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New to roaches: mysterious sickness.


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Hi there. Fairly long post, sorry about that. But I have really no idea what's going on here so I'm trying to be as detailed as possible in the hopes that someone else can figure out what went wrong. For starters, on Saturday afternoon someone gave me a pair of adult male Madagascar hissing cockroaches. They were supposed to be a male and a female, but someone messed up and I should be getting a female soon. But anyway, I got two males and they seemed perfectly healthy. I gave them some water and some lettuce and carrots before going into work for my Saturday PM shift.


When I got home, both roaches were completely unresponsive and seemed dead. This was during the recent spell of cold weather that we had. I didn't think that it had gotten THAT cold, but I did a temperature reading and the roaches' cage was at 54 degrees F. So i upped the temperatures and the roaches seemed to get a bit more active. However, stretching into Sunday morning, they both looked like they had motor problems. Even after I'd gotten the temperature back into the 70's, both roaches were still very clumsy. During this time, there were several times when I'd found the smaller male on its back, curled up like it was dead. But then I flipped it over and it crawled away. Still alive, but clearly something wrong with it. At this point, I had to work my Sunday morning shift, so I wouldn't be able to check on them until 5 PM.


5 PM Sunday, and here's where it gets REALLY weird. After having previously looked like it had somewhat recovered, the biggere roach was standing motionless with its abdomen pulsating in a strange fashion. The smaller roach was also pulsating in a strange fashion, and was actually pushing something out of it. At first I thought that I'd misidentified the sex and that it was actually a female giving birth to babies. But on closer inspection, those weren't baby roaches. I really wish I had gotten a picture, but it actually sort of looked like maybe the heads of maggots, trying to crawl their way out of the roaches' backside. Or like, maybe they weren't parasites at all, maybe this was some kind of prolapse and the roach was pushing its internal organs out? In any case, I never got a chance to get a good look at the things. They were protruding from the roach but never fully detached from the roach. Anyway, at this point I had to leave again for about two hours.


When I got back home later that night, the roaches both seemed relatively fine. The bigger roach actually seemed perfectly healthy now. It was eating and actively running around and didn't seem clumsy or uncoordinated at all. The smaller roach still seemed a bit clumsy and uncoordinated, but at least it was now actively eating. And whatever the heck that was that was trying to come out of it had apparently gotten sucked back up inside the roach because now there were no weird parasites on the cage floor and nothing hanging out of the roach's back side. Fastforward to today, and no change. As of now, the biggger male still looks like he's just fine, and the smaller male is still eating and moving around but is still clumsy as if it has had some damage to its motor functions.


So, does anyone have any idea what the heck went wrong here? I'd be inclined to speculate that the lack of motor function was due to the roaches getting too cold. After all, I'd previously had to cool down various insects in the fridge for whatever reason, and I've noticed that staying too cold for too long CAN cause permanent damage to motor functions even after the insect is warmed back up. My question is, these roaches were only exposed to cold temperatures for 7 hours tops, and the temperatures wouldn't have dropped down below 53 or 54 degrees F. Is that long enough/cold enough to cause permanent damage in this species? I'm aware that it's a tropical species, but I still would've thought they'd be hardy enough to tolerate temperatures in the 50s for a few hours without suffering permanent damage (especially since I received them in the mail during a cold spell in an uninsulated box, and they appeared to be just fine when I got them).


So, eliminating variables, what about the food? I didn't feed them any organic-chemical free lettuce, it was plain old standard off-the-shelf romaine. Could the impaired motor functions have been caused by exposure to pesticides?


And of most concern, what the heck was up with that "stuff" trying to crawl out of my smaller roach? Reassessing things, they are both DEFINITELY males and those were definitely NOT baby roaches coming out of it. So...what am I likely looking at? Some kind of parasite? If so, what kind of parasites could these likely have been, and are they fatal? Why would they come out partially like that, and then change their minds and go back into the roach? Or again, is it possible that they weren't parasites at all but that the roach was for some reason pushing out its own internal organs (I really wish I had gotten pics, but it's too late now)? If so, why would that be? Could pesticide exposure cause that to happen? Like, are there any common pesticides that kill insects by basically making their insides come out?


