The World’s Most Venomous Snakes: Working with Mambas and King Cobras

Black mamba

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tad Arensmeier

The dangers posed by a specific snake species depends upon a great many factors (please see below).  It is clear, however, that venomous snakes are a serious health concern…according to a recent study, each year’s 4.5 million venomous snakebites result in 100,000 deaths and 250,000 permanent disabilities (figures are approximate, please see the article linked below for details).  Certain large constrictors have also caused fatalities. In the course of field research in Venezuela, I observed a Green Anaconda attack a co-worker in what clearly was a feeding attempt.  Please see “Further Reading”, below, to read about both this incident and a recent study of human predation by Reticulated Pythons.   Today I’ll focus on the 2 most dangerous species that I’ve found most challenging as captives – the world’s largest and Africa’s longest venomous snakes, the King Cobra (Ophiophagus  hannah) and the Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis).

 

A Note on “The Most Dangerous”

Widespread species that adapt well to human presence, such as Puff Adders, bite far more people than do, for example, sea snakes and others that might have more potent venom, but which rarely encounter humans.  Wild Black Mambas readily colonize farms and villages, benefitting from the increased availability of shelter and food (rodents, nesting birds).  King Cobras, on the other hand, tend to live in more undisturbed habitats.  Venom evolution, a snake’s size, the availability of antivenin, individual sensitivities and a host of other considerations also complicate the issue.

 

Here I’m mainly considering captive care (in zoos…venomous snakes should never be kept in private collections!).

 

King Cobra skull

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Mokele

Large, Alert, Fast and Smart!

Cobras and mambas are classified in the family Elapidae, which contains 354 members.  Among them we find several species that are considered to be high-strung and aggressive when confronted.  While King Cobras and Black Mambas often retreat if able, encounters in homes, barns or, in my case, zoo exhibits, may lead to attacks.  And the large size attained by each increases both the potential strike range and the amount of venom that may be delivered by a bite.

 

Another difficulty presented to zookeepers is the fact that cobras and mambas are hard to move via a snake hook.  Incredibly-fast and quick to figure out what’s going on, they more often than not land on the floor when being “hooked”.

 

For safety’s sake, I try to rely upon hunger and other “hands-off” tricks when relocating these formidable creatures (please see below), but that is not always possible.  While rummaging through a storage area in the Bronx Zoo’s reptile house, I once found a homemade shield used decades ago by keepers entering the King Cobra exhibit.  One keeper in particular was said to become very concerned if the cobras seemed hungry, or their cage needed servicing; armed with his shield, he would enter quite often (the King Cobras under my care moved into their shift cage when I needed to enter…or else they remained hungry!).

 

“Curious Cobras”

Those who work with King Cobras often describe them as “curious”.  I can’t disagree, although when servicing their exhibits I found this trait to be un-nerving, to say the least!   Actually, all cobra species I’ve cared for exhibited an unusual degree of alertness, and responded immediately to what was going on around them.  For example, both Egyptian and King Cobras, perhaps sensing my footsteps in the service area behind their exhibits, would rear up and face the small sliding window I looked through before opening their exhibit doors.  As I slid back the window’s cover, a cobra was nearly always peering back at me…in a lifetime of working with snakes, I’ve not seen this done by any other species.

 

King cobra

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Hari Prasad

My most harrowing King Cobra incident involved an escaped individual at an airport.  Fortunately, I went the “brains over brawn” route and emerged unscathed – much to the disappointment of the several young onlookers who expected a battle!  Please see this article for the details.

 

How Do You Get a Black Mamba into a Pillow Case?

This disturbing question confronted me when I was called upon to ship the Staten Island Zoo’s resident specimen to another institution.  If anything, mambas are faster and harder to deal with than cobras…individuals cornered in homes have quickly caused multiple fatalities.  An adult can deliver 120 mg of venom in a single bite, and the lethal dose is only 10-15 mg, so this is not a creature to be taken lightly.  Again, I shamelessly used under-handed tricks to accomplish my task…please see this article for the details.

