Question: I have five pet Giant Burrowing Cockroaches and would like to know if they are boys or girls. How can I tell the sexes apart? Is there anything I can do to encourage them to mate?
Answer: Male and female Giant Burrowing Cockroaches, Macropanesthia rhinoceros, are quite similar in appearance. However, it is possible to tell them apart by looking at their pronotums. The pronotum is the shield-like structure just behind the head.
Giant Burrowing Cockroaches. Note the female's smooth rounded pronotum (left) and the male's sculptured pronotum (right).
Photographer: Alan Henderson / Copyright: Minibeast Wildlife
Female Giant Burrowing Cockroaches have a pronotum that is rounded and smooth. The males have pronotums that are much more sculptured. This difference is only obvious in adults and sub-adults; it is very difficult to sex juveniles.
Giant Burrowing Cockroaches usually mate in early summer. You can keep the sexes together all year round, but they may be more likely to mate if you introduce them to each other just before the mating season. Increasing the temperature and humidity of their environment will also encourage sexual activity.
If your cockroaches do mate, they are most likely to do it at night. You should provide your mated females with shallow substrate and a bark shelter. Keep the humidity of their enclosure high and minimise disturbances.
A Giant Burrowing Cockroach in an enclosure.
Photograph: Rodney Start / Source: Museum Victoria
Female Giant Burrowing Cockroaches usually give birth to about 20 live young. The young will remain with their mother for up to 12 months, reach maturity at 2 to 3 years and live for up to 10 years.
More information on the husbandry of this, and hundreds of other species, can be found in the Museum Victoria publication entitled Keeping Bugs Alive! A guide to keeping Australian Invertebrates.