A Palmetto Bug Comes Calling

I am terrified of cockroaches. Terrified. I have broken leases and moved because of the dreaded things. Of course, that was a thousand years and 25 lifetimes ago when I was a very young single girl fresh out of college. Now, I am an older single girl, but they still make me want to be sick.

Spiders? Bring ’em on. Snakes? Cool. Crickets? Please, they are good luck.

But the ‘C’ word?. No, no, no. NO!

Down here, cockroaches have this other name: Palmetto Bug. As if that name makes them cleaner, more tolerable, less disgusting. In reality it means this: a cockroach as big as a good-sized mouse. And I am not kidding about this.

For six perfect months, I have enjoyed my perfect apartment for several reasons–I am the first to live in it because it is new, and bugs don’t have a history here.

It all changed on a dime last night. As I talked to RG daughter on the phone, I saw it out of the corner of my eye: a 4-foot-long shadow on my ceiling, which proved to be a 3-inch long Palmetto Bug. Now, just two days ago, I thought to myself, Maybe I should buy a can of Raid in case a…you know…suddenly appears in my place. Not that one would, because none ever have. But you know, just in case.

God, I hate it when my inner voice is so dead on.

I emptied half the can on the critter before it dropped from the ceiling and spun around and flattened itself on my nice clean white tile floor. Which is when I took my red broom to the thing and stunned it into stillness. Then I swept it out the door, where it went belly up, stringy feet in the air. At which point I mentally called movers, packed my crap, and fled as far away as I could. Where to, I had no idea. Anywhere seemed good.


On this night when Mr. Restaurant Gal called just to chat; when I was thinking about him, too; when my best dog got to know how it felt to have tears cried on her head after I talked to Mr. Restaurant Gal; when my apartment seemed to have shadows lurking everywhere; when I wondered what it meant to think about all of this even as I remembered several recent fun nights out with those I am only just getting to know; when I wanted to scream at how overwhelmed I feel ‘in season’ at work; when I had no time to vote and it might have counted…I gave into the sadness and embraced the uncertainty.

It’s just work. It will be the rest of my life. It was just a Palmetto bug.






31 responses to “A Palmetto Bug Comes Calling”

  1. Brave Astronaut Avatar

    I’ll make you a deal. I’ll always take care of the bugs, if you look after the spiders. On a trip to visit Savannah and Hilton Head, I encountered a banana spider. It’s possible I ran from the state screaming.

    Time to train the dog to handle unwelcome visitors, however many legs they come in on.

    And don’t forget to talk to us, we will stomp on whatever you need us to, here in the ether.

  2. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Brave Astronaut–Why are you such a nice guy? Thanks.

  3. dan-E Avatar

    good gawd, i hate those damn bugs. i’ve never seen such huge cockroaches until i moved to south florida. i have nightmares about those damn things.

  4. Kim Ayres Avatar

    I was going to suggest you train the dog to attack and dismember on sight (and then train her to sweepup the remains with a dustpan and brush), but Brave Astronaut beat me to it

  5. EpiJunky Avatar

    Hi there 🙂 Found you through Raging Server.

    I’ve told my husband that I would burn down this house before I’d deal with cockroaches. Lucky for him (and my house…and my record) we haven’t had any.

    Christ, I can’t even look at them at the zoo. Here’s hoping it’s a one time thing.

  6. m Avatar

    Once, as I tried a broom to kill one of those damn things, it flew off the ceiling, made a 180, and flew straight into my hair. You’ve never seen such screaming and flailing. My poor dog witnessed the entire meltdown. Since then, if one of those little darlings show up, she bolts for the door. Some watchdog! But who can blame her?

  7. yoyo Avatar

    Luckily, cochroaches lack the ability to do anything *quite( disgusting, like fit in ears or crawl up sinks. I had slugs coming out of the plug hole in my kitchen the other day!
    However, the majority of these creepy crawlies are *totally* harmless, as long as you checky your shoes and such. Just think of them as tiny homeless people seeking shelter from the weather..
    cochroaches: Hammer
    Slugs: salt
    woodlice: heavy book
    earwigs: gak ! Gak! Get the machette!
    worms: Guinea pig. (Guinea pigs LOVE their occaisional protein bombs )
    And so on

    Dont worry, your home is still YOURS. These little invaders havent the sense to realise, and they’re not out to get you.


  8. Julie Avatar

    Florida knows how to grow huge bugs. I’m used to flying things — mosquitoes, gnats, crane flies — and spiders don’t really bother me. Until they get big.

