Florida Woods Cockroach – The Skunk Roach

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional

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What is a Florida Woods Cockroach?

The Florida woods cockroach (Eurycotis floridana) is the only species native to Florida. In addition to Florida, it can also be found in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. 

This stinking roach is peridomestic, and large numbers of them can be found around the outside of your home. It looks similar to the oriental cockroach and is known by many names, such as a palmetto bug, Florida roach, Florida stinkroach, and skunk cockroach.  

The term palmetto bug is also used to describe any large peridomestic cockroach, such as the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), and the smokybrown cockroach (Periplaneta fuliginosa).

The Florida woods roach isn’t as quick on its feet as other roaches, and that’s because of its size, which is why it has a defense mechanism that it can spray to warn off predators. 

The spray has an unpleasant smell and is why the Florida wood cockroach became known by the above names.  

Picture of Florida woods cockroach adult female
Female adult Florida woods roach carrying ootheca. Image: Daniel R. Suiter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Why Do Florida Woods Cockroaches Smell Bad?

Once this stinking cockroach is an adult, it can defend itself from attack by releasing a foul-smelling spray that can irritate the skin and eyes if you come into contact with it. 

The defensive secretions are stored in a single gland that faces the cerci underneath the abdomen; the spray can be directed towards a predator from as little as 3 cm to 3 feet away. 

The secretion is potent enough to irritate and repel other cockroach species, ants, lizards, rodents, and other potential predators.  Moreover, the secretion is used to alert other Florida woods roaches to escape; once used, it can take up to 30 days to restore its effectiveness.

What Do Florida Woods Cockroaches Eat?

This roach type is a detritivore, meaning it mainly feeds on decaying material such as dead leaves, plants, tree bark, moss, and mold.  

Since the species feed primarily on vegetation, their food sources are often found in tree hollows, decaying logs, dense leaf litter, and compost piles.[1]

What Does a Florida Woods Cockroach Look Like?

  • A dark brown to almost black, large, slow-moving roach.
  • Adult roach measures 1.5 to 1.75 inches (3.8 to 4.5 cm) in length and up to 1 inch (2.4 cm) wide. 
  • This species cannot fly as they only have small wing pads or tegmina that are a red-brown to black color.  
  • Males and females have two small cerci at the end of their bodies and look almost the same, except the female has a wider posterior segment with a v-shaped notch. The males have small filaments and do not have a wide segment or v-shaped notch. 

What Do Florida Woods Cockroach Nymphs Look Like?

  • A nymph goes through six to eight molts to reach adulthood. 
  • Recently molted individuals are reddish-brown in color. 
  • Late nymphal stages commonly have yellow lines on the edges of the segments near the head.
  • Nymphs are not able to release the defensive spray. 
Picture of adult Florida woods cockroaches and nymphs
Adult Florida woods roaches surrounded by various life-stage nymphs. Image: Daniel R. Suiter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Life Cycle of the Florida Woods Roach

The female Florida roach can produce oothecae (egg casing) parthenogenetically (without fertilization) that often don’t hatch when compared to the hatch rate of fertilized eggs. Even if the female has not mated, she will produce her first ootheca after 55 days of adulthood.

The Florida woods roach egg sac typically contains 21 eggs that form while attached to the female and will hatch in approximately 48 days. The color of the egg case changes from pale to black as the cuticle hardens and will be around 0.63 inches (1.6 cm) long with 18-24 ridges along the edge. 

Once hatched, the male nymphs will become adults in around 100 days, and the females will mature in 113 days, in which time both sexes go through six to eight molts.

As with all other types of cockroaches, this species also goes through the same metamorphosis stages: egg, nymph, and adult.    

How Long Do Florida Woods Cockroaches Live For?

This Florida stink roach has a fairly long lifespan and can live for over a year.   

What Attracts These Roaches to Your Home?

Florida woods cockroaches prefer living in the damp and dark environments in the landscape around your home rather than in it. Although, they can accidentally be brought in with firewood or find their way in through poorly ventilated attics and crawl spaces, and through plumbing voids. 

From here, they will be looking for damp and dark harborage spaces so you might come across them in your basement and bathrooms. However, you are more likely to find other species, such as German roaches in your home as it provides them with many things that attract roaches and they have adapted to living indoors. 

Signs of Florida Woods Roaches in Your Yard

The Florida woods roach shares its habitat with other peridomestic species, such as American roaches and Smokybrown roaches, and preferred habitats are moist locations such as:

  • Tree holes and tree stumps
  • Leaf litter
  • Mulch
  • Planter boxes
  • Lumber and firewood piles
  • Around outside structures, such as greenhouses
  • Thick vegetation that covers the ground
  • Rain gutters, soffits, eaves, and other moisture-prone areas. 

Controlling Florida Woods Cockroaches

If you find this roach in your home, you will want to inspect the outside of your home and the yard, as large numbers of these roaches are often around piles of debris, firewood, bricks, etc.  

Outside

  • Check for cracks in foundation walls and where different building materials join together (eg. bricks and vinyl) and seal any gaps you find.
  • Look for gaps around utility pipes, windows, and doors and inspect all vents and install insect screens if they don’t have them.
  • If possible, seal cracks (with an appropriate sealant) in the chimney, soffits, roof joints, fascia boards, and gutters, as they are all possible entry points, not just for the Florida woods roach but for all types of cockroaches
  • A pyrethrin aerosol can be sprayed into the cracks to flush any roaches out.
  • Stack firewood, piles of lumber, and bricks away from your property and keep them covered and off the ground as it won’t get as wet and is less likely to provide a home for roaches. 
  • Tree holes provide the ideal harborage because they are moist and dark and can be filled with sand to block the roaches from climbing in. 
  • Remove any thick ground cover, leaf piles, and dead leaves. Clearing an overgrown garden gives these roaches less hiding and breeding space.
  • Fit windows with properly installed screens and fill in gaps around windows and doors. 
  • Install weather strips on doors so roaches won’t be able to crawl through the gap between the door and floor. 

Read: Why Do I Have Roaches In My Yard?

Inside 

 If Florida woods roaches are in your home, you’ll want to focus your inspection on the attic if it is accessible. Look around the soffits, the apex of the attic, and on ledges for these cockroaches and cockroach droppings. Always wear appropriate PPE, such as a mask and gloves.

  • Check around any items stored in the attic, as this is where you’ll also find evidence as there will be cockroach poop
  • Poorly ventilated attics are more likely to have Florida woods cockroaches and other species of roach breeding in them. Good ventilation in the attic, crawl spaces, and basement is key to reducing the humidity levels that attract roaches.  
  • Inspect the soffits and vents and ensure they are not blocked to ensure adequate airflow. Florida woods roaches are mainly found in the soffits during the summer. 
  • Use a flashlight to inspect any cracks and crevices, as these are ideal harborage spaces for cockroaches.  
  •  Check vents are screened to prevent unwanted pests from getting in.  
  • To find out where their harborage areas are, put down sticky glue traps (can be bought on Amazon) and monitor the number of roaches caught. You will also be able to closely inspect any caught roaches and confirm which species have taken up residence in your home. 
  • Gel baits are effective and kill roaches quickly, and you’ll want to apply pea-sized dots of gel bait as close to their harborage sites as possible. Click how to apply cockroach gel bait

Of course, the best way to get rid of any cockroaches is to use a pest control company that will come to your home and know exactly where to look in the attic and crawl spaces. The technician will also be able to accurately identify the roach and come up with an effective treatment plan to remove them from your home.

 [1] https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/florida_woods_cockroach.htm