South Florida

The cockroach capitals of the U.S. have one thing in common. And it’s disgusting

The American Cockroach
The American Cockroach

Miami-Dade and Broward rank No. 3 in the country when it comes to cockroaches. We can hear the local reaction now:

Only No. 3? Who the heck are Nos. 1 and 2? What kind of hyperinfested bug burgs are they? And are their roaches even half the size of the Magic City’s palmetto bugs?

A biennial U.S. Census project called the American Housing Survey is turning on the light — and we can see the roaches of New Orleans and Houston also scurrying under the sink.

Turns out the roach capitals of the U.S. have something in common: chewy weather.

“You’ve got humid conditions [in Miami] 100 percent of the year. It’s a great environment for cockroaches,” said Scott Svenheim, associate certified entomologist with Truly Nolen, the pest control company.

“Not surprising, particularly the cockroach ranking,” said Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist with the National Pest Management Association. “Not for any other reason than cockroaches that are in the U.S. and around the world thrive in tropical and semi-tropical environments. I don’t think there’s any more tropical environment than Miami in the continental U.S. Plus, there’s a density of population.”

The survey covers 15 of the most populous metropolitan areas plus 10 others from 2015.

Over 41 percent of New Orleans households reported signs of cockroaches in the previous 12 months. Houston came in at 37.9 percent. In Miami, 32.1 percent of homes surveyed admitted signs of cockroach presence. Only 4.2 percent said they saw signs of mice or rats.

But even though they have more roaches, neither New Orleans nor Houston can beat Miami when it comes to size. Our roaches swagger with that most American of characteristics — they’re supersized. Palmetto bugs resemble 1968 Buicks with dual radio antennas as they scoot around before going airborne.

 ‘Palmetto bug,’ that’s a household name for the American cockroach,” Svenheim said. “People call them that because they’re bugs that like moisture and, in palmetto bushes, they’re at the bottom. The bush helps keep moisture in there. In the west, they’re called oleander bugs because you’ve got oleander trees and bushes.”

Svenheim says the survey respondents actually probably saw more cockroaches of the German variety. They’re smaller and hang out around kitchens and bathrooms. And Florida’s diminutive Asian cockroaches come out at night to fly toward lights, a habit that gets them into Miami homes.

Fredericks pointed out that Florida sports 70 species of cockroaches and that not all are pests.

But nobody’s talking about the bugs being beneficial to the ecosystem when South Floridians yell “roach!” or “cucaracha!” followed by a fatal foot stomp.

Here is the top 10 in roach rankings:

1. New Orleans

2. Houston

3. Miami

4. Atlanta

5. Phoenix

6. Raleigh

7. L.A.

8. Dallas

9. Memphis

10. Riverside, California

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal