Friday, November 2, 2007

The Palmetto Bug

Written 2 November, 2007

The Palmetto Bug

If you took an ordinary house cockroach, pumped it full of steroids and growth hormones, and sent it to the Arthropod gym for six months, you’d wind up with the insect equivalent of the Governator.

You would have a palmetto bug.

It’s also called water bug. Both names are euphemisms. It’s really just a giant roach. Think two inches. If you live south of Atlanta, think three inches.

Than the goddess, it’s not a hungry roach. Well, maybe it is, but unlike the brown roach and the German cockroach it doesn’t dwell in the dark corners of your house and come out at night in hordes to look for delectable crumbs. Or at least I don't think it does.

No, these guys just wander in, look around, and die.

It’s the period between wandering in and dying that makes me hate them.

There’s nothing like sitting at your desk, absorbed in the electrons dancing across your computer screen, and feeling chitinous feet making their way across your bare feet.

Let’s face it, it could stop your heart.

It doesn’t matter how often I have my house treated, palmetto bugs find their way inside. They don’t appear in great numbers, I’m happy to say, just singly, and there are never more than two or three a week, but they’re creepy, and I wish they would go away.

I’ve not read up on the history of the palmetto bug, but I suspect we’re at the northern limit of their range; I once watched hundreds covering the carport of a friend in Augusta, but I only rarely see them outside. They’re more-or-less nocturnal, although I often see them in the daylight. And they’re pretty fast once alerted by a flying shoe or when narrowly missed by a rolled-up magazine. They scurry into corners, then come out later, when you’re asleep, and die so you’ll step on them as you sleepily make your way to the kitchen for your morning tea.

I’ve learned not to trust upside-down palmetto bugs. Often, they’re not yet dead. So I routinely crush them, pressing with a rolled-up paper towel until I hear their carapaces pop. And you have to press hard, since they're armored. And the little buggers can fly! Sooo creepy!

Having done what I could to get rid of them (put down boric acid, had Colleen the bug lady out to treat the house), I’m resigned to the occasional presence of these nuisance bugs.

But I really wish they wouldn’t walk across my feet while I’m at the computer.