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Thursday, May 6, 2021

New Species of Cockroach Found in Florida

Marc C. Minno, a Florida scientist, found a new species of cockroach in an unlikely way — while organizing files in his office. He discovered the ½ inch cockroach when it fell out of a folder.

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Minno, rather than squishing the bug immediately, as most would have, was eager to study the bug. Given his experience as an expert on insects and as the author of several books on butterflies and moths, Minno is intrigued by bugs rather than disgusted.

According to stpetersblog.com, the cockroach was unlike any others that Minno had previously seen. He even described the bug as “pretty” — not an adjective one would normally use to describe a cockroach.

Most of Florida’s roaches are American, German and Florida woods roaches. This one, found at the Suwannee River Water Management District in Live Oak, resembled a “chocolate-covered skateboard with snazzy tan trim and a ruby-like jewel set in its leading edge.”

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After pinning the bug to a board and doing some research, Minno figured out that the roach was a part of a species fairly new to Florida, which is already home to more invasive species than any other state. Those invasive species currently include Burmese pythons, African land snails and lovebugs.

Minno found that the bug is a Pseudomops septentrionalis or Hebard, which are native to Costa Rica and Mexico and have recently branched into Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama.

It’s likely that these roaches are being accidentally spread by humans, since scientists say they can’t fly very well and aren’t able to cross big bodies of water. In 2013 and 2015, this species was found in Florida, both times in Tallahassee.

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Because they can spread nearly 33 different kinds of bacteria, roaches aren’t generally welcome in the kitchen, but outside, they’re the insect version of buzzards. The can help in the process of decomposition and actually prefer to be outside, not in your kitchen!

“It does not appear to be a pest,” said Paul Skelley, the scientist in charge of the entomology section of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “The fact many of these things seem to jump around is simply because no one is actively looking, and they are not pests bothering the public.”

Minno believes that climate change may also be responsible for the migration of the roaches. He’s seen rising temperatures pushing butterflies north, and thinks the roaches may be moving northward in a similar fashion.

So far, he hasn’t found any more roaches in his office, though he has been looking. He finds it ironic that the roach landed in his office out of the many that it could have wound up in.

“Things just get into the building,” he said. “But how it ended up in the staff entomologist’s office — that’s why this thing is so weird.”

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