Common name: Cockroach, Woodroache,
(click on photos to enlarge - 67kb & 82kb)
- Developmental stages: Live bearers with no intermediate stages.
Young are referred to as nymphs.
- Size: At birth/hatching about 2.5 mm long growing to about 30
- Colour: Black, except at birth and just after they moult their
skin during their growth cycle when for a short time they are white.
- Weight: about 200 medium size weigh about 100 grams.
- Adults/Wings = Yes. Flight = Yes?. Flight frequency:
Often / Rarely / Never.
I have never observed any of this species fly. If one escapes
from the box, they may flap their wings but this only enables them
to glide to a lower level or the floor.
The woodroach females develop an "egg pod". This gradually
extends from their body. The "egg pod" does not drop to the ground
like other species of cockroaches. The nymphs hatch from the "pod"
and shelter under the female for a short time. The nymphs eat the
remains of the "pod" and then the female will move away and the nymphs
are on their own. The nymphs scatter within the box and are fully
independent. 20 - 30 nymphs can hatch from one "pod".
The nymph upon hatching have black/dark eyes and a black/dark mouth.
This can be seen in the enlarged right photo. Nymphs shed their
skin many times as they grow bigger. Many will consume the shed
skin. Newly shed individuals are white, except for the eyes and
mouth, for a short time. A newly shed adult individual (white with
big dark eyes) can be seen in the upper left side of the left photo.
Fed to: Birds - Most finches, softbills, weavers, whydahs,
waxbills, quail and some parrots. Marsupials, rodents, fish, spiders,
Non breeders: Cost: About $6 per
adults in small retail packs.
Upwards of $30 per 500 gms (approx 1000) plus delivery or freight, if
applicable, when purchased from the breeders. Available all year round.
Commercial breeders have some techniques and equipment that will not
be disclosed on this page. Commercial knowledge has considerable
value. Some pieces of equipment are very cheap and simple, but until
they are more widely and openly discussed I will maintain the
confidentiality. It will not detract from the following information as
the undisclosed information or equipment relates to time savings or
efficiency gains. The overall methodology remains the same.
Preferred facilities and husbandry: For
breeders or holding large quantities.
General information: From my view point the raising of
insects is simple if some basic rules are followed. Firstly , put aside
all the ideas you currently have and review what is to come.
Insect production is no different to the production of any other
animals. Give them an environment suitable for their growth and
breeding, plus adequate food and moisture and keep them safe from
predators and minimize disease contamination.
Cockroaches are one of the easiest insects to breed!! No egg laying,
no special food for the babies, no intermediate development stages, make
no noise except for the sound of their feet on the cardboard, if you
forget to feed them for a few days they will all not drop dead, adults
rarely if ever fly out of their box even when no lids are used and are
more resistant to disease than most insects.
Adults of this species of cockroach may engage in mutual preening
or cleaning. One will raise its wings and another will engage
in a behaviour similar to cleaning.
Cockroaches are very clean individuals. They spend a lot
of time cleaning themselves.
Cockroaches prefer a constant even temperature of about 25 -
30 degrees Celsius (and that includes 4 AM in the morning in winter when
the owner is snuggled up in bed) with a humidity of about 55% R.H.
or less. An insulated room or cabinet is required to maintain these
levels. The use of 100 mm or 150 mm (4 - 6 inches) thick insulated panel walls and
roof for larger breeding rooms is an excellent investment and repays the
investment very quickly with minimal heating costs. The room or cabinet
should have a fan assisted ventilation system to remove the stale air
and supply clean fresh air. Inside the room it is advisable to have a
fan operating 24 hours a day to ensure even distribution of heat and
humidity. Poor air movement increases the chances of high humidity
pockets and the likely hood of mould or mildew occurring. Poor air
movement increases the chance of an outbreak of mites. The mites
generally do no harm to the cockroaches but mites can be very annoying
after handling the boxes, feeling them crawling up your arms, face and
Vacuuming the floor minimizes the build up of mites as they
generally like to spend a lot of their time at a lower temperature than
the cockroaches. The vacuum cleaner should be ducted externally to
ensure any pathogens that pass through the vacuum cleaner filters do not
get to contaminate the room. Externally ducted systems remove the
possibility of people inhaling allergens that get through the filters.
Inhaled allergens can , if one is susceptible, cause serious respiratory
problems including triggering an asthma attack. Vacuum the floor at
least weekly and mop the floor with household floor disinfectant. Clean
the walls with a soft cloth about 3 monthly using a mild disinfectant or
a dish washing detergent. The intent of the wall cleaning is only to
remove any build up of dust and fine particles. Remove and wash the fan
grill and blades as required. When vacuuming look out for spiders and
their webs and suck them up.
