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Do Hissing Cockroaches Bite?

Hissing cockroaches are interesting creatures that produce a unique hissing noise for various reasons. In fact, they have four specific types of hisses for different occasions. They are one of the largest cockroach species worldwide, growing around 2 to 4 inches long. They also look distinctively more attractive to the common cockroach with their shiny brown or reddish-brown bodies and dark legs and heads.

Since some people keep these large cockroaches as pets, it’s common to wonder: do hissing cockroaches bite? How safe are they and do they make good pets? Find out answers to these common questions and more in this article.

Do hissing cockroaches bite?

While less is known about wild hissing cockroach species, the common species kept as pets is the Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa), which does not bite. They are more shy and will rather hiss at you before running away instead of attacking with a bite.

These insects don’t even bite other animals or each other. If two hissing cockroaches fight, they will battle by ramming each other with their horns. Their main defense mechanism against other animals is their hissing.

Why do hissing cockroaches hiss?

Hissing cockroaches
Hissing cockroaches

There are various reasons why they hiss and each comes with different types of hissing. The four main reasons hissing cockroaches hiss are:

  • To scare predators or intruders when they feel they are in danger
  • When they feel disturbed, such as being lifted abruptly or touched when they are resting
  • For mating and courtship rituals where males hiss at each other, and the one with the loudest hiss typically wins the female
  • To communicate with each other since they live in colonies

How do hissing cockroaches hiss?

Hissing cockroaches have small holes on their backs called spiracles. They use these holes for breathing and, when they force air out quickly, it will create the hissing sound.

It’s a similar effect to when humans force air out of their nostrils and there’s a sound. Depending on the size of the cockroach, the sound they generate can vary.

Why do hissing cockroaches have horns?

Only the male hissing cockroaches have horns. These two large bumps on their backs are called pronotal horns and are used mainly for fighting with other hissing cockroaches. Since they live in colonies, they often have dominance battles to establish their social hierarchies.

During their fights, you will also hear them hiss as a way to establish dominance. The winning male will typically get the best food or spot on the log to hang out.

What happens if a cockroach bites you?

While hissing cockroaches don’t bite, there are cockroach species known to bite humans, such as the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). Luckily they aren’t dangerous.

However, their bites tend to cause irritation, swelling, and lesions. You also have to watch out for infections since they are usually filled with bacteria. Areas cockroaches typically bite include your:

  • Fingers
  • Feet
  • Hands
  • Nails
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Eyelashes

These insects don’t seek out humans to bite, but they can do so when there are large infestations and limited food sources. When there is plenty of food around, they are more likely to avoid you.

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Can hissing cockroaches make you sick?

Yes. One way you can get sick from hissing cockroaches is through the mold spores they carry on their bodies. These spores can trigger asthma attacks and allergies, so it is best not to rub your nose or eyes after handling cockroaches.

You’ve probably heard that cockroaches are dirty animals that survive in garbage cans and sewers. Because of this, they groom themselves to get rid of viruses, bacteria, and parasites from their body and end up leaving secretions with tons of germs behind. However, wild hissing cockroaches typically live in the forest and are relatively more clean without these added bacteria and parasites.

Do hissing cockroaches make good pets?

The giant Madagascar hissing cockroach is the most popular species as a pet for various reasons. On top of their interesting hissing sounds, they are also gentle and easy-going insects. They won’t bite, sting, or attack you. Additionally, they are relatively clean, especially when kept in an enclosure as pets.

Hissing cockroaches are easy to care for and feed. You can give them various fresh vegetables and fruits as well as pellet food with high protein, such as dry dog food. These insects will even eat their own molts. Since they are so easy-going, hissing cockroaches are good starter pets for people new to insect caring.


While the short answer is no, hissing cockroaches won’t bite you, they can still pose a threat for allergies and asthma attacks when you are exposed to the mold spores on their body.

Overall, however, they make great pets and are shy, preferring to just hiss at you and run away. Still, be cautious of other species of cockroaches that do bite and cause irritations or infections.