Living Sanibel: Florida Stinking Roach
A native to Florida, it is easy enough to mistake this insect for its African cousin, the American cockroach. Upon closer inspection, if you can handle the stink, the differences between the two are quite dramatic. For one, the stinking roach has a tiny set of wings just behind its head which are useless for flying. The American cockroach, though awkward, readily flies. The other major difference is the segmented section of the body, which, unlike the American cockroach, is exposed and considerably darker than the African import.
The Florida woods cockroach is truly a palmetto bug and seldom enters homes except during periods of drought or extreme cold spells. It moves much slower and is very easy to catch or step on because of it. It feeds in leaf litter, under old boards and is often seen in bushes and wooded areas.
In the outdoors you should never kill a roach because by doing so you are inadvertently participating in reverse natural selection. Killing the roaches that come into your home ensures that, over time, the roaches who seek human habitats will no longer reproduce and the genes pool carrying that tendency will eventually dry up. When you do the opposite and kill a wild cockroach, you are killing off the insects that are living outdoors, and inexplicably rewarding those that hide in your walls and crevices. We are all part of natural selection, so think about it when you go to step on that roach that’s harmlessly crossing the bike path in front of you.
The Florida woods cockroach is preyed upon by birds, raptors, small mammals, lizards and other insects. It does give off a foul smelling stench when approached that some say smells like rotten amaretto.
This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.