I’ve written before about some legislation pending that would put tighter controls on the importation of non-native species as pets. And today, some news that supports the need for that legislation:

“A growing interest among reptile enthusiasts to farm the insects as lizard food could result in several new cockroach varieties invading the state, University of Florida entomologists warn…

“We have 69 species of cockroaches in the United States and 29 of them were brought in from other countries,” said Koehler, an entomology professor….

But with a few keystrokes and a credit card, it could certainly happen, said Pereira, a research associate scientist. “They keep telling us we live in a global economy and society,” he said. “All of these cockroaches you can get over the Internet — you can order something from the Pacific Northwest and have it here in two days or less. You can transfer things that way very easily.”

James Tuttle, a longtime reptile enthusiast who now runs a roach-supply company called blaberus.com that ships insects all across the country, said roaches as reptile food “is probably the most popular thing going these days.”

Basically, roaches are cheaper, and easier to rear, than crickets as food for reptiles and other exotics. Also, there are a lot of people who have some of the larger roaches as pets.

Madagascar Hissing cockroaches are really not controlled to any degree–you can buy them (usually illegally and with no paperwork) at most pet stores.  They are absolutely something you do NOT want in your house or business as a wild population.  They’re big and they smell funny.

The buzz on the entomological street is that several populations of hissers have already established themselves in southern states, but I can’t find documentation of that, so it will have to remain rumor.  Certainly the potential for escape and establishment is huge for some environments that are particularly roach-friendly–like Florida.

In another earlier post, I covered the establishment of pet stick insects as a pest in California, and regulations covering non-native pet insects.  Personally, I would LOVE to have a pet exotic mantis or one of the of the very cool thorny twig insects. But I don’t have one.

We need to think carefully about what we want, and what we need.  They are not always the same things.

Photocredit: cweed

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. You are so right. I would also love to have some of those really cool exotic insects, but I know what an impact it may have in the future. Like you said, we need to think about whether it is essential or just ornamental.

  2. I too have done posts on the horrors of importing pets, I am glad you are outspoken on this as well as you have a MUCH larger following than I do.

  3. After raising a few exotic insects in recent years, I have come to feel that in spite of how cool they are, and even if they are “educational”, they are not meant to be here. But I also had an uh-oh moment when I recently found the nymph of an Australian Prickly stick insect in my yard! The desire to keep these kinds of bugs can be very strong, but I’m determined to resist, (this pleases my poor hubby more than I can say), and I’m trying to focus on observing them in situ and taking pictures.

  4. In the book The World Without Us, (http://www.worldwithoutus.com/index2.html) Alan Weisman talks about how we spend billions of dollars trying to control cockroaches as a result of our spending billions of dollars trying to control the temperature of our homes. He said they are naturally tropical and only live up north because of the tropical (hot, humid) environments we keep in our houses. If we die, they die. It really made me think of how much we change the world around us without even thinking about it.

    Now, as I read this, I am thinking about how I really, desperately don’t want giant hissing cockroaches to start a sustaining colony in an apartment building. Eeesh.

  5. Wow. Never mind invasive insects… once you start looking into the unbelievable dominance of invasive plants, you can get pretty depressed about your local ecosystem.

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