Palmetto Bugs


What purpose do they serve?

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I don’t think I would make a very good entomologist (someone who studies insects). We have more than our share of critters down here in Florida that I could do without, including a wide variety of spiders, beetles, man-eating mosquitoes, gnats, grubs, ravenous termites, no-see-ums (which are tiny yet very annoying flies that are hard to see until they swarm around your head), and palmetto bugs, which is an endearing name we have invented in the south for “cockroaches.”

I believe our palmetto bugs are a bit different than the common cockroaches found up north. For starters, they’re a lot bigger; most adults are bigger than your thumb. This, of course, means they have copped an attitude and are not easily intimidated by humans. The young ones may scamper away when you turn the lights on, but the big ones finish their cigarettes before they arm wrestle you.

They also have a voracious appetite for just about anything, be it food, grease, spilled drinks, wax, rubber, feces, spit, you name it. I have even seen them devour the binding glue to an entire set of encyclopedias at one sitting, as well as a lot of the paper for dessert. When you live in the south, you learn to put things away properly, and quickly, otherwise the dinner bell rings and the palmetto bugs gorge themselves like they were eating watermelons.

The palmetto bug can be rather evasive to capture. First, it has a Houdini-like ability to squeeze through the smallest crack or hole to escape. Second, it can move with the speed and agility of Seabiscut to avoid being whacked by a rolled-up magazine. It will also fly if challenged, much to the bewilderment of a lot of people not familiar with their battle tactics.

Aside from birds, reptiles and fish, there are only two things the palmetto bug dislikes, sunlight and cold, which means they are on the move at nighttime and are looking for a cozy place in your house when the temperature drops. Anyone who doesn’t take effective measures to prevent their entry into a building during this time is just asking for trouble. There aren’t too many things uglier than a roach infestation.

It’s no small wonder why insect control businesses flourish down here, and why you can find so many people spraying bug juice. It is hard not to pass a pest control truck on the road during the day. They’re so busy down here that Boeing Stratotankers circle the state refueling the trucks. The people who spray “the juice” all seem to have a strange catatonic glaze on their face. They don’t say too much as they spray your house or business but there seems to be quite a bit of mumbling involved with the job.

Whether you call them palmetto bugs or cockroaches is immaterial. They’re dirty little critters who serve a questionable purpose in life. Think about it, other than being a food source for other creatures, what purpose do they serve? Maybe they’re nothing more than the bottom of the food-chain.

Keep the Faith!