crouched beside the tank, turning my head to listen. I detected the sounds of tiny feet attempting to climb against the glass tank bottom and saw the surface substrate heaving. After five minutes the cockroaches were having no success breaking through to the surface and I decided to intervene. So began another cockroach excavation.

After digging through the substrate I found Pan and Brigid next to each other at the end of two interconnecting burrows on the floor of the tank. In the wild, these creatures construct permanent burrows, which they live in for the duration of their 7-14 year lifespan, the average age of death from natural causes being 10 years. When baby cockroaches are big enough to leave their mother, they each dig a burrow of their own.

On close inspection, it seemed that the EcoEarth base was not compact enough to allow for climbing after a burrow had been created, so I placed both Brigid and Pan into a dish on wet tissue paper, receiving the same hissing performance from Pan that I had come to expect. I replaced the EcoEarth with the damp but slightly drier substrate I removed yesterday, being careful to pack it down firmly. I then covered this hard base with looser substrate.

A glance towards the dish told me little had changed in 24 hours. Pan sat stock still with his face hidden and Brigid munched happily on a gum leaf. I brought her some carrot, which she again refused. I then exchanged the carrot for a piece of banana and Brigid took it from me, held it under her foot and resumed the banquet. Offering some banana to Pan made it obvious that he still had not forgiven me for disturbing him. He hissed and backed away without lifting his head, while Brigid alternated between her banana and a particularly good leaf and twig combination. Her antennae swirled slowly in a circular motion.

I introduced a ruler to the dish and discovered that Brigid is 5cm wide across her back and Pan is 4cm wide.

I then wet my hands and lifted Brigid back into the tank where there were three more banana pieces waiting for her. She somehow rolled the last centimetre off my fingers and landed softly on her back. I was sure she would not be able to get up on her own, so I lifted her and placed her right side up before the banana. She tucked in immediately. I then lifted Pan and placed him next to Brigid, hoping he would eat with her. Instead, he turned face down and began burrowing under Brigid, who was rocked to and fro without relinquishing her banana until Pan finished burying himself underneath her.

For the next two hours, I read my book beside Brigid as she ate two of the banana pieces and some leaves and twigs as well. When she finally finished, she turned face down and burrowed, accidentally digging up Pan in the process. I thought he would immediately bury himself again but instead, he wandered over to the remaining banana and began eating. I was thrilled as it gave me an opportunity to watch him for a change. Marvelling again at how small he is in comparison to Brigid, I offered him some carrot but he went straight back to the banana and some leaves.

I felt sure that Pan would dig under the substrate again once he finished eating. He did the exact opposite. He began walking around the edge of the tank surprisingly quickly for such a bulky creature, frequently stopping to stand on his back legs and reach up the side of the glass. When he came to the water dish, he accidentally overturned himself and lay on his back, wriggling his legs in the air. Just as I was about to reach in to right him, he managed to turn over on his own and continued his perambulation. He went on like this for a few minutes before burrowing under the soil towards the area in which I last saw Brigid. I could track his progress as much by the sight of shifting soil as by the digging noises. Both have remained buried for the last hour. What a fantastic day!

….

This evening I found that Pan had surfaced and was wandering about the enclosure. He allowed me to give him a tiny bit of banana that he tired of quickly. Then he turned and burrowed into the substrate, leaving a little tunnel behind him.

The Giant Cockroach Journal 11th June 06

Today I handled Pan and Brigid for the first time. It took about fifteen minutes of digging to find them – a sure sign that there was far too much EcoEarth mulch in the tank!

Brigid was the first to be dug up. I think I came across her first as she is the largest and was therefore the easiest to find. I put her in a dish filled with damp tissue paper and some EcoEarth and then I dug up Pan, who joined her in the dish. I was immediately struck by how beautiful they are.

