Anyone who has ever spent time living in the South has encountered them.  No one ever forgets them. Everyone wants to forget. No one can ever really get rid of them.  I am talking about those huge, awful, gross flying roaches. They find their way into your house somehow, someway, despite everything you do.

In my euphoria of once again enjoying all things Southern, the Spanish moss dripping from the trees, fried green tomatoes, and the song of the cicada; I have had enough of the roaches already. Leaping on a chair at midnight with a can of smelly bug spray is hardly conducive to restful sleep. Leaping off the chair, while screaming, as the bug flies into your face, is a sure fire path to no one else getting any sleep either.

A friend called the other week. She was rather fired up; (just short of a hissy fit) asking if I remembered those horrible gargantuan roaches from our Atlanta days that I insisted could fly. She used to question how much time I had spent at Manuel’s ( a popular late night watering hole) before I saw one in flight. I really think she believed they only ran fast enough to almost break the sound barrier. My friend was calling to tell me I had been vindicated; she had one flying at her house. The fact she was now living as far north as Virginia seemed to be the real cause of her rant.

Now while we recognize Virginia is indeed below the Mason-Dixon Line and a charming Southern state it had been considered Yankee enough to have avoided those horrible things the Floridians call Palmetto bugs.  But like armadillos that have migrated east, the bugs are on the move. Perhaps with global warming they have their own Manifest Destiny and feel free to conquer new territory.

My Yankee cousin just moved to Georgia and saw her first one in the house.  She ran straight to her Facebook feed. One of the most commented on status updates I have seen anyone post recently. Clearly we all hate the damn things.  Many of us advise newcomers to get a bug person on retainer. We also will tell you the bug guy/gal will be your new BFF. Not that you will never be terrorized by one of those hideous things again, mind you, you will just have another weapon in your arsenal. Someone suggested my cousin get a cat. Cats do love to chase and torture the flying roaches. Be warned, the cat will go to great lengths to do this and if that means climbing the drapes, so be it. You are only too happy someone is going after the bug so you don’t have to; it can well be worth the price of shredded custom ordered drapes. I think this must be why plantation shutters were really invented; someone figured out the cat thing a long time ago.

Welcome to the South. I can’t wait until my cousin discovers fire ants.

Gita M. Smith on killing fire ants

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Darby Britto

Darby Britto

I was raised in the south by a pair of Yankees, and everyone around me wore combat boots. I think this explains a lot. A childhood spent working in little theatre and a professional career in television, tends to give me a point of view not often shared by others.

4 Comments
  1. Palmetto bugs are endemic to the South. Like those horrible little “pissants,” I find their proliferation in homes is in direct proportion to the lack of water outside.

    1. True. Like the termite, these bugs are looking for water. However, they are also attracted to light and fly in when you open the door at night. They don’t actually want to be in the house. So, if you can trap them with a hand broom and a dust pan and chuck them back outside, you’ll avoid the sickly-sweet smell of crushed palmetto bug.
      I was gone for three months and came back to find little mounds of carcasses all around the house. Bugs is what keeps the spiders alive.
      I have even less sympathy for human angst over critters much smaller than themselves after having to deal with a housemate who’s afraid of frogs. Can you imagine? She’s upset because they jump when she’s about to step on them.

  2. As the friend who doubted Darby’s encounter with “flying roaches” during our earlier days in Atlanta, she was, indeed, the person I ran to when both my cat and I failed to trap the stinker that had mobility skills that we lacked. I caved and bought a bug vac from Frontgate, as not only was the one they carried the highest rated, it was also on sale. When it arrived, I knew I had my work cut out for me, as all the reviews warned that those really big suckers were a challenge. When — after a ridiculous battle between “Rocky” and my new motorized weapon — I saw him being sucked down the tube toward the electronic grid that would hopefully end my misery, my usual guilt about killing a living thing was surprisingly nowhere to be found! As he wiggled and squirmed less than an inch from his end, I realized that even in that tube, he was still winning. And had it not been for the trap door the catalog had boasted about, he’d have beaten this thing, too! Finally, after a serious shaking, that long awaited electronic ZZAP was music to my ears! It’s good that I don’t keep a gun in my house, because I think I’d have shot the place up trying to take Rocky down. Yes, Darby, you were right; some roaches really do fly. And whatever purpose they serve in this world, I don’t care. They’re not welcome here.

  3. Ahh, Manuel’s. Spent many happy hours there with a cold pitcher of beer contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Never thought much about cockroaches until one flopped into my half empty pitcher one night. Then I thought hateful thoughts about them, a half pitcher that I didn’t almost drink. After a few monemts I remembered the fact that alcohol sterilizes so I picked the roach out of the beer and drank up. It was my third pitcher and I couldn’t tell much difference in taste.

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