    My best friend used to live upstairs from me. She called one morning totally panicked. I had to run upstairs and find what she called the biggest spider she had ever seen. (I’ve seen bigger.) It was hanging out in her shower, so she couldn’t get ready for the day. After arming me with half a roll of paper towels, I stepped into the shower and searched for it. I caught it and wrapped it in the paper towels. She had me put the bundle into two ziploc bags and then into the dumpster at the other end of the complex just so it wouldn’t come back.

    I don’t think I could do that for a palmetto bug… or even a small cockroach.

  9. Jessie Avatar

    We went to florida to buy a car from these incredibly rich people. Once we got into the house to sign titles and what-not, I saw the GIANTEST cockroach I’ve ever seen hanging out on the ceiling. I had to wait another ten minutes to run from the house screaming. I feel your pain!

  10. Suz Avatar

    We would make wonderful roommates. Cockroaches? No problemo! Big spiders? Watch me run! Just reading Julie’s story about the spider in the shower made me tense up. Hard-shelled bugs aren’t so scary. What accounts for individual fears? Sheesh. They are a fraction of our size, but they instill a fear so unaccountable…. I hope you never see another one, and I hope Roulletta’s head stays dry. 😉

  11. jali Avatar

    I think I told you about the bugs that showed their hideous faces after I moved into my new apartment. Happily, after 2 visits by the exterminator, I no longer have a problem. I’m scared to death of nasty bugs. You’re brave to tackle a gigantic beast and I bow to you. I think I might have deserted.

  12. Augs Avatar

    YUK! Me, I can do bugs, rodents, pert much anything. But I am indeed Indiana Jones. I HATE snakes. I rarely use the word “hate” too. Of course if you repeat this, I’ll deny I said it. How’s some more pictures of the pooch?

  13. Frances Avatar

    Buy some roach motels; they’re far easier to deal with than cans of Raid. And talk to you landlord to find out whether he already has an exterminator service and at what frequency, or whether he’ll be getting one.

  14. Joe Avatar

    I always love it when they fly at you… I’m a 6’2″ 300lb man and I still have to concentrate to keep my nerve and not run screaming!

  15. k Avatar

    Oh gawd. I HATE bugs. I hate spiders, any sort of insect. i’m especially terrified of spiders. Then I moved to the states… that was my first time in my LIFE outside of a bug-zoo (not MY idea) that I’ve ever seen a cochroach. i think it’s too cold in Canada. BUT… we do have… horseflies, and june-bugs (but these only come out for a month in the summer in most places…).
    I think I shreaked the first time I saw a cochroach. My boyfriend at the time was nice enough to call pest control and spray the place down in the morning as I couldn’t even sleep without many MANY drinks thinking they might be in bed with me.
    gah. Good luck and call someone., H:)

  16. Tinker Avatar

    Me? I just scream like an 8-year old girl, and you understand, I grew up in places that were infested frequently. As for where I live now, not a sight of them, and we do have warm weather that helps them grow MIGHTY and strong. I wonder if a wasp killer would do-in SuperBug, because it has greater range. I detest that crunching sound they make when you step on them, too. So lets talk about something else. By the way, if you need a machette, I do have two, and I’d gladly give you one, if you needed it.

  17. upset waitress Avatar

    Floridian slang for a cockroach haha.

  18. Ali Avatar

    I once woke abruptly at four in the morning because a similar sized Palmetto Bug was crawling across my collar bone. I didn’t know this until I grabbed at the tickle, felt something in my fingers, and instinctively flung it across the room. Then I had to turn on all the lights and pick everything off the floor so I could find and kill it, because there was no way in hell I was going to try and fall asleep again knowing the thing was roaming.

    However, like you say, it’s just a bug. And it seems your emotional state is less about the bug itself (despite the fact that they’re plenty disturbing all on their own) and more about all of your other anxieties finding a handy symbol. You’re in a tough spot right now.

    The crux of it is, though, you can’t really be brave if you’re not scared first.

  19. Jane Avatar

    Just getting used to “Palmetto Bugs” myself after moving to South Carolina. I had three different occasions last summer, and asked a neighbour about it. He told me if I have only had three I am lucky, and welcomed me to the south and it’s bugs. I make sure I keep the door closed a lot more now when my dog is going in and out.

  20. Mary Avatar

    “Okay” in the following context indicates I can deal with them humanely, not that I like them! Snakes and lizards – okay; rats or mice – okay (but only one at a time; infestations call for severe measures, although a poisoned/dead rat that can’t be immediately found is really nasty-smelling); spiders – okay (I do thwap ’em); cockroaches (small – step on ’em, big [we call ’em waterbugs] – dump a telephone book on ’em); crickets (okay – I try to remember they are good luck in some cultures); ants – no, no, no, no! Nasty, nasty, nasty.

