Where have all the museum insects gone?

By Katie Hiller, Information Officer, Queensland Museum Southbank

Have you been wondering what the giant cockroaches and stick insects have been doing while the museum was closed?

The insects from the Discovery Centre moved to a holiday home where they were kept warm and in isolation, from human visitors  but not each other, and they have been thriving in their new habitat. However, they are now very happy to be back in the Discovery Centre where you can meet them on Level 4 of the Queensland Museum at South Bank.

The Giant Burrowing Cockroaches have babies

We thought our 6 pairs of adult cockroaches had not bred this year until they were moved from the public floors to their new location. They had to be rehoused in new enclosures so the two habitats were carefully dug up and 23 babies (nymphs) were discovered!

In the quieter environment the nymphs sometimes come to the surface during the day but soon scuttle back into their burrows at the first hint of light or movement.

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We have albino cockroaches

But only for a few hours. Several of the larger cockroaches have moulted (shed their skins to grow larger) while they have been on holiday. When they first moult they are bright white and then darken after their cuticle (exoskeleton) has been exposed to air. The two photos below show two newly moulted cockroaches at two stages of hardening.

Like many insects they eat their shed skin to recycle valuable nutrients. In most insects, only the insect that has moulted eats its own skin, however it appears that these gregarious cockroaches share a communal feast as several of them have been spotted snacking on a moulted skin until no trace of it is left.

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Spiny Leaf Insects

Their eggs have been hatching by the dozens! If you come in to the Discovery Centre you will now be able to meet many small Spiny Leaf Insects. They have a very general diet and eat many different types of plants.

Even at this age you can distinguish the males from the females. The females have a plumper spiny abdomen and the males have a sleek smooth one.

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How many Spiny Leaf Insect nymphs can you count in this photo? How many females and how many males can you see?

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Female Spiny Leaf Insect nymph
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Male Spiny Leaf Insect nymph

Titan Stick Insects- Mother and Child

We usually only get these giant phasmids brought in by visitors as adult female insects, when they are blown down or fall out of the trees where they usually live. This year we had two large females donated to our live collection which lived for several months and produced lots of eggs.

Both of the females have now perished but we have lots of their eggs hatching in the Discovery Centre and hope we can raise these tiny titan nymphs to full size. It will take a long time and a lot of gum leaves but we will do our best!

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Acrophylla titan female with hatchling nymph

For more information about our live stick insects and how to care for stick insects at home or in the classroom see:

Visit Queensland Museum

Make sure to bookmark this page so you can easily refer back when it’s time to plan your visit. View our opening hours, and museum locations and maps to plan your day. Enjoy!

Don’t miss seeing the live snakes, stick insects, giant cockroaches, and geckos who call the Discovery Centre home! Located on Level 4 of the museum.