Pan hissed a bit and then hid his face as though the journey above ground and into the light was all too much. Brigid, on the other hand, was cool, calm, collected and quite content to explore the dish. She is so big that she has to reverse in order to turn around and I almost expected to hear “beep, beep, beep” as she backed up. I offered her a dried brown gum leaf which she happily munched on while I held it for her. I was correct in thinking that she was the more docile of the two. I tried to offer Brigid some carrot, but she ignored it, preferring to eat the leaf. Pan stayed very still with his face hidden, as though willing himself somewhere else.

I took this opportunity to remove some EcoEarth so that it was reduced to a depth of about 15cm. This will still allow the cockroaches to burrow while hopefully allowing me to find them more easily next time.

After this was done, I wet my hands in a bowl of water as I have been instructed to do. I then slowly put my fingers under each of Brigid’s legs and when I received no negative reaction, I lifted her out of the bowl and cupped her in my hands. She moved about at snail-pace, slowly waving her antennae. My brother wet his hands in the water and I gently gave Brigid to him. She drank some of the water from his fingertips and lumbered about as though nothing had disturbed her. Next was my Dad’s turn, and Brigid went to him without any trouble. Not wanting to overdo it, I put Brigid back in the tank where she immediately started eating another leaf. Nothing worries her!

Next I turned my attention to Pan. I tried to gather him up the way I had Brigid, but he hissed and got upset. I lifted him and he immediately tried to make a run for it towards the edge of my hands. I held him for a moment and then put him in the enclosure. He clambered right past Brigid, who was still enjoying her leaf, and began burrowing as quickly as he could. Within about 30 seconds, he had disappeared into the substrate.

I can’t believe how different they are in personality. Nothing seems to bother Brigid, she is always calm. Pan, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to like being handled at all and I think he will take some time to settle down. Perhaps he is younger than Brigid, or maybe females are naturally patient and calm. They would have to be, considering they bear 20-30 live young, which they feed for the first 9 months of their lives! How would you keep track of which babies you had fed and which you hadn’t?

After Pan buried himself, I offered Brigid a piece of banana, which she accepted from my hand and then feasted on for the next 20 minutes, holding it under one star shaped little foot. It was so adorable. She sat quietly enjoying her banana while I snapped some photos of her (which I will add soon) and measured her with a ruler. She is 8cm long, so she still has some growing to do. This would make Pan about 6.5cm long by my estimation. Both should be approx. 10cm long by the time they finish growing.

If both Brigid and Pan are over 4 years old, they should breed in summer. Fingers crossed! I am not sure if Pan is smaller because he is male or because he might be younger.

I will try to weigh both of them sometime soon, as a weight increase might be the only way to tell if Brigid becomes pregnant. I am not concerned about being swarmed by baby cockroaches as Giant Burrowing Cockroaches only breed once a year.

After Brigid finished her banana and chewed on another leaf, she dug into the substrate in her usual unhurried fashion until she was completely submerged. Once she disappeared from view, I was confident that both she and Pan would sleep buried in the substrate for the remainder of the day. Fascinating creatures! I’m very happy with my first close cockroach encounter.

The Giant Cockroach Journal 10th June 06

Tonight I could hear digging and scurrying sounds that seemed to come from the one location. I knelt before the enclosure and saw Brigid with her stomach against the glass. She seemed to have dug a burrow from the front of the tank to the back ending up against the glass, which she was struggling to climb to reach the surface. These cockroaches cannot climb or fly, so I gently pushed down on one side of her burrow and created a gap through which she could climb to the surface. In the process I accidentally caused a leaf to drop into the burrow and land on Brigid’s head. She ducked and hid her face in the substrate. I turned out my bedroom light and went to bed, trusting that she would climb out when she was ready.

The Giant Cockroach Journal 9th June 06

I named the female cockroach Brigid because Brigid is a strong and wise Celtic Goddess and she's the protectress of children. I thought this was appropriate because giant burrowing cockroaches, or rhinoceros cockroaches, are wonderful mothers who bear live young that they feed and look after for the first 9 months of the babies' lives.

I named the male Pan because Pan is the Greek god of the woods and nature, which is where the cockroaches are found.

They both ignored the apple I gave them as well as the carrot! I will try banana next time. At least they seem be finding the leaves acceptable.