 

King Cobra and Black Mamba Natural History

While much is made of the dangers posed by these snakes, less attention is paid to the details of their lives in the wild.  Mamba and cobra diets, breeding behaviors, threat displays and colonization of human-dominated landscapes are especially fascinating, and quite unique.  I’ve written about their natural behaviors in the articles linked below.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Anaconda Attacks: Notes from the Field

Human Predation by Wild Reticulated Pythons

Venomous Snakebites Worldwide

King Cobra Natural History

Black Mamba Natural History

Amphibians as Pets: Care of Common and Unusual Types of Toads

European Green Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by H. Krisp

Children the world over are often introduced to amphibians when they come across their first toad.  Far bolder than typical frogs (and much easier to catch!) most take the indignity of capture by grubby little hands in stride, and leave all who encounter them with a favorable impression.  With few exceptions, however, these droll, long-lived amphibians are relatively ignored by pet-keepers and zoos alike.  After a lifetime of working with dozens of species, I find this hard to understand.  Toads of many species (there are almost 600!) take well to captivity, and often become as responsive as do turtles.  Nearly all feed readily from the hand, and they are frequently described as “charming” by owners.  Many are active by day, while others are quick to discard their nocturnal ways.  I still find American Toads and other common species as fascinating as Kihansi Spray Toads (which produce tiny toadlets rather than eggs!), Blomberg’s Toads and the other rarities I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

 

Classification

Toads and frogs are classified in the order Anura, which contains 6,396 members.  The world’s 588 toad species are placed in the family Bufonidae.  Toad taxonomy is now in a state of flux, so I’ll mainly stick to common names here…please post below if you would like the Latin name for any species.

 

Asiatic toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia commons by Visviva

Range and Habitat

Toads are native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and have adapted to rainforests, deserts, grasslands, meadows, temperate woodlands, cold mountain streams, farms, cloud forests, suburban gardens, city parks, coastal sand dunes and many more.  Despite lacking native species, Australia hosts enormous populations of Marine or Cane Toads.  Released to control cane beetles (a task at which they failed miserably!), Marine Toads now threaten the future of animals ranging from insects to large monitors.

 

Toad Diversity

The USA’s toads are incredibly diverse.  Included among the 35-40 native species is one of the world’s smallest, the inch-long Oak Toad (one of our regular readers is now attempting to breed them; I’ll post updates).  The massive Marine Toad is also a native, but is limited to the lower reaches of the Rio Grande in extreme southern Texas; the Florida population is introduced.  Sharing the Marine Toad’s Texas range is the fabulously-bizarre Mexican Burrowing Toad (Rhinophryrinus dorsalis).  Other US natives that deserve more attention include the gorgeous desert-dwelling Sonoran Green and Red-Spotted Toads, the minute Narrow-Mouthed Toads and the subterranean, gnome-like Spadefoots.

 

Narrow Mouthed Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Eugene van der Pijll

The toad family contains the only live-bearing Anurans (Nectophrynoides and Nimdaphrynoides spp.)   One of these, the Kihansi Spray Toad, was declared extinct in the wild not long ago.  I worked with wild-caught individuals at the Bronx Zoo, and was astonished at the size of the youngsters produced by the females, who themselves did not reach an inch in length!  Happily, they thrived in captivity and have now been re-introduced to the wild; please see the article linked below.

 

Vying with the 9-inch-long Marine Toad for the title of world’s largest species are the striking Blomberg’s and Smooth-Sided Toads.  Species that “break the mold”, in terms of appearance and behavior, include the Argentine Flame-Bellied Toad, which rivals the colors of any Poison Frog, and the long-limbed Climbing Toad.  I’ve had the good fortune to work with each of these, and many other unusual species; please post below for detailed care info.

 

The Terrarium

Your toad’s natural history will dictate the type of terrarium it requires; please post below for specific information.  Terrariums for most should have large land areas and a water bowl.

 

Substrate

Sphagnum moss or, for planted terrariums, a mix of moss, dead leaves and topsoil, works well for forest and meadow adapted species.  Toads may swallow substrate with their meals, although they rarely launch the suicidal lunges typical to many frogs.  In order to limit the possibility of intestinal blockages gravel should be avoided.  Tong or hand feeding is also useful.