  21. Anthony Avatar

    Those things can be downright mean. Plus, they’re great swimmers. When I would swim in high school and one got in the pool, they’ll agressively go after you, and they take a while to get rid of.

  22. Jude Avatar

    i Just came home from Miami, had my first ever, encounter with a Palmetto bug, I saw 2 in my room but I’m sure there were more. Made sure I laundered everything at a local laundramat and won’t bring the suitcases in the house. I was wondering why people returned regularly to this obvious roach hotel, but I guess these pests are all to common, who knew. My family was really cool in and knew the whole experience was very disturbing to me. Just wanted to relax and enjoy myself a little. I could not adapt to living with those freaks of nature. I hate bugs!

  23. Jane Avatar

    I’m in NC and we have an abundance of palmetto bugs…on occasion. Don’t see any for months, and all of a sudden, they’re back. They generally calm down after a few weeks. Go outside on any Spring or Summer night and the dang things are scurrying round everywhere. I just wish they’d stay outside and not come visit inside the house. They are extremely hard to kill, (just beat one with a broom or shoe and see…) and, they’re as swift as the wind. They seem to know exactly what you intend…(such as murdering one of them), which creeps me out no end. Ive even gone so far as to flip a sofa upside down at 3am trying to find one of those beast! One fine day, as I sat at the pc, I kept feeling a tickle in my hair. I reached up to take a swipe at my hair and a giant palmetto attached himself to my hand. Needless to say, I went ballistic, and I’m talking heavy artillery! Took me several weeks to retrieve my sanity. And forget switching on the lights to keep them at bay—I’m fairly certain they love the light and much as darkness.
    Luckily, we have cats and dogs inside, and they usually manage to spot a bug before I do.

  24. Lori Avatar

    Can anyone “HELP” ??? I live in central Florida and spend alot of time in my “screen enclosed” pattio area which surroumds the pool. I’ve been receiving frequent visits from HUGE palmetto bugs that seem to enjoy coming out to stare at me, as (I’m quite sure) they are planning their attack. I never stick around long enough to confirm this, though, and have scared my little chihuahuas half to death as I run into the house screaming in terror.
    I just discovered your web-site while searching the internet for info on how to get rid of these horrid things. Does anyone out there have a good method to eradicate these Palmetto bugs (or any method at all) that they could share with me? Sure hope so!!!
    I will be sitting on the edge of my seat, anxiously awaiting a reply. THANKS!
    Lori B.

  25. Ukebeauty Avatar

    Palmetto bugs “visit” my apartment every August when it’s humid. They are scary. The best way to lure a Palmetto is to leave the lights on and get ready to spray it to death. I used a common blue window cleaner. It slowed the creature down a bit. They’re fast, so be ready to hit hard . I recommend a flat shoe or slipper. Spray a bit of somethings on it, so that the shoe makes direct contact with the bug. Press hard for a few seconds to assure death. Scoop it up and throw it out the window. Not in the toilet or garbage can. I still can’t figure out where my personal Palmettos are coming from. I’ve taken all necessary precautions. Time will tell.

  26. Roberta Avatar

    Palmettos are the absolute worst enemy I have…Gigantic one on fromt of my china cabinet the other day…my dad was visiting, so I handed him a frying pan and said ‘go for it’….He must have wounded it, because I waited for my husband to come home to find it and kill it. He did…thank goodness…I too, am ALWAYS looking everywhere I go for them…in my own house….ugh! I’m always afraid of finding one in the house…WHY DO THEY COME IN?

  27. JayLewis Avatar

    Bought a condo 3 months ago in Charlotte, NC. It’s in south Charlotte off Park Rd. in an old, very beautiful community. I have been plagued by Palmetto Bugs. I keep looking everywhere the moment I come home. Others in my building (6 units in all) don’t have a problem. Others in other buildings don’t have a problem or at least claim they don’t. I walk around hafl the time with a bottle of Ortho Max in my hand. I have Hot Shot bait traps on the floors upstairs and downstairs, 24 in all. I don’t where they’re coming in. Someone suggested they’re nesting in the foundation and the walls. I cannot afford to sell at a loss. I am completely freaked out by cockroaches and could just as easily have stayed in NYC if I wanted to live with them for the rest of my life. Now I’ve got 2-inch long cockroaches. I loathe them. Two exterminators have been here to no avail. Terminex is coming tomorrow morning. Another is coming on Wed. morning. I’m thinking about ripping up all the flooring and tiling the whole place wall to wall to seal everything in, but I can’t afford the cost. If there are any solutions let me know.

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