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Florida woods cockroach

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Florida woods cockroach
Cockroach in sandy grass
Four cockroach nymphs inside a broken log
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattodea
Family: Blattidae
Genus: Eurycotis
E. floridana
Binomial name
Eurycotis floridana
(Walker, 1868)
  • Periplaneta floridana Walker, 1868[1]
  • Periplaneta semipicta Walker, 1868[1]
  • Platyzosteria ingens Scudder, 1877[1]
  • Platyzosteria sabaliana Scudder, 1877[1]

The Florida woods cockroach (Eurycotis floridana) is a large cockroach species which typically grows to a length of 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in).[2] When alarmed, adults can eject an extremely foul-smelling directional spray up to 1 m,[3] which inspired several of its other common names: Florida skunk roach, Florida stinkroach, skunk cockroach, skunk roach, stinking cockroach, and stinkroach.[1] Two other naming variations include Florida cockroach and Florida woods roach.[1]

The Florida woods cockroach is slower moving than many other cockroach species. It prefers damp locations with abundant moisture, and does well in warm, damp climates. It is found in its native habitats, such as the U.S. state of Florida and the West Indies. The species wanders indoors at times, especially into damp locations, such as bathrooms; however, it prefers the outdoors and is not considered a major pest in the home. It is cold intolerant and requires a warm, subtropical or tropical climate. It can be found in sheltered outdoor locations, such as under leaf litter, in tree holes, and under lumber and boards, and other crevices, as well as in bushes and wooded areas. Often it can be seen on palmetto trees, which gave it one of its early popular names, the palmetto bug.[4] It is not to be confused for the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), another common Florida insect, that is sometimes also referred to as a palmetto bug.[5][6]



The Florida wood cockroach is a dark to blackish brown, or a reddish brown after recent molting.[2] Tegmina (fore wings) are very short, extending just past the mesonotum (the dorsal plate just behind the pronotum), and hind wings are absent.[2][7]

Adults typically range from 30–40 mm (1.2–1.6 in).[2] The winning specimen in a Florida cockroach size contest was a Florida wood cockroach which measured 62 mm (2.429 in).[8] The Florida woods cockroach looks remarkably similar to the female oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis), and the two could be mistaken for each other by the casual observer.

The species' dark brown ootheca (egg case) is 14–16 mm (0.55–0.63 in) long, contains 21-23 eggs, and has indentations that show where the eggs are located.[2]



Males can mate about 18 days after maturation, and females produce oothecae about every 8 days, beginning about 55 days after maturation.[2] The oothecae are buried in soil or decaying logs, and hatch in 50 days at 30–36 °C (86–97 °F).[2] Parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) can occur, but the nymphal clones do not develop to adulthood.[2]



When alarmed, adults can emit an extremely foul-smelling glandular secretion through a sternal membrane, ejected up to 1 m (3.3 ft).[2][9] Nymphs do not have this ability, and the secretion is built up over roughly 60 days from its final molt into adulthood.[2][9] Males that were artificially drained required 30 days to replenish the stored amount.[9] The secretion is composed primarily of (E)-2-hexenal, (E)-2-hexenol, and (E)-2-hexenoic acid.[9]

The secretion is used both to deter antagonizers and as an alarm pheromone to elicit escape responses in others of its species.[3] It can irritate the eyes of humans, and can be toxic to the cockroach in a small container.[2] In tests with two species of mice abundant in central Florida, the chemical defense was found effective at deterring predation by Peromyscus polionotus, but at least some Peromyscus gossypinus mice were able to avoid chemical exposure by pushing the cockroach's abdomen downward and feeding from its head end.[10]



Natural habitats of the species include holes in dead trees, stumps, and woodpiles, cavities beneath bark, and sometimes leaf litter.[2] It occasionally enters buildings.[2] It typically only becomes established in non habitable areas of buildings. Not uncommonly, palmetto bugs become established inside attics, where they commonly leave behind their distinctively large droppings along with occasional body parts from dead specimens.



The species is reported in the West Indies and in a limited southeastern region of United States, consisting of the state of Florida, and coastal regions of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, south and southeast Texas, and southeast North Carolina.[3][11] It is considered adventive, but not established, in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.[12]



The wasp species Aprostocetus hagenowii is an egg parasite of several species of cockroaches, including E. floridana.[2] The small, parasitic wasp deposits its eggs into the ootheca of the cockroach, resulting in an average of 648 parasites per ootheca.[2] The parasites eat the cockroach eggs and emerge from the ootheca as adults.[2]

Another wasp species, Anastatus floridanus, is also an ootheca parasite of E. floridana, laying eggs in an ootheca carried by the female, or into a deposited ootheca as many as 36 days old.[2] Several A. floridanus wasps may lay eggs in the same ootheca. As many as 306 adult wasps may develop from one cockroach ootheca.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Synonyms of Florida Woods Cockroach (Eurycotis floridana)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Robinson, William H. (2005). Urban Insects and Arachnids: A Handbook of Urban Entomology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 52, 233. ISBN 978-0-521-81253-5.
  3. ^ a b c Bibbs, Christopher S.; Baldwin, Rebecca W. (December 2011). "Florida woods cockroach Eurycotis floridana (Walker)" (PDF). Electronic Data Information Source (EENY-514). University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Palmetto Bug". Wild Florida. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
  5. ^ Poertner, Bo (10 December 1997). "Palmetto bug - roach or beetle? Quit debating, we have the answer". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Common Names for American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  7. ^ Hebard, Morgan (1917). "The Blattidae of North America north of the Mexican boundary". Memoirs of the American Entomological Society (2). American Entomological Society: 166–170. (The article comprises the whole issue.)
  8. ^ Morris, Bob (16 August 1986). "Florida's megaroach crawls all over Texas'". Orlando Sentinel.
  9. ^ a b c d Farine, Jean-Pierre; Everaerts, Claude; Abed, Dehbia; Brossut, Remy (2000). "Production, regeneration and biochemical precursors of the major components of the defensive secretion of Eurycotis floridana (Dictyoptera, Polyzosteriinae)" (PDF). Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 30 (7): 601–608. doi:10.1016/S0965-1748(00)00065-5. ISSN 0965-1748.
  10. ^ O'Connell, Timothy J.; Reagle, Nathan Z. (2002). "Is the chemical defense of Eurycotis floridana a deterrent to small mammal predators?". Florida Scientist. 65: 245–249.
  11. ^ Bell, William J. (1981). The Laboratory Cockroach: Experiments in Cockroach Anatomy, Physiology, and Behaviour. Chapman and Hall. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-412-23990-8.
  12. ^ Vickery, VR; Scudder, GGE (1987). "The Canadian orthopteroid insects summarized and updated, including a tabular check-list and ecological notes". Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Ontario. 118: 25–46. ISSN 0071-0768.
  • Gallery of cockroaches
  • Florida woods cockroach on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site
  • Black and white photographs of top view of E. floridana male and female specimens, from Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections.
  • Drawings of E. floridana male specimens, and body parts; plate VI, figures 11 shows dorsal view of male, figures 12-14 shows male subgenital plate, female supra-anal plate, and female subgenital plate. From a 1917 article by Morgan Hebard, with a key to the figures on pages 279-280.