 

Climbing Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Daderot

Light

Toads seem not to require UVB radiation, although some keepers believe that low levels may benefit certain diurnal species; the Zoo Med 2.0 UVB Bulb would be a good choice for these.

 

Heat

Temperatures for tropical species should range from 75-82 F.  Toads from temperate regions fare best at 66-74 F.  However, specific needs vary, especially regarding those native to deserts or rainforests; please post any questions below.

 

A fluorescent light may provide enough heat – if not, try a 25 watt incandescent bulb or ceramic heater; these can dry out the substrate, so additional misting may become necessary.

 

Humidity

Humidity needs vary, but even desert dwellers should have access to a moist retreat and easily-exited water bowl.

 

Water Quality

Toads have porous skin patches on the chest and elsewhere and will, therefore, absorb ammonia (released with their waste products) and other harmful chemicals.  As ammonia is extremely lethal, strict attention must be paid to terrarium and water hygiene.

 

Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used in toad terrariums.  Liquid preparations are simple to use and very effective.

 

Feeding

Toads are carnivorous and stimulated to feed by movement.  The one surprising exception is the Marine Toad.  In Costa Rica, I came to know one huge individual that would visit our field station each night.  After pushing open the screen door, she would eat table scraps that had been left for a dog!

 

A highly-varied diet is essential.  Crickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet for any species.

 

The following should be offered to tiny species such as Narrow-Mouthed Toads and to newly-transformed individuals: fruit flies, 10 day old crickets, springtails, termites, flour beetle grubs, aphids and “field plankton” (insects gathered by sweeping through tall grass with a net).

 

In addition to crickets, earthworms (one of the best foods for most) roaches, sow bugs, waxworms, butterworms, silkworms, houseflies and other invertebrates should be provided.  Insects should themselves be fed a nutritious diet for 1-3 days before being offered to your pets.  Many will accept canned grasshoppers, snails, and silkworms from tongs.

 

Please ignore the You Tube videos of Marine Toads consuming mice. Even in rodent-rich habitats, wild Marine Toads feed primarily upon insects.  While a very occasional pink mouse will do no harm, furred rodents should never be offered.

 

Food should be powdered with Zoo Med ReptiCalcium plus D3 or a similar product.  Vitamin/mineral supplements such as ReptiVite may be used 1-2 times weekly.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

American Toad Care & Natural History

Nutritious Diets for Frogs & Toads

Reptile, Amphibian, Scorpion and Tarantula Feeding Tools

t259648Today I’d like to highlight some interesting feeding tools, automatic feeders, live food dispensers and other products designed for herp and invertebrate keepers.  Included are items that can lighten our work load, ensure safety when feeding aggressive creatures, and automatically provide meals in our absence.  I especially favor products that dispense live insects at irregular intervals, and also those which force turtles, newts and aquatic frogs to work for their food.  This concept, known as behavioral enrichment, became standard zoo-practice while I was working at the Bronx Zoo.  In addition to encouraging exercise, such devices add greatly to the range of interesting behaviors we can observe among our pets.

 

Hanging Mealworm Feeder

The perforated bottom of Zoo Med’s Hanging Mealworm Feeder allows grubs to find their own way into the terrarium.  Mealworms that escape detection will encourage natural hunting behaviors.  Animals of all kinds quickly learn to recognize the feeder…if you remove it when not in use most, will respond right away when it is returned.

 

t259647I’ve employed similar feeders in zoos for a wide range of creatures.  Zoo Med’s modal should also be useful to those who keep oscars and similar fishes, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, finches, shama thrushes, and other insectivorous pets.

 

The first worm feeders were designed to provide tubifex worms to tropical fishes.  I still use the same modal I first purchased as a child…and the price hasn’t gone up much!  In addition to being a great fish-feeding tool, Lee’s Four-Way Worm Feeder is perfect for offering blackworms to newts, axolotls, African clawed frogs and small turtles.

