Madagascar hissing cockroaches

Madagascar hissing cockroaches use a 90-decibel hiss to lure mates. Maybe they'll have a similar effect on your love life. (Photo: Liz West/Flickr)

Still struggling to think of a good Valentine's Day gift? Sure, you could buy chocolates and flowers, but those usually end up devoured and droopy by Presidents Day. If you want to give something that'll last a little longer — but without breaking the bank for overpriced jewelry or wasteful knickknacks — the Bronx Zoo has an idea for you.

Cockroaches. Hissing cockroaches, specifically.

The Bronx Zoo is home to 58,000 Madagascar hissing cockroaches, but you can't actually give one as a gift. Instead, the zoo will let you name one after a person you deem worthy, whether it's your "loyal partner, favorite boss or bug-loving kid." And since these bizarre bugs can live up to five years, that's a pretty durable $10 gift.

It's also more than just a gag gift. The Bronx Zoo is one of five New York parks owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the $10 naming fee is basically a donation to WCS projects around the world. While hissing cockroaches are plentiful in the wild, many of their fellow Madagascar natives are critically endangered, from bamboo lemurs and golden mantella frogs to spider tortoises and silky sifakas.

As the Bronx Zoo explains: "Your donation helps WCS conserve species big and small, beautiful and damned. With your support, we'll continue to do our work saving wildlife in the forests of Madagascar and throughout the world's most majestic wild places."

And if that's still not enough, the zoo will also send you a dark-chocolate "cocoa roach" for an extra $15, or two for $25. (But don't worry — it's all chocolate, not a chocolate-covered roach, as talk-show host Kelly Ripa has astutely pointed out. Skip to the 11:30 mark if you watch the video.)

For more information about Madagascar hissing cockroaches, here are a few facts from the Bronx Zoo, plus its video ad for the cocoa roaches:

  • The roaches can hiss at up to 90 decibels, roughly equivalent to a lawnmower.
  • They hiss by forcing air through abdominal air holes called "spiracles."
  • The hiss helps them scare off potential predators, but it's also used in mating.
  • Unlike many other roach species, hissing cockroaches can't fly.
  • In the wild, they mainly eat leaf litter and fallen fruit on the forest floor.
  • A female's eggs hatch inside her body; she then births 30 to 60 live nymphs.
  • The nymphs mature after seven months, and can live for two to five years.

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