University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Mystery Bug Answers

Mystery Picture #41

Mystery Picture #41

photo courtesy of C. Stetter Neel, Univ. of Kentuckyphoto courtesy of US Forest Service
(Mystery Pictures)(Mystery Pictures)


When disturbed the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach makes a hissing noise by forcing air out of holes down the sides of its abdomen. Its native home is an island off the coast of Africa. Close relatives of this insect (cockroaches!) can be bothersome pests in many homes. Madagascar hissing cockroaches use their hissing noise in several different ways: to scare away a predator, when males are fighting, and during courtship, for example. To learn more, see EntFact 014, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.


Gypsy Moths are exotics (meaning they were not always found living in the United States, but were brought here from another country). They have become well distributed in many states in the northeast as well as some central states. The larvae of this moth will eat about 500 different plants although they prefer oak. They were introduced from Europe in the late 1800's and have few natural enemies or predators in the United States.

The absence of natural controls enables them to thrive and be very destructive to forests. Several years ago when there was an outbreak in the northeastern US, there were so many gypsy moth caterpillars that they ate every leaf! The forests were bare and the hillsides looked like winter in the middle of summer. Unfortunately many trees died because they were defoliated (lost all their leaves) several years in a row. A tree without leaves cannot make any food for itself, so eventually it starves to death once its food reserves are used up. Leaves also help to move water from the roots to the upper parts of the tree; without leaves, the upper branches could not receive the water and nutrients from the soil that they needed to stay healthy.

The U.S. Forest Service has a website with a lot of interesting information about the gypsy moth. You might like to take a look at their Gypsy Moth in North America site.

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