Animals / Arthropods

Central American giant cave cockroach


Order — Blattodea. Family — Blaberidae. Genus — Blaberus. Species — Blaberus giganteus.


This species is endemic to Central America and northern South America, and can be found in the rain forests, in Mexico,Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Habitat preferences include areas of high moisture and little light, such as caves, tree hollows, and cracks in rocks.

Outward appearance

Male length: 7.5 cm. Female length: 10 cm. Wingspan: 12-15 cm. Bodies are brown with black markings. These cockroaches are lightly built with flattened bodies, allowing them to hide in cracks from predators. The adult has two pair of wings, which fold back, flat over the abdomen. The only way to visually differentiate between the sexes is to look on their abdomen where the cerci are located. Between the cerci of the males, a pair of short antennae called styli is present. Females lack styli. These tiny styli can be hard to see. The heavier females are less likely to fly. These cockroaches are closely related to the first winged insects that lived in the Carboniferous coal forests about 200 million years ago.


In the wild, this roach is found primarily in bat caves and roosts, and feeds off of bat guano, dead bats, and any fruit that the bats might drop. Consequently, they require a fairly high protein diet of dry dog food and occasional soft fruit. Other accepted diets include fish flakes, cat food, trout or turtle chow, or rabbit pellets.

Maintenance care

Housing: Babies can live in a clear plastic container with air holes. Adults can live in a 2.5 to 29-gallon tank, depending on the number of cockroaches. Cockroaches can live communally. Height is more important than floor space. Substrate: 2 to 3 inches of peat moss, potting soil, or pine chips. Decor: Branches, driftwood, cork bark, etc. make good hiding places and climbing accessories. Since this is a relatively long lived roach (nymphs undergo 9-11 molts over a 257-277 day period, adult males have been reported to live 1-6 months after maturity, adult females can, rarely, live over a year after maturity) it can be several months before a new  colony begins to grow. However, once started, the colony will rapidly expand. This is one of the largest roaches (in length; the heaviest is most likely the Australian burrowing roach) and a live - bearer - no eggs are laid. Native Costa Ricans have been known to call this roach 'the Cockroach of the Divine Face', a reference to the dark brown.  


Two chemical signals play important roles in the sexual behaviour of B. giganteus. The sex pheromone is released by the female and used in attracting mates that are long distances away. The male produces an aphrodisiac sex hormone from his tergal glands that encourages female mounting. Females choose the males with which they will mate, so this sexual selection becomes a major pressure and driving force behind natural selection. Carbohydrate intake has been found to be related to male sex pheromone expression, dominance status, and attractiveness more so than protein. Males have been shown to have a preference for a high-carbohydrate diet versus one focused on protein. This would suggest they are actively increasing their carbohydrate consumption to maximize their reproductive fitness and attractiveness to potential female mates. After mating, the female B. giganteus is pregnant for life and stores the fertilized eggs in her ootheca, where they are incubated for roughly 60 days. When the eggs are about to hatch, the female expels the ootheca so the nymphs can break free and feed on their first meal, which consists of the ootheca. After eating their fill, the young nymphs burrow into soil or somewhere dark and remain there until they have molted numerous times and reached maturity.

Difficulty keeping

Pheromones can cause an allergy.
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