Without a fan the upper level boxes/trays have a constant higher heat
level than lower boxes therefore influencing faster growth or the
possibility of heat stress on those upper level boxes.
Light: Cockroaches do not have a photoperiod regime so it is
not necessary to have timer controls on the lights.
Heating: A good efficient, safe, reliable heater is
essential. Preferably electric as there is no danger of noxious fumes.
Heat mats are commonly used to provide gentle bottom heat if you only
have a few boxes. Heat mats should be thermostatically controlled.
Thermostat: A good accurate, reliable, thermostat is also
essential. In larger rooms the installation of double thermostats can
be considered. If a thermostat fails to turn the heater off the
cockroaches will start to die at about 35 - 40 degrees Celsius. With two
thermostats correctly installed it is highly unlikely both will fail at
the same time.
Externally vented extractor fans: As well as removing stale
air, externally vented extractor fans can be of immense help to rapidly
remove excess humidity especially in summer or excess temperature during
Racks: Painted or surface treated steel racks are good,
galvanized steel racks are even better. Mites do not like the zinc
coating. Timber framed racks are very hard to keep clean and provide
numerous places for mites to hide.
Feed storage: A clean dry place has to be allocated for the
storage. A few air tight containers is all that is required.
Rubbish removal: Observe maximum hygiene when disposing of
cockroach wastes. See below: "Respiratory and allergy precautions for
Apart from the insects, food and moisture items, the only item
required in the box is cardboard for them to live on. A "12 egg"
egg-carton cut in half to make two "6 egg" egg-cartons are ideal. Place
them upright on the cut edges. Place them at the rear of the box,
opened to about 30 degrees, not touching the sides of the box, not
touching each other, and make sure the top of the carton is not within
20 mm of the lower edge of the escape proof barrier. About 8 pieces
should fit in a 600 mm x 400 mm box. No cardboard should be in the
front 150 mm of the box. That space is for the feed and moisture
Flat egg trays and the apple divider trays can be used but care has
to be taken to ensure the cardboard pieces do not collapse on each other
and sandwich the insects. If used, both these items should be used in
an upright position. Alternating vertical pieces of each of these
products minimizes the "sandwiching" problem i.e. egg flats are
separated by an apple tray.
A convenient size for most people to use measures about 600 mm x 400
mm x 250 mm deep (24 x 16 x 10
inches). The boxes should be plastic. Plastic boxes are
easily cleaned and light weigh. There is no reason to have lids on the
breeding boxes. Lids promote the build up of mites and high levels of
humidity. If one uses the excuse "I need the lid to keep out the
spiders, mice, birds or other insects" then it is time the environment
where the cockroaches are kept has to be upgraded to exclude those
pests. The adults rarely fly out of the breeding box if one has
provided a suitable home, diet and moisture for them.
The plastic boxes need only be washed out with dishwashing detergent,
well rinsed and dried with a clean soft cloth. Harsher cleaning
solutions are rarely needed. If Vaseline is used, it can easily be
removed firstly by scraping off the bulk of the Vaseline then wash with
concentrated dishwashing detergent on a soft cloth.
Check all escape barriers on a regular basis to ensure the barrier
has not been compromised. Do not use cheap petroleum jelly alternatives
as they tend to slide down the walls and leave escape paths.
Sometimes the breeding boxes may need the inside walls wiped with a
clean soft moist cloth or soft moist disposable paper towel to remove
any build up of food particles or dust like particles. This is usually
required when the humidity drops and small particles may cling to the
Some articles state plastic boxes should not be used due to the
plastic not being able to "breathe" therefore causing a build up of
moisture or wet spots causing moulds to develop. They also advocate the
use of tight fitting lids with a few mesh covered holes so the adults
cannot fly out. I disagree strongly with these assumptions and state
that the adults will rarely if ever fly if their home is to their
liking. Cockroaches cannot/will not climb over an intact escape barrier
e.g. Vaseline or Fluon. So why the need for a lid ? Timber is heavy
and hard to clean. If timber is painted or coated with a waterproof
material it is then not able to "breathe", giving it the same
characteristics as plastic.
Vaseline works well in rooms above 25 degrees C but its effect
is reduced as the temperature decreases. The Vaseline becomes harder
and less "sticky" as the temperature decreases and cockroaches are
prepared to cross the barrier at temperatures less than about 20 degrees
C. Vaseline has to be replaced about every 4 months or whenever the
surface "dries out". Repairing or replacing the Vaseline is easy. An
old credit card works well removing Vaseline. Use an undamaged side of
the card and scoop up the unwanted material. It is not necessary to
remove any cockroaches when replacing the Vaseline, just keep the box in
a well lit spot.
Fluon comes as a liquid and has to be painted. The surface
has to be horizontal and is best used in a warm room. A breeding room
above 25 C is ideal. At lower temperatures the Fluon dries slowly and
may require a hair drier to assist it to dry. Once dry the Fluon works
well at all temperatures but comes off easily if pressure is applied.
