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BlattaAnglicana

Hisser nymphs whose mother has died soon after birth

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As you might have seen in the topic I posted on feeding, I had a female hisser give birth to a small brood of about three or four nymphs, then have a prolapse, and she died this morning two days after the birth. I am a complete newbie to roach keeping so forgive me if these questions are basic or silly!!

My question is, are the nymphs likely to have missed out on anything vital with her dying so soon after their birth? I have read that female roaches feed their newborn nymphs with a "milk" from their brood sac (as I didn't see the birth itself I don't know whether this happened with these nymphs or not, and I don't know whether the prolapse might have prevented her from doing so), then that they are generally guarded and fed by the female for a few days after the birth before dispersing. Obviously in this case the mother has died very soon after their birth and she would not have been in any fit state to feed them after the prolapse as she went down hill health wise very quickly. Will that be a problem for these nymphs and is there anything I need to do in terms of food / heat / humidity to mitigate the loss of their mother so soon after their birth?

Also a couple of questions re. temperature and humidity:

  • The current temperature in their enclosure is around 23-24 celsius / 75F on most of the substrate with some areas of the cage being cooler (21 Celsius / 70F) and others warmer (26-27 Celsius / 78-80F). Is this warm enough for the nymphs?
  • The ambient humidity is around 50-60% and there is one corner I mist regularly, which I assume will be higher, but the rest of the cage and substrate are dry. I have also read that hissers need quite a high humidity to moult successfully - do I need to increase it from the current value?
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Nah, they should be just fine. The mother does not provide that much maternal care for her nymphs, and in a large bustling colony they are bound to get separated from each other anyway. Just keep them exactly how you've been keeping them, but maybe when you mist the moist corner, mist the rest of the enclosure lightly as well. They don't need a very moist enclosure but a little extra humidity can't hurt. :)

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Many nymphs eat the frass of adults so don't clean the cage till they are a bit older unless you have plenty of adults. Also it couldn't hurt to dampen their food if during hard pellets. Of course remove damp food daily to prevent mold in warm environments. Good luck and remember hissers are resilient roaches. :)

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Thanks all for the tips and reassurance - I am sure they are much hardier than I give them credit for but as I am very new to this (i've only had them five weeks) and started from a base of zero knowledge, other than what I've read on the internet and forums like this one, plus I have already had a bad experience with the female who died of a prolapse, I guess I am just a little over-protective! 

lovebugfarm - I only have the two remaining adults, a male and a female (although I am hoping to get a replacement for the female who died soon) so I will leave off cleaning the enclosure out for a while. How old are they when they stop eating frass?

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They'll be fine. If anything, the nymphs will eat the "afterbirth" as a sort of free and easy meal right after they're born, but it's not a necessity for growth and survival. They won't need any special care either and if the enclosure seems to dry out a bit they'll still be fine. One of the hardiest roaches out there and a great starter species :) 

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Well I've lost one of the nymphs tonight and I really don't know why :( It was crawling around the enclosure earlier on, seemingly fine, albeit climbing the glass walls whereas the other three that I have seen spend most of their time hiding. I saw it climbing and falling off the walls a few times but didn't twig that anything was wrong, especially when I saw it end up crawling onto a piece of fresh carrot which I'd just put in the enclosure and thought it was eating. However I went back to have another look about 30 minutes later and found it on its back with legs curled up - I have tried to revive it with heat from my hand and offered it some water but to no avail, there was no reaction at all so it's definitely dead. In hindsight when it was crawling on the glass I can see now that it was struggling but I put that down to it having got its feet covered in the vaseline barrier I use to stop them getting onto the top of the enclosure.

I don't know whether this one was just a weak one which wouldn't have lasted long anyway, or whether it exhausted itself trying to climb the walls (although having found the food I would have thought it could have replenished its energy), or whether it's because I'm doing something wrong for them. The only difference from what I've done before is there was some Romaine lettuce in the food bowl (along with carrot and apple both of which I have given them - at least the adults - before with no reaction). The lettuce (like all the food I give them) is organically grown and I had washed it very well before putting it in the enclosure. I am aware that organic food is less dangerous for insects than non-organic but still can have pesticides on it so I wonder whether it could still have had enough residual pesticides on it to have killed a tiny roach? I have now removed the lettuce just in case, and just have to hope that the remaining three nymphs will fare better whether or not the lettuce had anything to do with it.

