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The Florida Woods Cockroach Species Secretes A Foul-Smelling Fluid That Can Burn Human Skin

June 6th, 2019

Due to Georgia’s humid subtropical climate, virtually all of the 70 cockroach species in the United States can be found in the state. Georgia is home to “domestic” cockroach species, like German cockroaches, that can live out their entire lives within homes and buildings. Several “peridomestic” species are also considered pests in the state, but these cockroaches cannot become permanently established indoors, as they require nourishing outdoor resources in order to survive. The Florida woods cockroach is abundant all throughout the southeastern United States, and these roaches are often referred to as “palmetto bugs”. This roach species is also commonly referred to as a “stink-roach” on account of the foul-smelling defensive substance these roaches secrete when they feel threatened. In addition to smelling excessively foul, this defensive secretion can burn human skin. Several case reports describe humans who developed painful medical symptoms after the defensive roach-secretion made contact with their eyes and skin.

The oily defensive substance secreted by the Florida woods cockroach is highly toxic, even to the roaches themselves. In fact, if these roaches are sealed within a container, they will die due to being exposed to their own defensive secretion. The Florida woods cockroach is often found within structures located in backyards. These structures include sheds, barns, storage areas, greenhouses, and utility structures where electrical equipment and water pumps are located. Florida woods cockroaches also invade homes on occasion, but infestations often start when the roaches are accidentally brought into a home. This can happen when the roaches infest furniture, plant matter, firewood and many other objects that are frequently brought into homes. Although the Florida woods cockroach is categorized as a peridomestic roach species, these roaches can, in fact, breed within attic locations. The defensive substance secreted by these roaches is pungent and irritating enough to repel rodents, lizards, frogs and birds.

Have you ever noticed a distinct odor that roaches leave behind in areas of your house where they had been abundant?

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