Archimandrita tesselata bears a calm temperament which makes it a perfect pet, as well as a feeder food. Both nymphs and adults are non-climbers.
Temperament & behaviour
Although peppered roaches spend most of their time hidden, you are more likely to see them out and about than other burrowing roaches. Nymphs are generally not skittish during handling.
These roaches are very interesting in that they display a social order. I’ve seen the dominant adult male(s) lingering on the surface during the day. Female adults will come out at night, and any (rejected) subordinate males will stay in the corner. Like with hissers, the more layers and range of hides you can provide, the better each adult male will be able to establish his own territory.
Peppered roaches require humidity to assist in shedding or else nymphs will have their new exoskeletons harden before they have enough time to make it out of the old one. I’ve got my roaches set up with about five inches of coconut fibre (also known as Bed-a-Beast, Eco-Earth, or Forest Bed). The heated side is where I keep the substrate moist. The substrate is wet enough to stick to my hands but not soggy dripping with water. The cool side also has substrate, but I keep this part of the enclosure dry to avoid mold. On the cool side, I put ground up food in a shallow dish and sprinkle other dry food items like cereal directly on top of the substrate.
Archimandrita tesselata gladly make themselves at home burrowing in the substrate, but you should also add hides on the surface for them to use. Large scraps of rotten wood has worked the best for me. It will not mold like egg cartons are prone to do when exposed to moist substrate. Remember, be elaborate with your hides arrangements!
If you use cat food or similar items as a main component of their diet, be careful not to let the food mix in with wet substrate. That will usually cause any dormant mite eggs to hatch. One way to avoid this is to keep the dry food in a dish so it’s less likely to mix in with the substrate. Another way is to sterilise the substrate. Heating with a high power microwave seems to help but may not be as thorough as baking. If you use Bed-a-Beast, make sure it’s fully expanded and moist when you sterilise with either method.
Heat & humidity
This species likes it warm. I suggest an ambient temperature of around 80 degrees F and a warm side of 95-100 degrees F. Cooler temperatures will simply mean slower production.
Because my enclosures receive supplemental heat and plenty of ventilation, the substrate dries out quickly. To combat this, I’ve added water crystal gel to the substrate on the moist side of the enclosure. You can add an even thicker layer of substrate to extend moisture retention. With my current set-up, I have to water the cage about every 3-4 days.
This species seems to favour cheerios and fish flake food. They will also nibble on oranges, strawberries, and carrots, and sweet potato, but not with much vigour. Peaches and apples appear to be less attractive. Potatoes pretty go completely untouched. Leafy green vegetables, oak leaves (both dry and fresh), and rose leaves are also readily consumed.
Peppered roaches seem to have better production when provided with pieces of rotten wood to eat. You can easily find scrap pieces of tree bark in areas that have old trees. I collected some from my friend’s back garden in the suburbs. Keep the rotten wood in the warm side of the cage and take care to moisten it when you mist the cage. This will make the wood more edible for the roaches.
This species reproduces by live birth rather than egg-laying. The process is not quite like live birth in humans (viviparity) but consists of the eggs hatching as they’re being laid (ovoviviparity).
The scientific name is often spelled tesselata but academic sources report the spelling as “tessellata,” like the word tessellate which means “to form into a mosaic.” However, the word derives from the Latin tesselat (“checkered”), so I will go with tesselata.
Because of their sheer bulk, Archimandrita tesselata make a great feeder for large tarantulas. However, their expensive cost and slow growth makes other roach feeders more cost effective. I personally just keep this species as a pet, and only offer them up as feeder food every once in a while.