If the Fluon barrier is damaged it is almost impossible to apply more
Fluon to the damaged area without first removing the cockroaches. (It
just runs down the side of the box.).
Fluon (250 ml.) is available from The Herp Shop (Melbourne, Vic.)
(03) 9363 6841
Mouse proof wire mesh (approx 6.5 mm) can make a suitable cover to
place over a box that is in a place vulnerable to attack from mice,
rats, birds etc. Any adults that try to fly out will usually just hit
the wire and fall back into box. Mouse proof wire allows near perfect
air movement over the surface of the colony. Mites love to breed in
boxes with poor air movement (i.e. high humidity).
The ideal diet for
the continual production of cockroaches in a room at about 25-30 degrees
C and about 55%R.H. or less, is very basic. Just dry inexpensive dog
feed is sufficient. Additional foods they like are bread, sugar, sweet
biscuits, glucose/sugar confectionery, plain cake, and dry cat food.
The provision of
moisture is probably the most important aspect of insect production.
Some articles recommend the use of raw carrot or raw potato. I do not
recommend the use of any vegetables that grow underground. If one is
breeding cockroaches on a continual basis I feel it is a possible vector
for bacterial infection. For short term use with non-breeding colonies
it should be O.K. Most other fruits and vegetables are O.K. Remove
uneaten vegetable or fruit material after 24 hours or at worst after 48
If small numbers of boxes are involved then the use of water
moistened bread is ideal. Sliced apple works well. Pieces of orange
are even better.
If the adults get adequate food and moisture and are not over
crowded, they do not fly out of their box.
Cockroaches can live for
up to 12 months. Females have lots of babies in batches of about 10 -
30 and under good conditions over 90% develop to adulthood. The colony
increases slowly at first but gradually gathers pace till overcrowding
occurs. If overcrowding is evident, remove some and either feed them
out or put them in a new box. Take care not to remove too many adults
otherwise production slows or ceases.
food and moisture is available, the higher the temperature (up to about
35 degrees) the faster they grow. An ideal temperature is between 25-30
degrees C. This will allow a good growth rate with minimal problems.
To harvest small
quantities just place a slice of fresh bread or several crumpled up
pieces of moistened paper towel on the surface. In less than 1 minutes
they will commence eating the bread or crawling in the damp paper
towel. Pick up the material and shake off the cockroaches and repeat
the procedure till the required quantity is obtained. Alternatively
individual insects can be removed by hand or by using tweezers.
If the half egg-cartons are used, harvesting of larger quantities is
fast and easy. Just grasp the top of an egg carton, gently lift the egg
carton, quickly place a suitable wide escape proof container under the
egg carton, shake the egg carton and the cockroaches will fall out.
Replace egg carton and repeat till the desired quantity has been
obtained. Keep in mind the cockroaches run very fast and in every
direction when they are warm. Cooling their breeding box slows them
down and makes their capture easier.
For birds, most
insects are usually offered in a smooth shallow tray. If cockroaches
are to be fed to birds an additional step has to be taken. Add a non
sticky escape proof barrier (Fluon) of about 50 mm wide all around the
inside wall of the tray as per breeding boxes (otherwise they will all
run away). A layer of sand or bran can be placed into the tray to give
the birds a more secure footing when they land in the tray.
Some people place the insects in a deeper smooth sided tray (e.g.
600mm x 400mm x100mm deep = 24 x 16 x 4
inches) which has been partially filled (20 or 30 mm
deep - or about 1 inch) with clean leaf litter, dry leaves or a material such as dry peat
moss. Most insects including cockroaches dislike light so they will
move to the bottom of the tray. This allows the birds to "hunt" for the
insects and can provide them with entertainment, activity and exercise
as well as preserving some of their natural instincts.
If a plastic or metal tray is used such as the 600mm x 400mm,
place it on some strips of timber or other material to raise it off
the ground and allow air to circulate under the tray. Escapees will not
flourish outside a heated breeding room and all outside escapees usually
die over winter. Do not bring the aviary insect tray to the insect room
as the same type of mites that colonize the aviary floor can also infect
insect breeding boxes and breeding rooms. Bring the insects to the
birds and animals in a container and give the container a wash before
returning it into the insect production area.
If a particular size is required, the harvested cockroaches can be
graded by putting them on a suitable mesh screen. Feed off the size you
need and return the rest to their original box.
In small bird cages and reptile units the same principle applies with
a smaller tray. Smaller reptiles can be placed in the tray, allowed to
eat their quota, then the animal/s removed.
