What I consider to be one of the jewels of my collection are death head roaches, which are aptly named for the skull markings on the pronotum of adults. The name Blaberus means “noxious” and craniifer means “skull”. These are striking roaches with jet black wings. Similar to the impression you get when looking at an anerythristic corn snake, you find black and white where you normally expect to see brown and red. Most roaches labelled for sale as Blaberus craniifer are actually hybrid forms. I have one colony of hybrids that appear to be a mix between B. craniifer and B. fuscus. Pure adult death heads should have solid black wings, not varying shades of brown or tan. Consequently, very few breeders offer them for sale.
For a small to medium-sized colony, a ten gallon aquarium will suffice. This species is unable to climb glass, but it can still make its way up the glued corners of an aquarium. Keep a lid on all your tanks. If you house the roaches in a large Rubbermaid or Sterilite tote, make sure you choose one that has very slick sides. These roaches are able to climb some containers similarly to how crickets can climb storage totes that have just the tiniest bit of texture to them. No substrate is necessary as long as you provide several layers of paper egg cartons for them to hide in. I buy egg flats and then cut them up into different sizes. This makes collecting the roaches easier when you need multiple roaches of a certain size. The babies tend to stay on the smaller pieces of egg cartons while the bigger nymphs are in the larger cuts. Gravid females seem to especially enjoy hiding in paper towel tubes, but they are a pain to get out when you have to remove them when the paper towel tube gets soiled. Be vigilant about keeping the dry food and the moist food separate. It’s a good idea to use shallow food dishes or jar lids. The dry food itself doesn’t need to be in a bowl, but make sure any water crystal gel is contained to keep it clean. Dirty water gel and moistened roach food is usually what attracts flies.
Care is the same as with discoids. Blaberus colonies may seem difficult to start. The key is to provide a constant source of moisture. Premature adult deaths will occur frequently and without warning if you only offer moisture a couple of times a week. Moisture can be supplied in the form of water crystals, fruits, and vegetables. One thing I’ve noticed about Blaberus is that they’re more comfortable eating if you place their food under a hiding spot. I accomplish this by simply putting some smaller pieces of egg carton over their main feeding spot, and then sprinkling any fruits or veggies in between the egg cartons or at the entrances of the paper towel tubes.Frequency of cleaning depends on the size of your colony. If you keep a colony of about 500 roaches, one thorough cleaning every few months is enough assuming you maintain a clean food/water area.I clean the cage by sweeping the frass up with a small brush–the kitchen kind used for spreading sauces.
This species likes it warm. I suggest an ambient temperature of around 80 degrees and a warm side of 95-100 degrees F. Cooler temperatures will simply mean slower production.
I haven’t noticed any particular dietary preferences, so I simply offer a little bit of everything. I suggest feeding leafy green vegetables because the scraps will dry out instead of moulding. The scraps also mimic leaf litter for the nymphs to burrow under as well as assist in helping the upturned roach get back on its feet.I recommend keeping sources of protein and carbohydrates available at all times, such as cat food, breakfast cereal, and mixed grains, and then treat them to alternative sources of fruits/vegetables every other day. They show no interest in fish flake food, so opt for other types of protein. If you choose to use cat food, make sure to grind it into a powder or else they will not be able to eat it (even though they want to).
These roaches are probably too expensive for people to ever want to use as feeders. If you are able to find any roaches labelled as death heads for cheap, then they probably are not ‘pure’ death heads.