Why Do Dubia Roaches Turn White?

If you’ve ever kept a colony of dubia roaches then you may have noticed the odd specimen that seems to change color overnight. So why do dubia roaches turn white like this?

White dubia roaches have just moulted their exoskeleton. They do this in order to grow. The old skin splits open, and out pops the cockroach with a new, larger exoskeleton. 

If you’ve ever wondered how invertebrates like dubia roaches can outgrow their skin then the secret is that their new skin is soft when they moult. The tough, armoured outer skin splits away to reveal a soft, pliable new skin underneath. It is these roaches that look white or pale. 

Over the next day or two, dubia roaches “inflate” their new exoskeleton by pumping fluid into it – a bit like blowing up a rubber ring at the beach. Once fully inflated the skin then hardens, offering protection to the roach. As it hardens, it darkens, turning back to the standard brown of other dubia roaches in the colony.

Interestingly, arthropods can be particularly sensitive during and shortly after a moult, where they lack the protection normally afforded to them by their tough outer skin. 

Dubia roach

Do White Dubia Roaches Require Extra Care?

Dubia roaches are hardy insects, capable of thriving even in difficult conditions. Once their basic care requirements are met it takes very little effort to maintain a healthy colony. 

Whilst a white dubia roach will be more sensitive to it’s toughened cousins, it will soon harden up just like the rest. In the meantime, no special care is required. Simply leave the cockroach to its own devices and soon enough it should be almost impossible to tell it apart from the other roaches in your colony. 

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Until the exoskeleton hardens cockroaches may be slightly more prone to dehydration. Ensuring that a source of moisture is present in the cage can help ensure your roach colony thrives at all times.

Some keepers opt to use a water bowl, filled with cotton wool, bug gel or gravel to avoid the risk of drowning.

Others omit an open water source and instead feed a range of fruits and vegetables high in water content. Both methods can be effective. 

Are White Dubia’s Safe to Feed to My Pet?

White dubia roaches are perfectly safe to feed to carnivorous pets like lizards, mantids or tarantulas.

The only real difference is that the exoskeleton is softer, and you may find the roach itself isn’t as active as a normal roach.

However feeding the white dubia to your pet should not cause any issues at all. 

What Happens to the Moulted Dubia Roach Skin?

When dubia roaches slough their skin, the old skin is generally left behind. Unlike some invertebrates, which eat their sloughed skin to retain nutrients, I generally find that my dubias simply discard their own old. 

Indeed, searching through a good-sized colony you may well find what looks like dead roaches at the bottom. On closer inspection you’ll find these are thin and papery; they’re probably more likely to be slighted skins than dead cockroaches. 

Waste left in cockroach colonies can increase the chances of parasites like mites. It is therefore a good idea to fish out any sloughed skins as you find them. In big colonies long forceps can be useful for this, allowing you to pick out old skins with precision. 

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Richard Adams

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