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I suspect it's just a case of the natural mortality rate. Not all nymphs are designed to survive, that's why they have evolved to have so many at once. I keep several hisser species, and every few weeks or so I find a dead L1/L2. I suspect some are just unhealthy, while others don't hatch from the ootheca properly or get messed with while their exo hardens. And a lot of roaches will move out into the open, away from the colony, to die, so that could be why it was climbing the glass. I don't think the romaine had anything to do with it. I feed mine romaine from the pre-washed, pre-cut bags and they do fine. If you have any others die, then you might want to look at the food and setup more closely, but all in all they are really hearty roaches ... sometimes you just get a random death. Sounds like you've just had a rough few days. I wish I were in the UK, I'd send you some of my extras!

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Thanks Axolotl, yeah it feels pretty rough at the moment with my female dying as well :(

Interesting you say that they move out of the colony to die as that's what the female did too - she stayed on top of the cork bark for the last two days of her life rather than hiding with the others underneath it most of the time as she always had done before. So I guess if I see one wandering about like that again I should probably expect the worst. I did read somewhere that hisser nymph mortality is quite high so I shouldn't expect all four she gave birth to to survive, but equally I would feel pretty sad if they all died.

On a brighter note I am going to get at least one more adult female (and probably two) to replace the one I lost next week, so I am hoping I have better luck with them. I would have loved to take some of your surplus ones if you'd been in the U.K., and there don't seem to be as many people over here who keep hissers as there are in the US, but I have found an entomological supplier not too far from me with a good reputation so I am hoping these ones will do better for me. I also think once I have a bigger colony I'll be less concerned by the deaths but I guess with such a small number of insects to start with every individual loss makes a bigger impact.

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Just a quick update on this thread in case anyone is interested - I still think the remaining three nymphs from my dead female are alive, though it's hard to count them when they hide completely inside the cork bark! I have definitely seen two (or at least one plus a second pair of antennae in the same crevice!) in one of the crevices and although I haven't seen the third one in the open for a while I also haven't seen any evidence that it has died either, so I am hoping for the best :)

I also got three new adult females today - I had asked for two but the seller gave me an extra one for free which was a very nice surprise! They are currently settling in to their new enclosure and as they are all adults I am assuming they are also all gravid so no doubt I will be swarmed with nymphs before long and then won't know what to do with them :o

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Another update, not such good news :( The second of my original two females gave birth today and there was only one live nymph, but it seems she too has suffered a prolapse :( as there is still some yellow stuff hanging out of her rear which is definitely not egg case or "roach milk". Thankfully I caught her trying to push it out and the disturbance seems to have stopped her making it worse (unlike the other female who I only caught when almost all her insides were pushed out) so I am more hopeful she will survive than the other one, but I am seriously worried now that this is more than a coincidence and it must be being caused by the way I am keeping them.

I have recently moved them to a new enclosure which is bigger than the last one and apart from the fact that the humidity is a little higher due to the damp substrate I have put in, everything else is the same. Can anyone think of anything I am doing wrong that could cause these semi-aborted egg cases and prolapses? Could it perhaps be genetic given they both came from the same colony? Could it have been the move to a new enclosure that stressed her perhaps?

I just hope the three new females I have (form a different colony) don't suffer with this problem too.

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Dang, so sorry to hear that, I don't know what you could be doing wrong. :( I feel like low temps could lead to this, but as long as they are in the 70s or higher then temperature couldn't be the problem. 

It could be genetic, strange that two females you got from the same vendor have both had prolapses, which are normally pretty rare. Did this one at least give birth to any nymphs? 

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Thanks Hisserdude, I have certainly made sure I've followed the advice I've read here and on other internet sites about their care and the temperatures are always between 21 and 26 celsius (I think about 70F and around 78-80F) so whilst they aren't super high they certainly aren't lower than you've suggested. There was only one live nymph in this case (the other female at least had four, although one died after a few days) and I found the remains of the egg case - it looked as though most of them simply hadn't developed at all though there were one or two which looked like they may have started to hatch but died trying to get out of the egg.

It's because they were both from the same vendor that I wondered whether genetics and maybe a very small gene pool had anything to do with it, although as I understand it inbreeding doesn't cause anything like the same problems in insects as it does in mammals? Alternatively I wonder whether there is some instinct in the females to keep on "pushing" if there aren't many nymphs born, which causes them to push their own insides out if they don't give birth to many of them? Still doesn't explain the poor birth rate though.

