What is a Palmetto Bug? (with photos)

Palmetto bug.

Heart of palm bug is a common name used to describe almost any large cockroach, but it is more appropriately used for the Florida forest cockroach. This insect, which lives in Florida and nearby coastal areas, is one of the largest species found in North America and is reddish-brown to black with very small wings. They don’t fly often or well and are slow, clumsy runners. Their usual defense is a nasty chemical spray which has earned them alternative names like Florida stink cockroach and possum cockroach. This species is not a significant domestic pest, preferring outdoor living conditions.

Identification

Heart of palm insects usually live in swamps.

The scientific name of the palm heart insect is Eurycotis floridana. It is often confused with the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, and many people use the name for either species. Both types are large, growing to about 2 inches (about 5 cm) and are superficially similar. One way to tell them apart is to observe how the insects in question move, as the American cockroach flies well and runs much faster than the Florida forest cockroach. American cockroaches are also found in large numbers in buildings, while bed bugs prefer outdoors. This cockroach is sometimes confused with giant aquatic insects, but these are not closely related to cockroaches and live in or near outdoor pools, swamps, and lakes.

health concerns

Palmetto bug, or large cockroach, lives in Florida.

One of the reasons people don’t like palm heart bugs and other cockroaches so much is that they spread disease. If they get into the food, they can contaminate it and make the people who eat it sick. The chemical spray that this species emits can also hit dishes and kitchen utensils, as well as cockroach droppings, which contain pheromones that attract more cockroaches. Some people are also allergic to these insects; symptoms of an allergic reaction can include a rash, asthma, itchy eyes, and a sore throat.

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Living conditions and diet

Sore throat can be symptomatic of an allergic reaction to a bed bug.

These insects prefer humid and warm living conditions, with temperatures ranging from 30° to 36°C (86° to 96°F). They eat decaying vegetation, such as that found in scrub brush or around buildings. When found near buildings, they usually live in and around trees, shrubs and flower or vegetable beds and compost piles. External sheds and garages with good access to vegetation can also house this species. Any palm heart bugs found indoors were likely brought in with wood or other items stored outside, as they generally prefer to live outside.

Pest control

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a palm heart bug can include the development of asthma symptoms.

Although the bed bug is not generally an indoor pest, there are still occasions when population control is necessary or desirable. Individuals or small groups found indoors can simply be carried outside and released. Keeping vegetation, wood piles, and other places where cockroaches like to live away from a home can help keep insects away. Cockroaches are attracted to water, so any leaks or standing water should be eliminated. If the problem persists, looking for and blocking holes where insects are entering the house is usually effective. Cockroach control baits and sprays also work, but because an indoor infestation is rare, it’s usually not necessary.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Females lay their eggs in boxes ranging from 0.50 to 0.6 inches in length (13 to 16 mm) and then glue the egg box somewhere dark and warm. The eggs hatch into juveniles called nymphs in about 48 days. Nymphs look like smaller adults and molt several times before reaching normal size. It takes about five to six months from the time an egg is laid for the chicks to reach maturity. Adults can live for a year or more.

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