If only a few are to be fed, the cockroaches can be offered to
reptiles on suitable round ended tweezers or round ended forceps. To
minimize the rate of escapees when feeding out cockroaches indoors or in
cages or cabinets, one can quickly crush the cockroach's head with
tweezers or between your thumb nail and index finger (wear disposable
gloves if you do not like the cockroach smell on your hands) . It will
then be dead but move long enough to get the animal or reptile's
attention and the cockroach is then quickly consumed.
Storage of small quantities:
Cockroaches not needed for breeding can be stored at a lower temperature
than the breeders. This will slow or stop the breeding cycle. Feed as for a breeding
colony. They were originally from a tropical country so take care to
ensure the cockroaches do not get too cold. If they look stressed from
cold just add a bit more warmth. Holding them at12 degrees C is
If you purchase a "food container" size pack of
cockroaches, place them into a larger container as soon as possible.
Dispose of any uneaten foods as well as the lid, container and any
packaging. Add fresh foods, moisture source and some egg carton or
cardboard. A 28 litre container is ideal for up to 500 adults.
Disease and infections:
Absolute Rule - If any cockroach/s fall onto the floor they must NEVER
be placed back into ANY boxes!! Throw them out or feed them out!! The
disease contamination risk is far too high!!
Cockroaches are generally very tolerant of moderate levels of
contamination. BUT it is preferable to practice optimum hygiene
standards. Colonies can be wiped out by a variety of diseases caused by
viruses and bacteria. Moulds, fungi, internal and external parasites
can wipe out a colony. Mites are generally an indication of either poor
hygiene or poorly controlled environmental factors. Mites can be a
vector for the spread of diseases. Government animal pathology
laboratories and some private pathology laboratories are able to
identify insect diseases and recommend appropriate treatments. Over
crowding is one of the most common triggers for the outbreak of diseases
along with contaminated feed. Over crowding may also cause cannibalism
to start. Dirty contaminated hands and equipment will rapidly spread an
infection throughout the room.
Golden rule : If you have a colony of insects that are
breeding well, do not add any cockroaches from any other outside source
and in no circumstances allow any of the foreign frass or feed material
into any of the places used for breeding your cockroaches. Some
commercial breeders and research laboratories have continuously bred
cockroaches for over 20 years without the need to introduce new genetic
If it becomes absolutely necessary to introduce more insects to your
breeding colony, make sure appropriate quarantine procedures are fully
implemented. Place them in a box of their own and not into a current
colony. If anything bad happens in that box , dispose of all of the
quarantined lot and implement strict disinfection procedures. If an
infection does break out it can easily kill 96% or more of a colony and
eradication can be a long and arduous task. At 25-30 degrees C,
external or internal parasites can multiply at an amazing rate.
My philosophy is: prevention of disease outbreaks is better than
having to cure the outbreaks (It's also cheaper).
Respiratory and allergy precautions for humans:
The following is applicable to all insects but particularly
applicable to mealworms, lesser mealworms and cockroaches due to the fact their frass
(excrement) is so dry and has an extremely light small particle size.
As stated above, the dusts in the breeding room and any fine insect
tissues, when inhaled, can cause reactions requiring medical
intervention. The longer one inhales the contaminant the more severe
the reaction can be. The effect can be cumulative and the longer you
breath it in, the longer it may take to cure (sometimes years). The
main contaminant is the (4) proteins in the insects frass (droppings/
excrement). When this material is inhaled into susceptible people's
lungs, they may react badly. General rule is never keep a
breeding colony in a residential house.
While handling cockroaches, do not rub your eyes as the insect's
secretions or fine dust size material can have an adverse reaction and
cause strong eye irritation. Wash hands and any exposed areas to
minimize the risk of skin irritation after you finish your tasks.
It is unwise to use a broom or similar cleaning product in the
breeding room to clean the floor as it is likely to stir up dust which
can be inhaled or settle in a breeding box or on other equipment
resulting in a disease outbreak.
Harvesting cockroaches should not cause much fine material to become
airborne. Care has to be taken when frass (excrement) is removed from
the box. Frass can easily become airborne. If you happen to get
"dusted" it is a wise precaution to shower and wash your hair. Pop the
cloths into the washing machine for a good wash before using them
again. Never go to bed with "bug dust" in your hair as you will inhale
it throughout the night from on your pillow.
Most people tolerate some degree of contamination but if you exceed
the "trigger point threshold" and get a bad reaction, seek medical
attention and tell the medico what you have been inhaling.
Medical respiratory allergy specialists are available in Capital cities
My philosophy is: prevention of possible health problems is better
than having to cure a real health problem. (It's also cheaper).
- Australian Birdkeeper Vol 1 Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1989 Page 182
- Australian Aviculture Vol 55 No. 2 Feb 2001 Page 32-35
- Australian Aviculture Vol 48 No. 1 Jan 1994 Page 22
Top of - cockroaches - Page