 

Cricket Feeders

Available in 3 sizes, Exo Terra’s Cricket Pen takes much of the hassle out of keeping those pesky but ever-present crickets.  Detachable dispensing tubes, which are used as sheltering sites by crickets, are set into a ventilated, plastic cage.  A flap seals the tubes lower end when it is removed, allowing crickets to be added to terrariums with a tap of the finger.  Cricket food and water receptacles are also included.

 

Depending upon the species and terrarium set-up, you may also be able to simply place the Cricket Pen into your pet’s tank and let the crickets escape on their own.  Covering the pen with dark paper will keep animals from trying to reach crickets through the plastic walls…you should notice an increase in alertness and foraging behavior if you use it in this way.

 

Asian Forest Scorpion

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Chris huh

Feeding Tongs

Gone are the days when we had to modify tweezers and cooking utensils for use as herp-feeding tools.  Zoo Med’s 10-inch Stainless Steel Feeding Tongs is perfect for presenting meals to snakes, scorpions, mantids, and tarantulas, and for removing debris from tanks where one’s fingers are best kept out of reach.

 

As most frogs seem to lack any sort of reasonable control over their feeding lunges, I use Zoo Med’s Plastic Feeding Tongs   when feeding mine (this tendency is not limited to pets – I’ve seen wild American Bullfrogs crash into rocks, and one landed so close to a larger frog that it too wound up as a meal!).  Lizards vary in their feeding responses…over-zealous feeders may injure themselves on metal tongs, while others are not at risk.  You might want to stay with plastic tongs for certain snakes also.

 

Feeding tongs can also be used with various fishes and birds…or, if you’ve been as lucky as I. with captive short-tailed shrews and least weasels (two of the most insanely-ferocious creatures I’ve worked with!).

 

Turtle Feeders

The Zoo Med Floating Turtle Feeder is the best behavioral enrichment -type turtle product on the market.  Amazingly simple in design and easy to use, it will keep sliders, musk turtles, map turtles and similar species well-occupied…and their owners very amused!

 

Exo-Terra’s Automatic Turtle Feeder, similar in design to automatic fish-feeders, is a much-needed addition to the turtle-keeper’s supply kit.

 

You can read more about these useful turtle-feeders in this article.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Canned Insects and Snails

 

Collecting Insects for Captive Herps

 

Giant Day Gecko Care and Natural History

Phelsuma grandis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Anja

Among the world’s 52 species of neon-hued day geckos we find some of the most desirable of all lizard pets.  It’s not easy to stand out among such a spectacular group, but one species does so admirably – the magnificent Giant Day Gecko (Phelsuma grandis).  Although rarely seen outside of its native Madagascar until the mid-1980’s, this largest of all day geckos is now the hands-down favorite of many lizard enthusiasts.  I’m still asked to design zoo and museum exhibits for Giant Day Geckos, despite the fact that public institutions tend to avoid “pet trade species” – their beauty simply cannot be ignored.  The following information can also be applied to the care of 3 other large relatives that were once considered Giant Day Gecko subspecies – the Boehm’s Giant Day Gecko (P. madagascariensis boehmi), the Madagascar Day Gecko (P. m. madagascariensis) and Koch’s Giant Day Gecko (P. kochi).

 

Description

This stoutly-built lizard averages 9-10 inches in length, with large males reaching 12 inches.  Clad in brilliant green and bearing maroon to red head and orange dorsal markings, Giant Day Geckos must be seen to be truly appreciated.  Hobbyists have also developed an array of breath-taking color morphs.

 

Captive Gecko Behavior

All day geckos are best considered as animals to observe rather than handle.  Fast and alert, they will watch as you open the terrarium and may flee if possible; keep a net nearby to catch escapees.  Their tails snap off with the slightest provocation, and the delicate skin tears easily.  Although well-habituated individuals may accept food from tongs, these high-strung beauties are not for those seeking a hands-on pet.  However, the careful keeper will be rewarded with a range of interesting behaviors, regular reproduction and pets that may live into their 20’s.

