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Friday, 1 January 2016

Keeping cockroaches as pets

Let's start the New Year with a BANG. *

Household cockroaches cause strong and inexplicable reactions. In some thoughts about insects, I quoted this anecdote:

 I once unfortunately stated to a Queensland gentleman that my coat had been bitten by cockroaches at his brother's house, which I had just left.  'You must have brought them with you then,' was the fraternal defence immediately set up.  I was compelled at once to antedate the cockroaches to my previous resting-place, owned by a friend, not by a brother.  'It is possible,' said the squatter, 'but I think you must have had them with you longer than that.'  I acquiesced in silence, and said no more about my coat till I could get it mended elsewhere.
— Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand, London: 1873, page 67.

Some cockroaches, on the other hand, are cute.  Yes, I know that sounds weird, but I share the general revulsion to cockies in the house, but these are different: they are bush cockroaches.

Because so many people have strong reactions, I want to share a quick and easy "cage" that you can use, to keep your pets secure. The two photos above were taken, using a bush cockroach that I kept in the "cage" for a couple of days. It had leaf litter for it to burrow in, and I kept this moist. Not soaking wet, just moist enough to save poor cocky drying out.

The photographs were taken like the one above on the right.. I always use a sheet of coloured card behind the things I am photographing. Usually, I use blue, but I felt like a change this day. You rarely see this sort of rough shot, because I normally crop, rotate and resize as necessary, but in every set, I include one pulled-back shot to show how I did it.

The key thing, though,is containing the cocky or cockies. The picture on the right is from page 177 of my Australian Backyard Naturalist, if you happen to have a copy, but it isn't necessary to buy it. Just get one out of a library though, because there are quite a few easy wrinkles like this one.

There are four bits: a plastic container with a rim; leaf litter and residents; a large-enough piece of fly-screen; and TWO (note that: two) sets of linked rubber bands, joined up by a double hook, made from a paper-clip.

In these photos, you can see one set of rubber bands holding the fly screen in place, while the other set is just lying there.

Rubber bands break: that seems to be one of the unstated laws of science. That is why you need two sets, so the cockies don't get out.

As for food, I often throw in a slice of raw potato, which provides food and moisture, but usually, my pets aren't there long enough to risk starving.

Sometimes, I keep mosquito wrigglers, and I don't let them go when they emerge as adults, so I use flywire there as well. Note the sticks that the adults can rest on: otherwise, they will drown. You need nice green water which provides food for the wrigglers.

Here, once again, I use two or even three rubber bands, just to keep my family happy.

The cockroach cage can also be used to keep slaters (alias pill bugs) and also mystery eggs that turn up in the garden I found one set of these and suspected they were lizards, so I transferred them indoors.

My suggestion: take this idea, purloin it, try variations on it, and if you find a neater way, please leave a comment here.

* Oh, yes, about starting with a bang: I was up until 3 am, having seen in the New Year with Sydney's fabulous fireworks.  Here's a sample of what you can see at that link:

So if there are any typos, I have an excuse!

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