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A Flat Chat

April 15, 2022

I know people who freak out at the mention of cockroaches. I am disappointed to see that a google search for cockroaches turns up dozens of ‘Pest Control’ sites. Admittedly the cockroaches in our houses – usually the introduced American Cockroach or German Cockroach are garbage collectors and live in the detritus.

When you find a delicate flat fascinating cockroach hiding in the wood pile, however, you have something to wonder at. I haven’t been able to identify this one, but I think it is a type of Bark Cockroach (family Blaberidae) which specialise in being super flat with nothing protruding so they can slip around between a tree and its bark. They are more like a trilobite than those household pesty cockroaches.

The Pattern: look at the beautiful swirly, shiny, intricate design. One writer suggested that the patterns on the back of cockroaches influenced aboriginal art.

The Versatility: in some of the photos, legs and feelers are protruding. When I touched a feeler, it withdrew it out of view. In some photos, no leg or feeler of any kind is visible. When it is rather inelegantly tipped over, the typical six legs and two feelers of an insect are clearly all there; in normal life they keep them well-hidden.

Capacity to Eat Wood: Cockroaches of this type, and wood-dwelling cockroaches in general, can digest rotting wood because their gut harbours the same bacteria that enable termites to digest cellulose.

In the world of cockroaches, this one is flatly fascinating.

Update: The inaturalist website identifies it as Bark Cockroach Laxta granicollis. It is a male because it has wings and the female of this species is wingless.

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