 

Range and Habitat of the Giant Day

The Giant Day Gecko occurs across much of northern Madagascar, and on several small offshore islands.  Introduced populations are established on several of the Florida Keys (Little Torch, Plantation, Plantation and Big Pine).  It has also been sporadically reported in Florida’s Dade, Lee and Broward Counties, and on Hawaii.

 

Giant Day Geckos evolved in rainforests, but adapt well to some degree of human presence.  In both their native and introduced ranges, they can be seen on building walls and in well-vegetated gardens.

 

Giant Day Gecko

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Greg Hume

The Terrarium

Giant Day Geckos are highly arboreal and must have climbing opportunities.    A 30-55 gallon “high-style” tank will accommodate a pair or trio.  Always opt for the largest enclosure possible.

 

By virtue of their habits and need for security, all day geckos are ideally suited to life in terrariums provisioned with live plants; they will not thrive in bare enclosures.  Plants such as Pothos, Snake Plants and Philodendron will provide visual barriers and a sense of security.  Rolled cork bark and hollow bamboo sections make ideal hideaways and basking, perching, and egg-deposition sites; these should be arranged both horizontally and vertically.

 

Be sure to establish plenty of basking sites near heat and UVB bulbs, as dominant individuals may exclude others from these important areas.

 

Substrate

A mix of potting soil, cypress mulch and sphagnum moss is ideal.

 

Light

Giant Day Geckos should be provided with a source of Ultra-Violet B light.  Natural sunlight is best, but be aware that glass and plastic filter out UVB rays, and that fatal overheating can occur very quickly.  A daytime period of 12-14 hours should be maintained.

 

Female Standing's Day Gecko

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Hectonichus

It appears that at least certain species can utilize dietary D3, and do well without access to UVB.  I’m familiar with one exhibit in which Giant and Standing’s Day Geckos have bred over several generations in the absence of UVB (please see photo of female Standing’s Day Gecko with well-developed calcium reserves, or “chalk sacs”).  However, there are a number of variables to consider…please see the article linked below for further information.

 

Heat

Ambient temperatures of 82-85 F, with a basking spot of 88-90 F, are ideal.  Nighttime temperatures can dip to 76-80 F.

 

Large enclosures will allow for the establishment of a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures).  Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow lizards to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot and cooler areas.

 

Incandescent bulbs should be used to maintain temperatures.  A ceramic heater or reptile night bulb can be employed after dark.

 

Humidity

These rainforest-adapted lizards do best when humidity levels range from 50-75%.  Their terrarium should be misted at least twice daily; a mister and hygrometer can be used to increase and monitor humidity if need be.

 

Gecko Companions

Males will fight savagely and should never be housed together. Females are also territorial, and must be watched carefully.  Pairs, trios (1 male, 2 females) and youngsters may co-exist in large enclosures, but be sure to check that all are able to feed and bask.

 

t239545Feeding

A highly-varied diet is essential if you are to have success in keeping any day gecko species.  Crickets and mealworms alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet.

 

The diet should consist of roaches, sow bugs, crickets, butterworms, waxworms, cultured houseflies, silkworms and other commercially available invertebrates.  Feeders should be provided a healthful diet for several days prior to use.

 

If possible, also offer wild-caught insects (avoid pesticide-sprayed areas, and learn to identify stinging and toxic species; please see the articles linked below).  Moths, beetles, grasshoppers, tree crickets, earwigs, “smooth” caterpillars and a variety of others will be accepted. Your pets will definitely show greater enthusiasm towards novel foods!  The Bug Napper Insect Trap will simplify insect collection.

 

The natural diet also includes nectar, ripe fruit, pollen and sap. A mixture of fruit-based baby food, honey or molasses, liquid reptile vitamins, and ReptiCalcium with D3, mixed with enough water to achieve a syrupy consistency, should be offered 3 times weekly.  Experiment with the ingredients, and add a bit of over-ripe papaya, mango and banana on occasion.  Your geckos will prefer to take nectar from cups suspended above-ground.  Please see the article linked below for further information.

 

Important food supplements include Zoo Med ReptiCalcium with D3 or a similar product (most meals) and a vitamin supplement (i.e. ReptiVite) 2-3 times weekly.

