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Help! Mysterious hisser deaths!

Discussion in 'Insects, Other Invertebrates & Arthropods' started by mariekf, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. mariekf

    mariekf Arachnopeon

    My 4 year old daughter thinks bugs are the best, and after talking about it for months, we started a simple tank with Madagascar hissing cockroaches. It's really simple: cocosoft bedding, a heater that sticks to the outside bottom of the tank, multiple egg cartons to climb and hide under, mesh lid.

    We just had our fourth mysterious death today, and I need help!

    The first death was soon after we got our first cockroaches, and I attributed it to being dropped too often onto the kitchen floor, so we changed the rules about holding cockroaches (only on the carpet, only sitting down) and no one else has been dropped. The second death happened about a week after the first, and I didn't know what to make of it. The third death happened a week after that, and I removed the bark we had in the tank. My daughter had pulled thick, long strips of bark from a log the landlord left in our yard, maybe an oak tree, almost definitely some kind of hardwood. I thought that maybe, because the cockroaches didn't evolve around that kind of tree, they couldn't recognize it as poisonous even though it was really bad for them (although those trees are usually riddled with bugs around here, so it's not poisonous to all bugs). Then we didn't have any deaths for a week and a half after that, and I thought I'd solved the problem until just now, when we discovered one of the really big males, dead in his usual hiding spot.

    They don't show any signs of poisoning or illness. I just find them dead in the morning. They aren't wobbly or weak. The only thing that stands out behavior-wise is that I remember them being more active when I had a colony as a kid, but they run pretty fast when they are set down on the carpet, and climb around when they're not in their tank and at night.

    They are not dying of old age. The first three deaths were juveniles, each about 1 to 1.5 inches.

    They are eating "taste of the wild" dog food, and organic fruit and veg--grapes, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, apples, bananas and banana peels. They have plenty of water, and the tank is usually 70-80 degrees and 70-80% humidity.

    I'm going to relocate the survivors to a box and clean out the entire thing and start fresh tonight, soaking the interior walls with white vinegar to kill any mold or spores before I put them back in.

    Here are my ideas about what could be causing the deaths--I would so much welcome other suggestions, or advice from someone who has seen this before.

    - I got their 20-gallon tank from someone who used to keep fish in there. It looked clean, and the gravel that was in it was clean, so I dumped the gravel, wiped out the bit of dust that was in the gravel, and set it up for bugs. Could there be something left from the fishies that's making them sick?

    - Maybe something is wrong with the dog food (I mean, it's clearly fine for the dogs, but maybe hissers shouldn't eat it). When I had hissers when I was a kid, I remember feeding them only fruit and vegetables, but the care guides I looked at this time around all said they need a protein source and suggested dog or cat kibble.

    - We've had a full week of non-stop rain and 95-100 percent humidity, and now there's a little bit of stringy white mold growing in the cage. It only appeared today or yesterday, so I don't see how it could be related to the earlier deaths, but it made me wonder.

    Thoughts? What else can I do, besides rebooting the tank?
  2. AngelDeVille

    AngelDeVille Fuk Da Meme Police Arachnosupporter

    Buy a cork bark slab from a pet store and use it with the cocofiber.

    Or bare enclosure with egg crate.

    Outside trees and bark have probably been exposed to pesticides.

    Throw out all your existing cocofiber and egg crates.
  3. pannaking22

    pannaking22 Arachnoking Active Member

    Welcome to the forum! Agreed with emptying everything in the enclosure and starting over. Make sure the fruits and veggies are washed really well, organic doesn't always mean pesticide free and the pesticides they use are worse than synthetic ones. I'd bet on something being wrong with the tree though that caused the issue. If you need more hissers to replenish your tank I can send you a few of mine since my colony is borderline out of control.
  4. mariekf

    mariekf Arachnopeon

    Thank you! There haven't been pesticides sprayed anywhere in this neighborhood for easily 20 years, but that doesn't mean some haven't drifted over. Even the bacteria they use to make snow on the ski mountains has a 20-mile drift downwind, so maybe that was it. Tanked cleaned top to bottom, and so far, they seem OK.
  5. Galapoheros

    Galapoheros ArachnoGod Old Timer

    That's a mystery. I grab handfuls of leaves out of my yard, they eat old moldy fruit, I don't sterilize anything, I feel it's overrated to do so much of that. I do get organic cat food from a health store for them. There are small black earwigs and isopods in there, they seem to thrive in it all, I get 1000s of them and use them for feeders. I use egg crates sometimes but I've been a little leery of them being treated with pesticides because german roaches would love to hide in those. If you want to use those, you can soak them in water for day and then let them dry in the sun, I think that would break down pesticides used there if they were used. I used curled oak bark I get from my firewood pile for hiding places, no sterilizing, I just put it in their tank. I would have more problems when trying to sterilize everything.
  6. MarlonAnn

    MarlonAnn Arachnopeon

    Same thing here! I have around 200 hissers since one of my girls gave birth last week. I was trying to find a good home for them anyway so message me if you need any!
  7. I’ve had a couple mysterious deaths too. My first colony lost a girl, but has been healthy since. And my second colony in a different enclosure just lost a girl too, who ended up giving birth to about 20 babies. It breaks my heart because I love these hissers more than anything in my exotics room. I’m obsessed with them and give them only the best. I think maybe the two girls who passed might’ve been old or sick maybe. The colonies came from two different places. I’m sad to have lost two hissers, but hopefully I don’t lose any more. I even want to start a third colony.