If you’ve been down to our Nature Walk recently, maybe you’ve noticed we have a few new animals on display! A family of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches now call the museum their home. These insects start off smaller than a watermelon seed, but will eventually grow to around 3 inches in length. As their name would imply, they are native to the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa, but are now popular as pets or exhibit insects around the world. In the wild, they are a food source for lizards or other insects. Their trademark “hiss” sound scares off predators or attracts females, and is produced by forcing air through their spiracles, or breathing holes.
Now, we know that cockroaches get a bad rap as household pests, but in the wild they are an important part of the ecosystem. They eat dead and decaying plants on the forest floor- think of them as nature’s vacuum cleaners! Here at the Children’s Museum, they are fed a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains or dog food. We hope you can meet them soon!
Parents, if your child would like to learn more about these animals, here are some questions to get you started:
- What are the differences between an insect and an arachnid (like a spider)? Is the hissing cockroach an insect or an arachnid?
- Can you find Africa on a map? What about Madagascar?
- Let’s play make believe! Can you hiss like a cockroach? Pretend you’re a cockroach crawling on the forest floor.