Both roaches seem to be relatively okay now, and have been stable for nearly 24 hours. Still, this whole incident has been VERY concerning and I'm wondering if anyone has any idea what went wrong. For starters, all I have to go on is to take better care to keep the temperatures up. And just to be safe, I'm COMPLETELY staying away from any produce that I'm not 100% positive is pesticide free.

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Well first I'm not to good with individual roach health I go based on colony health to clarify. 

My first question is what housing your useing. The erratic breathing could be from lack of ventilation when the temp was raised. 

Pesticides do play an important role and leafy greens tend to the worst offenders some people say washing is enough but for me useing organic carrots is best don't wilt or mold fast and don't cost much more then regular carrots. I kinda feel like pesticide could be the cause of prolapse issues. 

I haven't heard of the kinda parasite issues you described I think it sounds more like prolapse. 

As far as cold goes the temp is right on the edge the fact they made it 7 hours is a testament to how hardy hissers are. I think it will be possible for the lil one to make a full recovery but it maybe 2-3 weeks before he's all good.

Hisserdude really knows health stuff really well and should be able to provide more detail.

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I once had a female Archimandrita tesselata, and one day I accidentally left her in an unheated room in the winter overnight. When I found her she had something coming out of her backside too, some sort of prolapse, however after a few days if being kept warmer she sucked the prolapse back in and was OK from then on.

Sounds to me like something similar happened with your hissers, and what you saw was probably the males' genitalia. Now that they are being kept warmer and are eating they should be fine, and your smaller male may just be an old specimen, as old roaches typically walk slowly and more clumsily than younger ones, usually due to the loss of their tibia. If the problem was pesticides they'd probably be dead, and I don't think they cause prolapses. Plus, I don't even use organic produce for my roaches.

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Thanks for the replies! As for the first question about their housing, I just have them in a bare bottomed Kritter Keeper type cages (at some point I'll likely add some substrate, but I'm still reading over what works best). I don't think that lack of ventilation would be the issue since those cages have a whole bunch of slits in the lid. I would think that would provide more than adequate ventilation, but that's just a guess on my part. Correct me if I'm wrong about that.


Also as far as the smaller male being clumsy, I sort of doubt that it's due to age simply because the roach was only acting like that after the temperature drop. Before the temperature drop, it acted just fine. Again, I'd previously had to chill down other insects in the past for various reasons, and noticed that too much of a temperature drop for too long of a period of time could cause similar clumsiness even after the temperature has been raised again. My guess as to why the smaller roach was more affected is simply that it had less mass than the bigger roach. Again, just a guess. I know that generally speaking it's easier for larger individuals within a given species to be more tolerant of temperature changes because of the surface area/volume thing, but I also don't know if such a mass would be negligible when we're talking about the difference between a 2" cockroach and a 2.25" cockroach.


If this was due to temperatures though, it's gotta be pure luck that the roaches arrived here fine at all. Temperatures Friday and Saturday were COLD, and the box that they arrived in had essentially no added insulation. I don't know how far the roaches were shipped or how long they were in transit, but I know that a lot of people won't ship live animals at all in that kind of weather. I'm probably lucky that they weren't DOA.


Anyway, thanks for the replies and it's good to know that this is probably just a case of them getting too cold and that they'll be okay from now on. I'll just have to be a lot more careful to watch my temperatures. One question though...even if they're "fine" from now on, what are the chances that this would have permanently affected their fertility? Like I said, I'm hoping to get a female and breed some roaches. Is there any chance that such a prolapse of organs (likely the genitalia, from what I'm seeing) could have ruined the roach's genital organs and rendered it infertile? Is it likely that I'll still be able to get some babies once my female arrives?

Edited by BloodbucketXXL
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