Monday, November 25, 2013

Giant Costa Rican Roach!

Now that we live in Costa Rica, we have learned to accept the creepy crawlies and often see snakes of all sizes, birds of many colors, ladybugs of different colors, shapes & sizes, and we even rescue butterflies & dragonflies all day in our house.  Our kids have become experts at knowing what to rescue and set free and what to leave alone.  This morning; however, was a completely different animal.  As I am writing this, I glance at my flip flopped feet every few words to assure myself the coast is clear. Because this morning, my 2 year old, Sara stumbled upon the largest roach I have ever seen.  My 4 year old, Max kept saying "Arthropod! Mom, arthropods in the bathroom!"  We recently watched a BBC series, Walking with Dinosaurs, and apparently, creepy crawly life began with Arthropods, Arthropleura to be exact, possibly 520 million years ago. The direct descendant was a cockroach that was even similar in size 200 million years ago. We thought the tree roaches in Texas were big, but this was huge.  Also, roaches have a bad reputation anyway for carrying diseases, but after some research today, I discovered people actually keep these giants as pets. 
Luckily, this roach was not as big as his ancestor in the movie, thanks to there being about 50% less oxygen in the air.  After more research, I found plenty of websites selling these friendly Blaberus giganteus as house pets and/or colony starters for people needing to feed other interesting house pets, like snakes, giant centipedes and tarantulas. Ugh! These roaches eat things like lettuce, and fruit as youngsters, working up to dead insects before they are fully matured, with a life expectancy of about 20 months. This exert was taken from Wikipedia and I thought it was so interesting, I had to share: Cockroaches always have three legs in synchronous contact with the ground during movement. The three legs are classified as the leading leg, middle leg, and trailing leg and the leading and trailing leg from one side with the middle leg of the other side will form a tripod. The leading leg will pull the body, while the trailing leg pushes the middle leg forward. The middle leg is important because it will act as a pivot and creates the characteristic zigzag locomotion. The process will be repeated with the next tripod and to move forward the tripods alternate. The ability of cockroaches to have ground reaction force distributed equally to these three legs is explained by joint torque minimization. Joint torque minimization has been shown to help limit mechanical, energy, and metabolism demands, and can also decrease the axial load on a single leg. Cockroaches can easily walk up a 45˚ slope on a smooth surface with little to no difficulty. However, aged cockroaches or cockroaches with damaged tarsi can overcome such slopes only with difficulty. 
Our roach was either old, or damaged since he did not seem to have much mobility. He did have wings, so I think he flew in through the window. At 3" long, he dwarfed the average Texas tree roach by over 2".  Since the Giant cockroach Blaberus giganteus needs a warm, moist environment, it looks like they are here to stay.  

I think I will keep the dog, and set the roach free.  I would much rather take my dog for a walk and occasionally bathe and brush her. While the sight of this enormous insect was titillating, it only lasted for a moment.  My dogs give me much more pleasure over the course of their dog lives than any pet cockroach could give me.  And, as adventurous as I have always claimed to be in my food journeys, you will not catch me eating one of these either.  Ugh! So, to each his own and I will sum it all up with a few pictures of my favorite insects :) Pura Vida!

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