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Giant Burrowing Cockroach Fact File

Appearance

The giant burrowing cockroach is the world’s heaviest cockroach and the second largest cockroach by length. They measure up to 8cm (3in) long and weigh 35g (1.2oz).

Their body is covered by a hard exoskeleton which is colored brown. Males and females can be distinguished based on the shape of the head. Males have a flattened shovel shaped head which is used for digging.

Unlike most cockroaches the giant burrowing cockroach is wingless as they spend much of their life burrowing underground. On top of the head is a pair of antenna.

As an insect they have 6 legs and these are colored with spines that help them to dig in the soil.

Diet

Giant burrowing cockroaches are herbivores. Their diet is made up solely of dried, brown eucalypt leaves.

In captivity they may eat soft fruits such as apple or banana.

Giant Burrowing Cockroach

Scientific Name

Macropanesthia rhinoceros

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Weight

35g (1.2oz)

Length

8cm (3in)

Lifespan

10 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Range

Australia is the native home of the giant burrowing cockroach. Here they can be found in northern Queensland.

Habitat

They make their home in dry, eucalyptus woodlands and scrubland.

Most of their time is spent underground in a deep burrow which may be as much as 1m (3.3ft) long.

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Reproduction

Mating typically occurs in early summer and occurs at night in most cases.

Unlike most cockroaches the giant burrowing cockroach gives birth to live young. At birth the young are white and appear as small versions of the adults. They may give birth to as many as 20 young at one time.

They will spend the first year of life with their parents who provide care to them. For the first six months of life the young remain in the burrow. The parents will drag leaves in to the burrow and break them up for the young to eat.

As they grow the giant burrowing cockroach will shed its exoskeleton with a new larger one underneath. This process may occur 10-12 times before they reach adult size.

Maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old.

Behavior

Giant burrowing cockroaches are nocturnal. This allows them to avoid many of their predators which are active by day.

They can create a hissing sound if threatened. This is created by expelling air from the abdomen.

Adult giant burrowing cockroaches are solitary and only come together to mate.

Giant Burrowing Cockroach

Predators and Threats

They face predation from a range of birds.

Humans collect them in small numbers for the pet trade though they can be bred in captivity and this reduces demand for wild collection.

Quick facts

They are also known as the rhinoceros cockroach or giant litter bugs.

Giant burrowing cockroaches are the largest of the 18 burrowing cockroaches in Australia.

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Photo Credits

Top

By Mark Pellegrini (Raul654) - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4631230

Bottom

By Urasimaru - [https://www.flickr.com/photos/urasimaru/11562907785/in/photolist-iBMAv3-iBLVD4-iBMFfv Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57726188

References

Henderson, A., Henderson, D. and Sinclair, J., 2012. Bugs Alive. Melbourne: Museum Victoria.

Monteith, S., 2020. Bugs Ed - Interactive Insect Workshops For All Ages. [online] Bugsed.com. Available at: <https://www.bugsed.com/fact_sheets/giant_burrowing_cockroach.html> [Accessed 13 September 2020].

Heathcote, A., 2020. Australia’S Giant Burrowing Cockroaches Actually Hiss. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2018/05/australias-giant-burrowing-cockroaches-actually-hiss/> [Accessed 13 September 2020].

Qm.qld.gov.au. 2020. Giant Burrowing Cockroach - Queensland Museum. [online] Available at: <https://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Insects/Cockroaches/Common+species/Giant+Burrowing+Cockroach> [Accessed 13 September 2020].

Bush Heritage Australia. 2020. Giant Burrowing Cockroaches - Bush Heritage Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/giant-cockroaches> [Accessed 13 September 2020].

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