My Secret Cockroach Superpower

Emily Kingsley
8 min readFeb 25

Tap tap tap…I think you’re going to be ok.

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

I share my office with about a dozen Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. They live in a small glass tank between my Bluetooth speaker and a box of K-cups. As far as officemates go, they’re not that bad. They don’t heat weird foods up in the microwave or rant about conspiracy theories.

Also, I could kill them if I wanted, and nobody would mind.

But I probably won’t kill them, because I like them. It’s not just because of their burnt caramel-colored shell or the hissing sound they make when they’re upset. It’s not because they’ll happily eat my wilted salad greens or grapes that have gone a little too soft.

I like them because I know no matter how weird or scary things get in my office, they’ve always got my back. No matter what.

I ordered the cockroaches from a breeder in Florida about a year and a half ago. The day they were scheduled to arrive was supposed to be balmy and warm. But a surprise arctic blast dropped into New Hampshire from the north and the temperature fell to well below freezing. I was certain the cockroaches, native to Madagascar, would die, stuffed between Amazon packages and Hello Fresh boxes in the back of a delivery truck.

In the afternoon, a cardboard box with ventilation holes in the sides showed up on my steps. I took it inside, slit the tape, and poured the contents onto my granite countertop. A dozen motionless insects skittered out like miniature glittering hockey pucks.

Hissing cockroaches aren’t the same as cockroaches that invade your apartment and party inside your old pad Thai containers. They are big: 3–4 inches long and at least an inch wide. They have a hard outer shell that protects them from predators and six spiky legs that they use to amble around on the forest floor. They can’t bite or sting and they move slowly like they don’t have anywhere important to go.

More importantly, they evolved in Madagascar where the average yearly low temperature is 73 degrees Fahrenheit. So it wasn’t surprising to see them laying motionless, frozen, on their backs after traveling for a day in the New England cold.

Disappointed, I turned my back and started putting away the breakfast dishes.

Emily Kingsley

Always polishing the flip side of the coin. Live updates from the middle class. She/her.