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Elliptorhina javanica - Halloween Hissers


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Not much info on these gorgeous little buddies, beyond comparisons to G. portentosa. I read an article concerning the latter and how they form bonds with individuals that take the time to pet them. They learn the scent, and react hissy towards strangers.

I have been bonding with my male daily, leaving the obviously gravid female on her own because i do not want to risk stressing her into miscarrying. I am not sure if he enjoys the light pets i give him, but he has however grown quite tolerant of my affection. At first he never stopped hissing when i touched him, then transitioning into objectionable hisses when he was removed from his enclosure for petting but not hissing a peep once he was in my hands. We've now reached the point of total calmness when he is removed and petted.

Is there a resource I can't seem to find that goes into greater detail about this sp? I am not sure how similar javanica and portentosa truly are beyond similar care and behavior. I am interested in the relationship they and similar species have with humans, and why they grow tolerant for such a primitive insect as if they can indeed form a bond with another species. My first guess is their communal nature, but i feel there is a lot more to learn from this species.

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I think I've read the paper you are discussing, and I've also done some similar work, both in formal experiments, and as classroom demonstrations.

Essentially, the disturbance his is a reaction to alarming stimuli. It clearly occurs in response to touch, but I think they also respond to movement and visual stimuli. Once alarmed, most individuals usually only his a few times, if any. A few will hiss dozens of times after startled. I've also noticed they are more likely to hiss when they have an opportunity to run back to their colony. I'm not sure if the function is to startle potential predators, or if they are alerting their fellow hissers.

The reduction in hissing you are describing is likely habituation. Even very simple animals can learn to reduce their responses with repeated stimulation. Animals much simpler than cockroaches are capable of this. As long as the alarming stimulus is not too intense, most hissers will habituate to these stimuli over time. You may also notice that hissers that are not handled frequently will quickly run and willingly drop of your hand, while a hisser that is more accustomed to handling will calmly walk around even on the underside of your hand. I think the dropping response is another deliberate anti-predation strategy. When they are calm, they cling to whatever surface they are on.

In terms of bonding, I don't beleive you are seeing what would be considered a traditional bond. Instead of bonding with you, your hisser is learning not to be alarmed by your presence. Since he is not alarmed, he is not hissing or running away. He can now act more calmly and naturally when you are with him. If he is hungry, you could likely feed him. Any of his natural behavior may occur now. I've also known some very territorial male hissers that, once they are not alarmed by humans, will actually fight with humans. If your hands get too close to their spot, they will give your finger a good shove! They are fun little animals, and there is definitely "more going on in there" than most people would think. 



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  • 1 month later...

For an animal to form a social bond with something other than its species, it has to be an animal that's capable of social bonds in the first place, and has to recognize something of itself (body language, etc) in that other species. Roaches may be capable of the first, but wouldn't be able to understand that a human is a living thing, as opposed to a force of nature.

However, many animals, from insects to reptiles, can learn to recognize and respond neutrally/positively to a specific human. They can learn not to see you as a threat, and even to associate you with food, new toys (for reptiles), and other positive stimuli. That's a bond, of a sort, and is pretty impressive to get out of an animal so much smaller than you. You've made a creature that you could crush in an instant see you as a safe and interesting thing instead of a threat. On some level, they can learn to like you, because you have food, but they don't like you because of you like social animals would. They're not going to like you like, say, a rat would. 

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  • 1 month later...

This is touching. I never heard of Halloween Hissers.  The only hisser I had were Madagascans (3).  The girl would hiss every time I touched her.  The first boy I had only a day or so.  His replacement I could pick up and pet and he never hissed at me.  Takana, Naoshi, and Monocco.

When I lived with Germans one would crawl up like the back of my leg and it tickled.  When I sat in the bathroom, I would watch 2 or 3 of them go around my foot like they were playing hide and go seek with each other.  One I kept in a jar for 7 months got used to her home and seemed happy with the food and water puff I provided.  A friend at Cornell babysat her for 2 months and thought the same I did about her being content.  Not so when I first caught her.  Then she was slippery and ran as they normally would, but I persisted.  After a month or so she calmed down.  I accidently broke her middle left leg when putting her back in the jar after changing her food.  It made me feel bad seeing her limping.  Plus she lost her back left leg sometime before that.  Her name was Tutti.

Amazing creatures no matter what species.

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  • 1 month later...

i know this is an old thread but its so cute amd reminds me a lot of myself. prepare for long post bc im feeling sentimental today lol.

a big part of this hobby for me is personifying them. whether thats:

-assigning them certain personality traits (one walks around a lot? adventurer. one hisses a lot? short tempered and easily annoyed. one always walks on others but another sits in the same spot? extrovert and introvert)

-assigning them a favorite food (one goes to one kind of food more than the other, this food was eaten quickly while the other one is almost completely untouched.)

