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Sex change?


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I recently went off on a rambling and lovely search of the internet to find out life's answers to pressing questions. In my case, this included the qeustion of what just happened to my cockroach.

I am one of life's happy weirdoes in that instead of stomping on household pests--which down where I live, include American Cockroaches about the size of my thumb--I catch them and keep them in cages as inspiration to a range of bizzare art projects. So far, I've had this habit for almost a year and a half...in fact, my first little darling, a female cockroach by the name of Kafka has been in my care at least that long. (I explain this uncommon lifespan with my lack of knwoledge of how to feed my roaches. Pretty much, I accidentally semi-starved the poor thing for nutrients and she's had long life because of it.)

Currently, I have five roaches all in a little plastic-bottles cage of my own design, with plenty of airholes, lots of paper to hide beneath/eat, and several differnt compartments to live in/lay eggcases in. And until about last week, I carefully controlled the environment so that my only male, Jitterbug, had access to his four lovely friends. (Actually, three. Misa-Misa is underage.) Then my other yougn cockroach, Ravenous underwent the transformation into an adult, and suddenly she had "male prongs" for lack of a better word, on "her" abdomen. Not only this, but Kafka and Mehitabel also seemed to notice and all sorts of undignified canoodling occured.

Jitterbug and Ravenous seem to have some evidence of fighting over the two eligable females in the cage since they've been wing-biting and I'm reasonably sure that they should be getting enough protein otherwise.

My question is, did my darling and nervous Ravenous, the only roach in the cage to enjoy swimming in the waterdish, actually just have a sex change, or do the sexual attributes ("male prongs") of cockroaches only show up once they reach adulthood?

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Cockroaches can't change gender and the gender is apparent many molts before adulthood or from the early instars depending on the species. However, the final sexual characteristics are most pronounced on the adult so the differences in the nymphs can be difficult to see.

Understood, but I checked all my roaches pretty carefully before deciding who went in what cage. I originally had two males and so had two cages. Until recently, I assumed I had ONE male...

And it's usually pretty easy to tell which one's which in this species at least...so...I still don't know what happened... I can't explain it, but the cockroach in question didn't have ANY of the features of a male, and now, suddenly "she" does.

...I mean...Unless one of my many siblings swapped out my roaches (Which I don't find that likely) it doesn't make sense to me that this should happen either, but I've watched my little group pretty closely, and now the entire "chemistry" of the group is a lot more agitated as well. It's a fairly small cage, and I suppose weird things happen no those cases, but generally spontaneous sex-changes are a new one to me.

A few of mine have molted before, and my populace is small enough that I can differentiate all my roaches by sight. I'm really quite sure Ravenous didn't have any back-prongs. I wasn't checking consistantly, but I DO keep an eye on the abdomens and the antennae as a primary way of telling a few of my roaches apart...

...Uh...Do you think I wasn't looking carefully enough? (Oh my...how embarassing... :unsure: ) Ravenous has always been the father fast and nervous one I suppose... :blink:


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