Tonawanda News

January 27, 2014

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Romancing the roach

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — This past week, after months of searching on Craigslist, I found someone selling Blaptica dubia. They are also known as the orange-spotted, Guyana or Argentinian wood cockroach. Yes, I bought 25 young cockroaches to live in my house. They’re nymphs, which are the immature state, are very tiny and look like prehistoric trilobites.

“Cockroaches, depending on the species, can actually make very good, easy to care for pets that also make a great learning tool for kids,” my friend Sean Murphy says.

Murphy has been working at an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facility for two years and has been in the field of exotics for almost 10.

“They are very low maintenance as far as pets go and great to observe. My favorites to observe are either cave roaches or hissing cockroaches. It’s awesome watching them vie and fight for territory,” he said.

The species of roach that I purchased are a good feeder source for my savannah monitor because both the adults and young can’t climb smooth surfaces, like plastic or glass, making them easy to keep. Adult males will develop full wings but are unable to fly around like some other cockroaches. If they happen to fall they are able to use their wings to control and direct their landing.

I wanted to purchase cockroaches to reduce the cost of buying dozens of crickets a week. My goal is to breed them and keep a sustainable colony. I also wanted a healthy food source for my lizard.

“For reptiles cockroaches are especially good because their exoskeleton is low in phosphorous,” Murphy said, explaining that too much phosphorous in a reptile’s diet can lead to health issues in their bones because it offsets calcium. This is why it is recommended that any feeder insect fed to a reptile be dusted with calcium.

Dubia cockroaches are the perfect cockroach for me, but they are not that common.

“Madagascar hissing cockroaches are typically the most popular, mainly due to their larger size, slow nature and longer lifespan,” Murphy explained.

Murphy is very passionate about both invertebrates and reptiles. He says he has always had a knack for taking care of animals and has always been drawn towards the misfits and misrepresented animals which are usually the reptiles and invertebrates.

“Without insects life would cease to exist as we know it,” he said.

Depending on the source and estimations, Murphy says there are almost a million or more known species of insects, hundreds of thousands of those are just beetles.

“That’s amazing when putting it into comparison of all other animals,” he said.

It also makes insects one of the most successful animals on the planet.

When I decided to write an article about cockroaches Murphy was the first person to come to mind not only because of how passionate he is about insects but also due to a unique record that he holds.

Murphy holds the world record for the most live cockroaches held in the mouth, which is 21 adult Madagascar hissing cockroaches. He believes that he will be in the next printed book of Guinness World Records.

It all started out as a very strange joke after he watched an online video. It then became a promotional tool for his previous workplace, which lead to being a fundraiser for a local nature center and then lead to being on TV for Guinness World Records.

When looking for a critter companion, it is always best to think in respects of your schedule, animal maintenance, costs among many other things Murphy would like to add.

“People who have busy schedules or can’t spend a lot of time with an animal should look towards insects in general as pets. Cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes all are very low maintenance and actually really fun to keep as pets and educational to observe,” he said.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.