-giving the pet ones names, duh

-observing their behavior in a more human social context. (they are fighting a lot? neighbors who bickering over petty stuff. they arent very active? they prefer to stay home and gossip. they all eat together? family dinner time is important. antennae going all over the place? very excited/curious)

-props. i buy those little fairy garden/christmas village statue things or even sometimes doll accessories to take picture of with them (no glitter, no paint that can be removed, has to be water resistant, doesnt stay in too long unless its seasonal decoration) and make up little things about how they interact with the props. my favorite is for christmas i put in a teeny tiny nativity scene. im not religious so i thought itd be a great edgy joke. one of my past roaches, walnut, would drink water off the statue when i misted them and the water would eventually collect in the little baby basket. i decided he was a dedicated christian and on sundays id ask him how church went. one of my newer ones, corduroy, went over to look at it then ran to hide and just didnt go to that side until i took it away. i decided hes an agnostic atheist who doesnt believe in god but hes nervous his sinful lifestyle (he instigates a lot of the fights ive watched lol) will get him in trouble if hes wrong. stuff like that is great.

-talking to them

-sharing food with them (not like eating what they ate but when i would cut it up id eat the pieces that would just be too big to finish in a week then give it to them, if i had food scraps from cooking, or if i gave them a certain kind of fruit id go get another one for myself.)

-calling it an enclosure/room/house instead of a cage (the enclosure is lovingly nicknamed The Box) 

just because they dont have the capacity to feel emotions or think doesnt mean that bond isnt real. its real to you.

sure, scientifically speaking he is just learning that the sensation isnt a predator or rival roach and since it doesnt hurt him, he doesnt react. i might be wrong, but dont 'pest' roaches learn how to avoid certain poisons by habitually being exposed to other roaches that have died from it and they start avoiding bug poison traps? they arent problem solving in the way that we or other animals do, but they are learning.

a lot of people in the hobby from what i know prefer to think of them as they are known to be rather than trying to connect with 10000000+ roaches individually. especially people who use them for feeders and research. everyone has their own way of doing things in hobbies like this and theres no wrong way to feel connected to them if thats what you want.

when one of my first few hissers, died i was absolutely devastated. i cried for weeks anytime i thought about him. when i first got them as adults, i didnt understand the signs of aging but over time it became more apparent. some of this was probably not signs of aging bc they were in rough shape when i got them but they were completely fine for a long while. i knew it was coming but it hurt really bad still.

he couldnt walk on substrate without falling over most of the time. i put him in a smaller enclosure with paper towels instead of substrate and used a plastic cup cut in half as a hide so he wouldnt climb on top and fall off but he still 'felt' safe. i would find leg pieces all the time so i knew he wasnt eating them. he stopped being able to eat solid foods as well and was becoming more lethargic so i started giving him mashed up fruits/vegetables with some fish flakes and water mixed in. hed gain weight back but bc it was mashed it went gross faster and if i didnt change it every day he would lose mass again. i was seriously having a hard time decided if i should let him take the ol long freezer nap but it was a really hard thing to think about for me. he stopped being able to hiss. hed be 'sleeping' more and more until it was all day everyday and id touch him to see if he was alive. sometimes he would respond so slow id start crying and then suddenly hed start trying to walk toward the hand with his senior meal. when i found him dead i couldnt believe it until his leg just fell completely off and i could smell the rotting of all the squishy parts. i buried him and had a little service bc it was very upsetting to me. when another one died then a long time after that the other two died, i did the same thing. i actually was very depressed about it for awhile, it still makes me sad sometimes.

am i wrong for feeling like this because they were just very simple animals who knew nothing more than their own instincts? is the bond i felt with them not real because they dont have the ability to feel those things? is it ridiculous to have cockroach funerals? is it excessive to be giving them as much attention as i did? no. their natural social behavior isnt aligned with ours, but our social behaviors are to be interactive and caring with each other. we take care of dogs like we do kids, hell theres some dogs who live better lives than most of the kids in the world. a dog has a lot more capacity for these behaviors than a roach does, but isnt it weird we do all these things for dogs? why cant i feel that way about a roach? those roomba vacuums are a better example. its just a machine that bumps around then turns off but people love to personify them. my roaches helped me feel like i had a purpose and i was accomplishing goals when i was dealing with some really hard health stuff. i dont care if its dumb or not scientific, they needed me to be alive and i needed them as a reason to try at that point in my life.

people say stuff like "facts dont care about your feelings" and forget that its a FACT we as animals are heavily influenced by emotions and this need to socially engaged in some way for our mental health. in some situations being emotional is a really bad thing, but in others its either not harmful at all or simply relevant but shouldnt be overpowering. science and emotion can exist together.

but at the same time, people who dont want to be a crazy person like me, they arent wrong either. people who have no issue euthanizing their roaches because they know there is no pain or suffering as we understand it, are just as good owners as the emotional people are. they can still have respect for the animal without treating it like a person. 

i know this is long and on an old post, i apologize lol, but if you want to keep thinking they like to be pet or they have a bond with you? go for it. embrace it.