 

Day Geckos rarely drink from bowls but will lap water that is sprayed onto foliage.

 

Further Reading

 

Keeping Day Geckos Without UVB Access

 

Collecting Insects for use as Reptile Food

 

Feeding Day Geckos

 

 

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Allergy: Popular Pet Insect Hosts Troublesome Mold

Hissing roach

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Almabes

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (Grompadorhina portentosa) are extremely popular as pets, classroom animals and reptile food.  Recent studies at Ohio State University have revealed a darker side to these otherwise harmless insects…their bodies and wastes are colonized by 14 mold species, several of which can cause allergic reactions and secondary infections.  I’ve worked with huge colonies of these and other feeder insects in zoos, and coworkers seem to have developed allergies to crickets, but I have not heard of similar reports concerning roaches.  As of now, precautions rather than outright avoidance of Hissing Roaches are being advised.

 

Allergic Reactions and Secondary Infections

The study, published in the March, 2014 issue of the journal Mycoses (V. 57, N. 3), examined Hissing Roach colonies in schools, zoos, homes, and pet stores.  Molds of various species were found on shed skins, feces and the bodies of live insects.  Several of the molds are capable of triggering allergic reactions such as skin and eye irritation, wheezing and nasal congestion; sensitive individuals could be at additional risk.  Aspergillus niger, which is commonly associated with contaminated foods, was especially numerous (see photo).  People are impacted mainly via mold spores that land on the skin or are inhaled.

 

Aspergillus niger on onion

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by S. K. Mohan

Several of the molds found on Hissing Roaches can also cause secondary infections in wounds or the lungs.

 

At present, researchers advise those working with Hissing Roaches to wash their hands after contact with the insects.  I would suggest that, as with all pets, a doctor should be consulted if you have concerns, or suspect that you or a household member may be at risk.

 

Hissing Cockroach Care Tips

Molds are fungi that thrive in moist environments.  In order to help lower your roach enclosure’s humidity level, I recommend that cricket gel cubes be used as a water source; please see this article for further information.  Gel tubes eliminate the need for damp sponges and water bowls, and also prevent nymphs from drowning.  Fruit, which is also an important source of water and nutrients, should be replaced regularly to prevent spoilage and mold.

 

Regular cleaning of the terrarium and replacement of cardboard sheltering sites (if used) is important; Zoo Med’s Wipeout Terrarium Cleaner or a solution of 1 oz. of bleach per gallon of water can be empoloyed.  I keep Madagascar Hissing Roach colonies in bare-bottomed tanks; substrate is not necessary, and it complicates cleaning.  This type of housing also enables one to maintain a dry environment, which should, in theory, assist in mold control (I’ve not checked into exactly how much moisture the roach-associated molds require…any insights appreciated).

 

Mites on Hissing Roach

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Sarefo

Mites to the Rescue

Researchers are now studying a type of mite (Gromphadorholaelaps schafeiri, see photo) that commonly lives on and around Hissing Roaches.  By consuming organic debris, these mites may help to limit mold growth.  Many scorpion, millipede and tarantula owners are familiar with other tiny white mites that often establish themselves in invertebrate terrariums.  Although disconcerting when first seen, most are harmless or perhaps even useful…please see the article linked below for information about their habits and tips on mite control.

 

Other Roaches

Whether you keep them as pets or a reptile food-source, roaches are a most fascinating group of insects.  Their fossil record stretches back over 300 million years, and 4,000+ species have been described to date.  Latin America’s Megaloblatta baberoides  sports a 7 inch wingspan while the heaviest, Macropameothia rhinoceros of Australia, weighs in at 1 ½ ounces.  Among the most interesting new discoveries is an African cockroach that resembles and behaves like a grasshopper.

 

The Orange-Spotted Guyana Roach (Blaptica dubia) has much to recommend it as both a food animal and terrarium subject.  Please see the article linked below to read more about its natural history and care.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 Further Reading

Keeping and Breeding Dubia Roaches

Mites in Scorpion and Tarantula Terrariums

Scroll To Top