Sometime in the mid 70s, a revolutionary kind of Roach Trap was introduced called the Roach Motel. Their tagline read "Roaches check in, but they never check out!" We have a roach motel around here as well... in fact, it is one that is growing larger by the day, and when roaches check in they too never check out, but probably because they wouldn't want to. Here at our ever growing collection of live insects and other creepy crawlies, we place great importance and emphasis on the comfort and well being of our invertebrate friends and ,as such, always attempt to create as natural an environment as we can for their living quarters.
So this is a brief overview of our roach motel. The tank is from Exo-Terra, specifically Advanced Glass Reptile Habitat (I think they make some of the best terrariums around) with a measurement of 30x30x40 centimeters. Considering how roaches are naturally ground dwellers and forage among the forest floor I would have actually much preferred it if I could have housed them in the "wide" model (instead of the "tall" which I have now) but the terrarium was handed to me as a gift (a very generous one, I might add!) and I figure that these insects wouldn't be too picky anyway if I furnish and decorate it just right, which is what I did!!! The Roach Motel is divided into several sections which have been set up to ensure the comfort of the insects, practicality for housekeeping and also (of course!) the visual aesthetics for the entomologist voyeur who enjoys ogling at the "private" peepshow that is their lives.
Main Apartment Complex
A series of hollowed out mangrove wood logs make up the main apartment complex of our roach motel and provide many safe and dark spaces for the roaches to hide in during the day (which is important to ensure that they do not get unduly stressed from prolonged exposures to the light). Because Madagascar hissing roaches are territorial in nature and form social hierarchies within their colonies, you can imagine that location of living on the log is very much related to social standing within the colony itself. Paolo (our dominant male) for instance inhabits the "pent house" or rather the upper most part of the main log. All around him are the females and sub-adults. He occasionally patrols th e entire length of the log and will sometimes permit one of the other males (who hiss subservience to him) to inhabit its lower quarters. Males who challenge his dominance get kicked off of the log and inhabit one of the minor logs which surround the main. In the daytime (as when this picture is taken) the log seems devoid of life, but at night it is positively crawling with roaches of all sizes.
Cafe and Eatery
At the bottom of the log, just outside the entrance to the "nursery" is the Roach cafe, or eatery where a variety of foods are served on a daily basis. As a staple diet, the roaches are fed on protein rich dried dog or turtle pellets but is also supplemented with slices of cut fruits and vegetables. Also scattered around the tank are bits and pieces of dead leaves and other such plant matter that has been soaked and run under water thoroughly to remove harmful chemicals/bacteria. These are present in case a roach might desire something more fibrous as a snack. As you may notice there is no water dish in this tank but the roaches do get their water intake from the fruits and vegetables they eat and those who stick only to dry food will no doubt get their moisture from the daily "rains" which are provided by heavy misting. Some roaches clearly do not like this and scurry away to hide while others seem to have been invigorated by the misting and would come out to forage.
And besides simply providing a daily source of water for the roaches, misting is also very important in tending to the roach's very own garden!!! A portion of the cage is left cleared and a scattering of budgie seeds are mixed into the soil. When the grasses grow to a significant height, they often provide an additional source of food for the roaches. As you can see, the roaches are rather systematic about it and defoliate the grasses as they grow in a uniform direction, working their way to the glass-side of the tank. As imaginable with so many individuals in the tank, these seeds have to be replaced quite often!!!
As you can see, we really do put in extraordinary effort into keeping our insects comfortable. The cage is spot cleaned once every two days to prevent the rotting of leftover food and this is usually done during the day (when the roaches are all hidden and sleeping) to prevent any disruption in their nightly routines and I imagine that the roaches themselves might appreciate this gesture (don't you just hate it when people try to "clean up" in the middle of your doing something!). We are still planning to expand the Roach motel in the future but for now, we think that these residences suit their needs most proficiently. Wouldn't you agree?
A happy roach is a healthy roach