one of my all time favorite twilight zone episodes is season 2 episode 8. after i got my roaches it started making me think of them. i wont give spoilers incase youve never watched/read it but a main character has a breakdown realizing they arent who they think they are. they learn they have no emotions or pain but they are screaming and crying like they do. its just how they are made to react like that. one of the other main characters is having an emotional response too but he knows that reaction is on purpose for him to feel closure in saying goodbye to their bond. while the person freaks out, you realize that they really dont have emotions and its really just a premade response to the situation, and its chilling. no matter what you think, relate to, or appreciate about the characters personality matters bc its not a real personality. the crying and screaming is just not real because they cant have those reactions without being made to. you still feel sad for the character, so does the second person, but it cant change the facts. the emotions are still real to the people besides that character including the audience, but its surface level. you can still appreciate the given personality while knowing it isnt a "human" response.

sorry for the novel 💀💀💀 nobody i know even gives half a shit about how much these animals mean to me and it embarrassed me for awhile that i was so invested. trust me, it feels better to just let it flow naturally if thats how you feel. your bond is real and perfectly okay.

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I don't think there's anything at all wrong in getting emotionally attached to your pets - although I now have so many inverts (stick insects mostly but also 3 roach colonies of at least 50 individuals each) I simply don't have time to get attached to them individually, when I first had roaches (three and then five individuals) I really did "bond" with them and gave them names, so when they died I was quite upset and gave them a little "burial ceremony" too. I think if you have any interest in and empathy for living creatures in general then in my opinion you're bound to get attached to them, it doesn't matter what they are - inverts, fish, reptiles, mammals - if you keep them as pets. And even now, whilst I don't name them any more and don't have time to follow their lives as individuals in general, if there is one individual that "stands out" from the crowd in any of my colonies (e.g. I have a male Gromphadorhina portentosa who clearly didn't shed properly in his final moult and his exoskeleton is all "wrinkly" where I don't think he was able to "inflate" his new skin properly whilst it hardened) I will always look out for them when I am feeding or cleaning out the colony and am more sad if I see they are getting old or have passed on than I might be for the others.

Like you I have real problems euthanising insects, I still feel I don't want to take their lives deliberately and as long as I can see that they are able to eat and are not damaged fatally in any way I try to keep them alive as long as I can. It's always a sad occasion for me if I feel I have to euthanise one of my roaches (or any of my inverts) and really it is only when I realise that keeping them alive is keeping them in a worse situation and in more stress (which I do believe inverts feel, even if I don't know whether they can feel pain as we would know it) than euthanising them, that I can do it.

Hope this helps anyway...

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cool response @BlattaAnglicana, ill try to remember to come back and give you a 💙! i eventually want to branch out into other inverts, but my dreams of mantids intimidates me right now! id want a tarantula or two but i dont think im ready for them either lol.

closest things ive done to roach keeping are collecting local wooly bear caterpillars as a kid and raising them then releasing, same for ordered caterpillars into monarchs, and my mother is a second grade teacher who had mealworms as something to follow throughout the school year awhile back. my dear darkling beetles...ah the good old days! my dubia colony was so much fun, one day when i have the means id love to have all different bins of other roaches!

the adult female dubia who was already gravid and some subadults with one teeny tiny nymph was given to me by someone who just knew "hey he likes roaches!" and once she had the first round of nymphs i was in love with them all but was selling them off/giving them away as feeders. it really made me sad the first time i did it but after my friend's sibling's very unhealthy bearded dragon started looking a whole lot better i stopped feeling bad about feeding them off. they had a good purpose. and like you said, you cant name every single one out of a billion! i gave the colony a nicknamed as a whole tho! called them the dubes and it made me laugh everytime i said it! id probably do that with my colonies anyway because im a dork like that! i never expected to do a colony and swore it was just so she could have her nymphs without them getting all up in everything else but once it happened...i caught roach fever and started making a list of "ooh~ i want that one for a colony, that one for a colony, i NEED literally five billion of that one..."

the little nymph that was gifted to me, i had separated just incase he was male and i was wrong about the adult female being gravid with all of the sub adults molting into females....i was right lol! i watched him fall off his little egg carton after his last molt and after his wings bent/curled under him. i named him pluto bc he used to be the littlest and funny enough he grew up to be different than all the others. when i finally moved him in with the colony and newly adult females (all girls of the gifted ones besides him) i was worried he might not be able to mate bc his wings wings were so weird....obviously not long after all the adult females were gravid and he was just chillin! yeah he was the only male (until i got a small 'mixed bag'to add in lol) and it always made it feel like seeing an old friend in passing when hed just walk all over. everyone was thriving and to me he was the king of the castle. 

one tiny nymph, a few sub adults, and a pregnant lady turned into such a massive deal that i couldnt keep selling/giving them away fast enough! i wasnt originally supposed to start any colonies...only two hissers...yeah as you know theres just something addicting about these little guys! i had a clear tub and would just lay under the wire rack and stare up at them for awhile. i sold the colony to someone local and while i missed my dubes...i know they were out there doing good. the most amazing thing about the hobby is you get to see these animals entire life cycles and you are the center of it! i love hearing everyones stories on here!

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