Otherwise known as the infamous lobster roach, Nauphoeta cinerea is a climbing species. Adults have wings but are unable to fly in an upward motion. They flutter their wings to land safely in the case of a fall or leap. Smallest nymphs measure approximately 4mm by 2mm, and adults are 2.5cm to 3.5 cm long.
Temperament & behaviour
Lobster roaches are very bold and unafraid to lunge great heights when startled. They have a strong group huddle instinct and appear most timid when separated from the pack. It’s not rare to find an escapee lingering outside the cage as if it wanted to get back inside. Juveniles are much, much faster than adults, but I’ve never had an issue with any of our tarantulas catching them.
This species likes it warm but will breed well under cooler conditions.
Your lobster colony will rapidy outgrow any ten gallon set-up. Use a large Rubbermaid for several reasons: One is that if you pick up a piece of egg carton with Nauphoeta cinerea on it, you’re going to have several roaches leaping off the egg carton. If you do this over a cage with a large open-top, the roaches will merely drop back into their cage rather than onto your floor. Two, is that you’re less likely to bump your fingers against the Vaseline if you’ve got a big cage to work with. And three is that you want to start off with a large cage so you don’t have to worry about transferring them when the colony grows exponentially.
No substrate is necessary as long as you provide several layers of paper egg cartons. These roaches won’t use paper towel or toilet paper tubes, but they do appreciate corrugated cardboard. Be sure not to use anything made of Styrofoam because they will inevitably nibble on them.
Because these roaches are able to climb, an application of Vaseline at the top of the cage is recommended to prevent escapees. For beginners, it may seem messy, but you simply need a 1.5″ to 2″ wide strip. Don’t apply the Vaseline too close to the top of the cage where your fingers are likely to accidentally smear it. Make sure to keep the dry food and the moist food separate. You can accomplish this by using shallow food dishes, but I just keep the food and water crystals in opposite corners of the cage to make both easily accessible for the smaller nymphs.
These roaches will multiply even when neglected. After moulting, they eat their exoskeleton, so you can actually go without feeding them and they will still survive. Does this mean that they will infest your home if they escape? In my opinion, not necessarily. Any escapees I find are almost always slow and fatigued. I originally thought it was from dehydration or malnutrition, possibly cool temperatures. But after seeing how well my colony flourished without being supplied with heat, food or water, I suspect the stress of being separated from the colony is what actually kills escapees. So unless you’re letting your roaches escape in groups and they’re able to congregate within a small confined space (like under your refrigerator), I don’t think they will infest your home with any degree of certainty. They can live for awhile without food and water at normal room temperature (70-80 degrees F), but they probably won’t be able to breed if there isn’t a cluster of them. How well you feed your colony depends solely on how well you want them gut-loaded and prepared for your roach-eaters.
Diet & breeding
These roaches are the least pickiest eaters I have. Fish flake food, ground up cat food, bread, cereal, they eat it all.
These are extremely fast breeders, especially for being ovoviviparous. You will never run out of food. Ensuring their enclosure is warm will increase production levels, as well as having ample food and water.
This species is soft-bodied and comes in conveniently small sizes. Unlike crickets, lobsters are terrified of tarantulas and will not disturb them during their moulting period. I’ve had more luck feeding these to my burrowing tarantulas because of their habit to burrow (and get eaten) rather than climb up to get eaten by my arboreal tarantulas.
Although lobster roaches can climb, they would much rather burrow. They are more inclined to hide under the substrate of a cage rather than bolt up the walls to escape. Nevertheless, they are very quick to dart under cover and may be too fast for some of your insectivores. To disorient them before feeding them to my animals, I shake the lobsters in a cup when dusting them. This slows them down and also impedes their ability to climb smooth surfaces. Be very cautious about leaving nymphs or gravid females in your cages. Lobster nymphs are adept at squeezing through ventilation holes that are narrower than their body width. Some of the above points will not be relevant if you’re just feeding these roaches to tarantulas.