The roaches weren't my idea. 'But dad said I could,' my daughter informed me. Oh dear.
I have said no to a number of pets in my time. No to a dog, despite 'dog' mysteriously appearing on numerous Tesco shopping lists. No to a corn snake. No to lizards and even no to a wolverine. It's not that I have anything against pets per se. We do have two cats, one very old and skinny and another big fat tabby, but still the requests came. Sooner or later we had to give in. But Madagascan hissing cockroaches?
MHCs are not as easy to get hold of as one might imagine. In the end we settle for purchasing them from ebay. Ten of them. Various sizes. I just wish I'd said to the postman when I signed for the parcel 'Ah excellent! The cockroaches have arrived.'
It seems that cockroaches travel well by post and never has such tender loving care been lavished on such undesirable creatures. In fact, despite the protestations of friends and family, it turns out that they are rather...I was going to say cute but you might not believe me. Interesting then? MHCs grow to about 8cm in length, but only the adults 'hiss' by forcing air through spiracles on their abdomen. It turns out we have thirteen rather than ten. Or at least we think so. They are nocturnal and rather secretive so not the easiest creatures to count. They're not the easiest to tell apart either, making naming them rather problematic. We've settled for calling the smallest ones 'Jenkins'. Jenkins is the name given to the boy in any tale of mischief from The Mathematician's school. Medium-sized ones are known as BDB for reasons that only my son can explain. The largest one has already shed its skin and is known as 'Butterbean' for its astonishing whiteness in the first few hours after it moulted.
My daughter is away for a week at RAF camp on Anglesey so the roaches have already become our responsibility. I've had a couple of messages from her already. 'How are you?' she asks, but I know this is code for 'How are the roaches?' They are very well looked after, I tell her, with a choice selection of fish food and fresh fruit. I even bought a lettuce especially.
My daughter's hoping to breed them, so if you'd like a few just let us know. Don't all rush at once...
Isn't he/she handsome?