SIZE: The most distinguishing physical feature of the Florida woods cockroach is its immense size. An adult typically measures in between 1.2 and 1.6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
COLOR: Though they can be reddish-brown, most people would describe the Florida woods cockroach as black.
BEHAVIOR: Florida woods cockroaches have a few features that set them apart from other roaches. First, they live a fairly long life, over a year on average. Second, they don’t scatter as other roaches do. This could be due to the fact that they are large, slow and don’t fly, but also because they possess a unique defense mechanism.
Underneath its abdomen, this cockroach has a gland that secretes defensive chemicals. While they can only spray once every 30 days or so, this oily secretion not only smells, it can be harmful to sensitive areas such as the eyes, as well as skin in general. The spray works best on their natural predators, including other pests and rodents, but humans will certainly be offended by the smell as well. These roaches have minor control over the direction the spray goes and the chemicals can travel anywhere from 1 inch to almost 10 feet away from their bodies. Other Florida woods cockroaches react to this smell, taking it as an alarm bell, signaling them to run from danger.
Only adults have the ability to spray, but nymphs do use a ‟defensive glue” that comes from the same area. They just don’t have the ability to biologically produce the defense chemicals until they have molted into an adult with full reproductive capabilities. The Florida woods cockroach is notorious for this foul-smelling liquid, giving rise to a few of this roach’s other nicknames: the Florida stink roach or skunk roach.
These roaches are native to the Southeastern region of the United States. They are typically found outdoors, in the areas surrounding human dwellings, but can invade your home if the conditions are right. They can be found in Mississippi, Alabama and along the coast of Georgia. They are most prevalent in Florida, especially in ‟Alachua, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Levy, Highlands, Hillsborough, Polk, Putnam, Miami-Dade, and Monroe” counties, according to entomologists at the University of Florida.
Florida woods cockroaches prefer eating decomposing and decaying plant matter. This keeps them mainly outdoors, though they will gain entry to homes when plants or firewood are carried inside. They prefer humid, damp and dark environments, meaning they don’t do very well when they are inside a home. Instead, they prefer to stay in areas around the outside of your home, such as compost piles, greenhouses and sheds. In their natural habitat, you’ll find the Florida woods cockroach in tree stumps, under shrubs, among decaying leaves and of course, on palmetto trees. These areas readily provide favorite food sources such as moss, mold, lichens, bark and leaves.
Florida woods cockroaches prefer to live outside, but if they can find dark, humid areas in your home that harbor their preferred choices of food, they will enter. Remember, outdoor roaches don’t thrive indoors, so ongoing infestations are rare. If you spot one of these large cockroaches in your home, chances are they were carried in from outside or just wandered in through unsealed openings while searching for food.
In most cases, all you need to do is remove the offending roach from your home and you’ll be done with the matter. Even if they do get inside, they aren’t known for colonizing in homes. In addition:
Don’t use ground covers or heavy vegetation in landscaping beds adjacent to your home.
Eliminate material from a natural setting (as opposed to an urban one) from the inside of your home, including plants, trees, leaves, etc.
Keep firewood stored as far away from your home as possible.
Install tight-fitting screens on all doors and windows.
Seal up points of entry and cracks in exterior walls.