As a kick off to a week of math-related fun here at Liberty Science Center, our Animal Interpretation staff held the Second-Ever Cockroach Count on Wednesday, March 9. Starting at 9:30 am, the Animal Interpretation Associates dove into our Madagascar hissing cockroaches and started counting the only way they know how – one at a time.
They carefully pulled out cockroaches from the enclosure and placed them in a large bin which was live-streamed on YouTube. There are a few reasons why we count all the cockroaches each year. First, we want to check on the health of our colony, seeing if there are babies and how the total number of cockroaches compares to the previous year. Second, we needed to change the substrate, or dirt, that the roaches live in order to keep it clean. And finally, it’s just a whole lot of fun!
After six hours (360 minutes, 21,600 seconds) of counting, sifting through substrate, more counting, and a bit more counting, we got to our final number – 1,177 cockroaches. That’s 164 more than last year!
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are insects with six legs, and two antennae. That means we counted a total of 7,062 legs and 2,354 antennae, which is a lot to do in only six hours. They’re called ‘hissing’ cockroaches because they can make a hissing sound when they are scared by sending out air from spiracles, or breathing holes, on the sides of their bodies. Our roaches eat fruits and vegetables, which is what they would do in the wild, composting all of the materials on the forest floor.
Counting 1,177 cockroaches in only six hours is a rate of almost 200 an hour. Needless to say, our brave Animal Interpretation Associates were exhausted by the end of the day, but very excited to finish the count. None of us can wait for next year and the Third-Ever Cockroach Count!
Exhibition News blog by Aubrey Weibel. Aubrey is an Animal Interpretation Associate at the Science Center.