I wrote this article for my school annual, to explain why I have been writing about cockroaches.


This article is about what I’ve done in the past year.  It all started on my eighth birthday when I got a pair of Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, or Gromphadorhina oblongonota as a rather unexpected birthday present.  Over the year, I have acquired five more species, which are Ergaula capucina, Princiscia vanwaerebeki, Blaberus craniifer, Lucihormetica subcincta and Blaptica dubia. I have written several articles that you can look at on my website (rachelmcleod.com).


I got the Madagascans to start me off because they are easy to keep because they are large and they don’t fly.  I decided to get new species because cockroach species are so diverse and I wanted to look at more different types of them.  For example, the ‘lucis’ burrow underground, and they are my only species that does this.  The Ergaula play dead when provoked and also smell dead (if there is a dead one it is sometimes quite difficult to pick it out when you lift the lid as some of the others lie still). The Madagascans hiss and have a hierarchy (the ones at the top are the big males and the ones at the bottom are the small males and the babies, with the females in between).


I wrote the articles to tell other people about what I’ve been doing and how to get stuck into the insect world.  It is important to me that people look for insects because we need the next generation of entomologists, as without insects the whole ecosystem and many other microhabitats would completely collapse.  Insects may seem like a pest sometimes but they break down rotting material and turn it into fresh soil with nutrients for the plants.  Insects also hold up the food chain as they are mostly herbivores or detrivores (scavengers) and are very low down in the chain. So if you’ve got any insects living in your house it probably means there is something rotting for them to eat (unless they’re in a tank).

As a consequence of being low down in the food chain, lots of stuff eats them so they need to breed lots at a time.  Cockroaches are able to have up to 60 babies in one ootheca (egg case).  Another vital thing that insects do is pollinate plants.  If they didn’t do that we wouldn’t have any plants, without plants we wouldn’t have any oxygen in the atmosphere and all we would have left to breathe is carbon dioxide (toxic).  


For me, cockroaches are a window into this world of insects.