Blaberus discoidalis

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Discoid cockroach
Naturkundliche Sammlung Übermaxx Überseemuseum Bremen 0036.JPG
B. discoidalis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattodea
Family: Blaberidae
Genus: Blaberus
Species: B. discoidalis
Binomial name
Blaberus discoidalis
Audinet-Serville, 1839
  • Blabera rufescens Saussure & Zhentner, 1894[1]
  • Blabera subspurcata Walker, F, 1868
  • Blabera varians Serville, 1838
  • Blabera cubensis Saussure, 1864
  • Blabera discoidalis Serville, 1838

Blaberus discoidalis, commonly known as the discoid cockroach,[2] tropical cockroach,[3] West Indian leaf cockroach,[3] false death's head cockroach,[4][5] Haitian cockroach,[6] and drummer,[7] is a cockroach native to Central America of the “giant cockroach” family, Blaberidae.[6][8]

Adults are around 35–45 mm (1.4–1.8 in) in length, and are tan with a dark brown to black patch on their pronotum.[6] Juveniles are brown with tan speckles, and mature to adulthood in 4–5 months.[6] Adults have wings but are not active fliers,[6] and they can not climb smooth vertical surfaces, simplifying their care in captivity.

B. discoidalis is called the false death's head cockroach because of its superficial resemblance to the death's head cockroach, Blaberus craniifer.


Adult and juvenile specimens at Smithsonian National Zoological Park

B. discoidalis are found in Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico (Vieques Island), Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad), and USA (Florida).[7]


The movement of B. discoidalis is relatively slow and inefficient compared to the common cockroach Periplaneta americana, which sprints on its hind legs more than twice as fast at 50 body lengths per second.[9] In laboratory tests, specimens were adept at obstacle climbing, and maintaining stability with miniature “cannons” strapped to their bodies to knock them off balance.[9] The species served as the basis for the kinematics design of a several cockroach-inspired robots.[10][11]


Pet food[edit]

They are very easy to raise in captivity and therefore make good food for insectivorous pets such as tarantulas, bearded dragon and other lizards.

Discoid cockroaches also produce considerably less odor than crickets, another common feeder animal. They can survive on many substrates and to some extent they will clean their own cage, only requiring cleaning on a monthly basis or less. Coconut fiber makes a good substrate as the nymphs readily burrow in it, and it holds humidity well.

Most high protein food sources are sufficient to maintain them, such as dry dog food. They can eat and should be given a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable scraps. Keep their food in a dish (or two) dry food and wet/fresh separate. On the opposite side of the tank keep and auto water dish or just a shallow water dish and replace when empty or dirty. Keep the roaches on mulch or peat and give them egg crates to spread out on. Also even though they can not climb glass they can climb silicone and will climb the corners of the aquarium. If they get out they will desiccate if not given a water source, thus reducing the risk of infestation.

These animals breed readily in captivity. They reach breeding age in about 6 months if kept warm, with 85 °F-90 °F being recommend for more productive breeding. Females will carry their eggs inside a brooding pouch within their abdomen until they hatch.

Nutritional requirements differ between juvenile and adult B. discoidalis, evidenced by proportions of volatile fatty acids in specimens fed the same dog food diet.[9]

Fuel cell[edit]

B. discoidalis was used in an experiment to create a miniature fuel cell, producing electricity from naturally occurring sugar in the insect and oxygen in the air.[12] The power density of the species is considered a good design target for small robots.[13]


  1. ^ "Synonyms of Tropical Cockroach (Blaberus discoidalis)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Clopton, Richard E. (2011). "Redescription of Protomagalhaensia granulosae Peregrine, 1970 (Apicomplexa: Eugregarinida: Blabericolidae) Parasitizing the Discoid Cockroach, Blaberus discoidalis (Dictyoptera: Blaberidae)" (PDF). Comparative Parasitology 78 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1654/4475.1. ISSN 1525-2647. 
  3. ^ a b "Common Names for Tropical Cockroach (Blaberus discoidalis)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Marshall, Samuel D. (2001). Tarantulas and Other Arachnids: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Behavior, and Housing. Barron's Educational Series. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7641-1463-2. 
  5. ^ "Biofuel cell generates electricity when implanted in false deaths head cockroach (Press release)". ACS News Service (American Chemical Society). 1 February 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Stockton, Donna. "Husbandry Data Sheet: Haitian cockroaches, Blaberus discoidalis" (PDF). TITAG Husbandry Information (Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group). Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Beccaloni, GW (2007). "species Blaberus discoidalis Serville, 1838". Blattodea Species File Online. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Blaberus discoidalis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Bell, WJ; Roth, LM; Nalepa, CA (2007). Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior, and Natural History (PDF). JHU Press. pp. 18, 78. ISBN 978-0-8018-8616-4. 
  10. ^ Pavone, Marco (2005). "Architecture for autonomous robots: adaptive locomotion and distributed covering – Diploma thesis". Scuola Superiore di Catania. 
  11. ^ Bekey, George A. (2005). Autonomous Robots: From Biological Inspiration to Implementation and Control. MIT Press. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-262-02578-2. 
  12. ^ Rasmussen, Michelle; Ritzmann, Roy E.; Lee, Irene; Pollack, Alan J.; Scherson, Daniel (2012). "An Implantable Biofuel Cell for a Live Insect". Journal of the American Chemical Society 134 (3): 1458–1460. doi:10.1021/ja210794c. ISSN 0002-7863. 
  13. ^ Steltz, Erik Edward (2008). Redesign of the Micromechanical Flying Insect in a Power Density Context. ProQuest. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-549-83412-0.