Northwest Wanderings | Of the hundreds of millions of items for sale online, one of the least expensive and most unusual is the Madagascar hissing cockroach. You can get one for $5.95 — plus shipping and handling.

Share story

Of the hundreds of millions of items for sale online, one of the least expensive and most unusual is the Madagascar hissing cockroach.

You can get one for $5.95 — plus shipping and handling.

Best to order a few.

These are not your everyday roach running for cover when the kitchen lights turn on, the hardy ones expected to be among the last survivors on the planet.

People think of those roaches as pests.

No, these are the hissing variety from the island off the southeast coast of Africa, sold as novelties and pets.

Shelby Ottmer got to hold one on her sixth birthday last week at the Pacific Science Center.

First, there was amazement as she cupped the 3-inch insect in her hand.

Then the realization of the attractiveness of this strange, horned creature moving its antennae to and fro. Lacking good eyesight, it’s checking its environment.

Roach-wrangler Chelsea Leingang assisted and explained what the Madagascar variety likes.

They’re used to being handled and like to have their backs stroked, gently.

Lacking wings, they cannot fly. They like food scraps — bananas and potato skins.

Leingang says, “They’re so small and so cute.”

She says these cockroaches will not infest your home, and she is helping people overcome their fears.

Should roaches begin to hiss, it usually means they feel threatened, they’re mating, or two males are dueling.

That sound is produced by forcing air through openings in their exoskeleton.

An up-close look reveals mites moving about the back of the roach. They’re cleaning it, and the two species have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Leingang says the mites will stay on their host.

Shelby describes holding the roach as feeling “kind of spiky. It tickled me.”

She emphatically says “YES,” she would have one for a pet.

“I’d get its own little cage for it.”