Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MHR colony ~ Death

Hey ya'll 

I couldn't help but take some time off to write this as our MHR colony just witnessed its first casualty. Perhaps it was the stress of travelling (being moved out of its old colony), or perhaps even some problems with molting, but one of the female roaches that I brought back from Dr. Saga's collection started behaving very strangely yesterday. The unfortunate event came as somewhat of a shock I'm afraid as the insect had earlier seemed to be fitting in rather well into its new surroundings. Indeed for the next few hours after introducing it into the tank I had observed it following the rest of its tank mates up and down the driftwood, scurry in the soil, even nibble on bits of dried leaves and apple but things gradually began to take a turn for the worse. 

It all started when the individual began to behave rather irritably towards the rest of the colony, hissing fiercely and scurrying backwards whenever another roach came into contact with it. Eventually it started to isolate itself, but rather than calming down its actions started to get rather frantic. From what I had observed (and recall) there seems to be a distinct pattern to this supposedly "erratic" behavior. First the cockroach would rear up on its hind legs. Cockroaches are thigmokinetic and generally respond well when a large majority of its surface area is in contact with an object (they feel safe this way) so it was then that I knew off the bat that there was something quite wrong here. In fact this particular cockroach seemed to be trying to get as far away as it could from its surroundings. The other thing I noticed when it started to do this was the lowering of its antenna (all the way down so that it tucked underneath the head) and how it would flail its other limbs about wildly in the air! This was followed by a rather violent hunching motion where the cockroach would lurch its thorax forward before flipping its abdomen inward at a 90 degree angle. At times it seemed to do this so suddenly that the force was enough to knock it right off its perch! When this happened, it demonstrated great difficulty in turning itself over again. Initially I thought that the roach might be molting and so I gave the habitat a quick misting to raise the humidity somewhat to aid the process.

By 2am nothing much had changed (except that the cockroach seemed significantly weaker) and I was beginning to worry by now that it might have an infection that could spread to the rest of my colony so I removed it and placed it in a smaller tank still hoping for the best. I must have been worrying more than I thought I was because in my dreams, I kept having these lucid dreams of Madagascar roaches splitting through their skins and crawling all over the place. I woke up rather blurry eyed to find that reality was not quite the same though. The roach was on its back, but still very much alive with its legs and antennae flailing weakly in the air. I helped flip it over and left for work. Dr. Saga called in response to the email I sent him later in the day to mention that this might be some sort of mating behavior. I thought this might be unlikely because the female cockroach in mention was possibly only in her 4th or 5th instar (roaches don't become sexually mature until their 6th) but I thought that it was also possible that she might have been a very small female and this allayed my fears somewhat.  Turns out it was a false sense of security, if anything. Returned home to find the roach quite dead. This worries me somewhat but as I notice the rest of the colony still behaving in an (apparently) healthy manner, I suppose this might be an isolated incident.
Set out on the drying board. Waste not, want not eh?
I suppose I will need to monitor the tank extra closely for the next few days or so.

All around the world people are trying to kill roaches, and here I am trying to make sure these individuals stay as comfortable as possible, and breed as prolifically as they can!!! Story of my life... but then again, these aren't just any regular roaches!  


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