The better news is that this female is still alive and seems to be acting more normally than the other one did after the prolapse - she was hiding under one of the pieces of cork bark this evening and seemed quite calm whereas the other one that died never left the top of the bark and seemed to be constantly in distress, trying to "scrape off" the prolapse, and rapidly weakened within a day or so of it happening. I haven't seen this one eat or drink yet but the prolapse seems to have shrunk a bit this evening compared with the photo I took this morning (though it hasn't dried out), so I am a bit more hopeful that she will at least survive longer and be able to live a relatively normal life (other than presumably not being able to breed again) if she does. I am not counting any chickens though after the last one :(

My three new females are from a different vendor / colony with a very good reputation and they all seemed a lot more active than my original three hissers (including the male) from the start, so I am also wondering whether maybe the original two females were simply in poor health or weak specimens anyway. I guess time will only tell if the new ones also have birth problems too (I think at least one is gravid as she is very fat!). If not then hopefully it's just a genetic / health issue with the original females, but if it happens to any of the new ones too then it must be something I'm doing wrong. I just hope I find out what it is before it happens again.

 

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If it's any comfort, most insects don't have the nerve structures necessary to feel pain. They can register if something is injuring them and therefore needs to be moved away from, but they don't feel pain in the way that we do. Which is why you sometimes find bugs running around nonchalantly with pieces missing, and why this female is acting more or less normally. 

I wonder if they could have been handled roughly by a vendor or during transport and suffered internal injuries that led to this? 

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Thanks Betta132, yes that does help - I guess I am a bit guilty of over-anthropomorphising them (they are my first pet roaches - and pet insects of any kind!) and it's always good to bring some objective scientific perspective back into the mix in these circumstances :)

Interesting point about them possibly being handled roughly by the vendor or damaged in transit - I guess that's possible as I bought them at a big insect show where they were in plastic containers with no packing material, just a bit of substrate in a plastic carton, and I have no idea how far the vendor had come or how he had brought them to the show, so yes it's possible they could have been knocked about and injured in transit. I drove very sedately and as smoothly as I could home with them myself though (as I also did with the new females), so I hope it wasn't anything to do with me! 

FWIW the second female with the prolapse is hiding under one of the cork barks tonight so I can't tell whether it is shrinking and whether she is still alert, but she was out on the log in the "hot" area of the tank with the others this morning and is definitely behaving much more normally than the other female whose injuries, in hindsight, were obviously fatal, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that this one survives for longer.

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OK this is weird - I hadn't checked on my female with the prolapse for a couple of days as I didn't want to stress her out whilst she was recovering, but tonight I decided to have a look at them all, and it seems that the prolapse has completely disappeared on the female that had it. I don't know whether it just dried up and fell off, or whether it has actually been "reabsorbed" back inside her somehow, but there is no obvious sign of any damage to her any more. I will obviously keep an eye on her, as I can't believe she has completely healed, but I am sooo pleased to see that she hasn't gone the way of the other one and, so far at least, seems to be doing OK :)

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My first few broods of nymphs with my E. javanicas hissers (Halloweens) were very small. Just a few per female. The females were on the younger side but once I started introducing a better source of protein and added a variety of fresh fruits and veggies weekly the broods got larger. They are in dry conditions at room temp (78-85). My hissers love apple, banana, salad, carrot, onion, cucumber, alfalfa, bell pepper, squash, pumpkin & pumpkin bread, cranberry jelly, corn, and have tried beans (kidney, black eye, pinto, baked). They only thing they didn't go for was celery.

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Thanks dcfarms - I am currently feeding them a variety of organic veg (apple, banana, pear, courgette/zucchini, orange, carrot, bell pepper, romaine lettuce) and a mixture of ground-up dried dog food (with chicken), oat biscuits and breakfast oats for protein. They also have dry oak leaves (we have four big English Oak trees in the garden so no shortage of those especially at this time of year!) in the enclosure and a small amount of rotting wood from the substrate that was in the carton I got them in from the breeder, which I have seen some of them eat occasionally. Do you think I should give them more protein than this to get bigger broods? If so what do you suggest I add?

As an aside the second female who had the prolapse is still alive and still seems healthy nearly two weeks after it happened - in fact I now find it hard to tell her from the other females and there is no sign of the prolapse or even any damage to her, I cannot see any difference between her back end and those of the other females, I.e. nothing sticking out and no obvious inability or problem to open and close the rear segments in comparison with the others. Had anyone ever heard of a roach prolapse being completely reabsorbed or healed? it just seems a little quick for it to have dried up and fallen off within two days of the prolapse happening so I am wondering if somehow she managed to pull it completely back inside her.

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We live in an agricultural area so there is a tractor and feed store available to us and have found a soy bean protein based chicken feed (hatchling/ grower) [24% protein] that all of our roaches have responded very well to; much better than dog or cat food. the feed and water crystals are available at all times. Our common hissers started out slow but before we knew we had hundreds.

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