The enthusiastic volunteer at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane probably thought she’d get a rise out of me when she offered to let me stroke a cockroach. Ha! One look and I recognised it as one I’ve seen on my property, but hadn’t taken a photo of. So I gladly accepted her offer.
It’s the giant burrowing cockroach Macropanesthia rhinoceros, also known as the rhinoceros cockroach. The largest cockroach in Australia, it can weigh 35 grams and reach 8 cm in length.
These cockroaches don’t have wings. They live, yes, in permanent burrows and eat dead leaves on the forest floor. The ‘dent’ in the ‘forehead’ can help differentiate males from females – the males have a bigger dent. Females give birth to live young rather than laying eggs, and adults can live up to 14 years. Apparently they make good pets.
There are something like 450 species of native cockroaches in Australia, and they don’t go inside houses. Esperance Blog (from Western Australia) has good photos and info on other Australian native cockroaches. Thanks to the volunteer at the museum for being so knowledgeable and keen. It was a pleasure talking with you.