In a “catching up” phone call with my friend Glenna, she mentioned that she has acquired some rather unusual pets. She has five hissing Madagascar roaches–all of them named “Paul.” I am assuming she named them all the same because she can’t tell them apart, but I forgot to ask, because I was too busy laughing.
Hailing from the island off the coast of Africa, The Madagascar Hissing Roach’s claim to fame, (aside from its large size) I was surprised and humored to learn, was that the hissing they do originates in their….butt. Humans don’t call that hissing. I’ll leave that right there for you to fill in the blanks.
But apparently, having a hissing sound around the house is soothing to some people. I would prefer playing a Yanni CD or some crashing ocean surf, but that’s just me.
According to Wikipedia, that bastion of answers to all of life’s niggling questions,
“It has become a popular insect in Hollywood movies, featured prominently in Bug (1975) (as ‘roaches who could set fires by rubbing their legs together), and in Damnation Alley (1977) (as post-nuclear-war mutant armor-plated “killer” cockroaches). Also, in Team America: World Police (a 2004 comedy film), a Madagascar hissing cockroach emerged from Kim Jong-Il’s body after his death, entered a tiny spaceship, and flew away. Madagascar hissing cockroaches encrusted with Swarovski crystals have been used as necklaces and broaches, costing about $850 each. They have also had the privilege of being the driver of a cockroach-controlled mobile robot. It was also a popular bug to use in the reality television series Fear Factor. The species also made an appearance in the movie Men In Black in 1997. In September 2006, amusement park Six Flags Great America announced it would be granting unlimited line-jumping privileges for all rides to anyone who could eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach as part of a Halloween-themed FrightFest. Furthermore, if a contestant managed to beat the previous world record (eating 36 cockroaches in 1 minute), he would receive season passes for four people during the 2007 season. This is a difficult record to break not only because cockroaches are disgusting or distasteful, but because raw cockroaches contain a mild neurotoxin that numbs the mouth and makes it difficult to swallow.”
Now, while I don’t imagine Glenna is keen on EATING her exoskeletal pets, she is nonetheless intrigued enough to make them a member of her family. I suppose she’s taken the proper pains to provide them with suitable living quarters. (And since they are vegetarian, it is at least less barbaric than those cute little mice she fed to her snake).
Madagascan Hissers make their home in rotting logs, as most creepy crawly things do. If I had a “pet” like this–though I use the term loosely, as I don’t see myself petting something like this, maybe because it doesn’t have fur–I would be afraid it would escape the cage at night and wind up camping out on my forehead. I can’t imagine having the presence of mind to not thump it halfway across the room in a fit of repulsion. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do with large insects who are the only creatures capable of withstanding a nuclear holocaust?
I was afraid to ask the burning question of my friend, Glenna: “What is it that you like about having a four inch roach as a pet?” When she reads this blog, maybe she’ll edify me, and I can post another installment regarding the Five Pauls.