Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seasonal guests

"Palmetto" is such a pretty word--"palm" so tropical, "etto" so diminutive. Surely it's a lovely thing to sit under the fan-shaped leaves of a palmetto on a warm summer's eve, sipping an ice-cold freshly-squeezed limeade.

By extension, "palmetto bug" sounds pretty too. So genteel, so southern. Nowhere near as disgusting as, say, "common American cockroach." No one would mind a palmetto bug or two dropping by during limeade time, whereas the common American cockroach would be most unwelcome.

In North Carolina, after temps have been in the humid upper 90s for a few weeks, the palmetto bugs come out from wherever they hide during the rest of the year. They come out at night with their friends--the hideously ugly, high-jumping, brown-gray camel crickets, who have proliferated so extensively that their population no longer fits in the crawl space under the house--and they hang out, uninvited, all over the expansive southern front porch, enjoying the relative coolth.

Because we call them "palmetto bugs" and not "foot-long common American cockroaches," when we cross paths outside I stoically sigh, avert my eyes, and pretend they aren't there. But when they come inside and rummage around in our silverware drawer--well, that's just rude. That's when I call for backup.

It turns out palmetto bugs hold the record for "Fastest Running Insect on the Planet," so about half the time, they get away (usually with no more than a spoon or two) before the sole of S's shoe can squash their guts out. When they escape under the microwave oven or clothes dryer, there is little we can do other than move on and hope they close the door behind them when they return to their native habitat. (North Carolinians will tell you palmetto bugs live alone outside, rather than between the walls with hundreds of cousins. Thank goodness.)


JLPP said...

Try using large glue traps, the kind other people use to bring agonizing death to rats and mice. Bait with chocolate covered raisins; one or two will do. We have the northern version of your palmetto bugs in our basement and this is the only thing that keeps the population down.

Dramageek said...

Liz--This is the most perfect ode to the cockroach situation EVER!! I think you MUST submit it to the INDY or the Durham Herald-Sun. It is such a lovely piece!!! It feels so odd to say lovely & delightful about anything connected to cockroaches.

Henri meanwhile is on his Quixotic quest to seal up every crevice in our creaking aging house to stop the roaches from entering our kitchen. Armed with a caulk gun and a keenly focused fury he stalks the kitchen at night....