Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Day of the Palmetto Bug

Please don't be put off by the title of this post.  But I do have to warn you in advance that when you blog about Florida, you can't truly blog about it without mentioning the insect life.
I do love palm trees, though.
I grew up in New York City and wanted so badly to get out of the place that I ended up, as a newlywed, in Tampa, Florida, where I had family.  Years ago, I did a guest post on the blog of the woman who introduced me to blogging,  You, my dear readers, are (of course) welcome to read the whole thing.

Something you need to know about me is that I tend to do things in reverse order.  Many people in the North dream about snow birding in Florida in the winter when they become old.  On the other hand, I moved to Florida when I was in my early 20's, lived there for a little under two years, and ended up (eventually) moving back to New York State.

Why?  The insect life, including (but not limited to) palmetto bugs was a large part of the reason.

Palmetto bugs, in case you have never lived in Florida, are a type of Southern cockroach.  They are a fact of life in Florida.  Besides being large (and I do mean LARGE) and somewhat able to fly (well, it's more like gliding) they carry diseases such as salmonella.

My spouse and I quickly learned about palmetto bugs within days of moving to Florida.   It started when we went to the laundromat to wash our clothes and there, larger than life, we found a cockroach like insect in the washing machine as we started to add our clothes.  We decided we would never use that laundromat again.

But you couldn't escape these insects we were told were called Palmetto bugs.

My father came down for a visit, staying with us, and didn't even blink an eye when he saw them.  My Dad was like that.  But to me, it was embarrassing.

The last straw was finding one in the kitchen of our small newlywed apartment, in what was then a not-that-desirable neighborhood called Hyde Park.  (In fact, we were told NEVER to cross the street.  If we stayed on our side, it was fine.  But don't ever go "there".)

Spouse was so upset about this bug that (I kid you not) he took the refrigerator and dropped it on the bug.  Actually, it just about takes a refrigerator to put an end to one of them.  It left a spot we could never get out.

Now, fast forward 30 years.

Since the day we left in 1976, we had never been back to Florida.  In 2006,  it was time.  Florida bound we were.

We took the Auto Train down. At last, we arrived in Tampa, with our teenaged son in tow.

I have two cousins who were born, and grew up, in Tampa.   One of them, Barry, and his (now former) companion Billie decided they were going to give us a tour of Tampa so we could see how it had changed in 30 years.  My son came along for the ride.

Barry and Billie drove us around Tampa. And finally, I asked Barry if he would take us back to where we had started our married life.

Of course he would.

We couldn’t believe it.  What was once not too desirable was up and coming and most desirable.   We went past what, when we lived there, was a small neighborhood mall – it was now something spanning several blocks called Hyde Park Village.  New construction was everywhere.  The “don’t go there” neighborhood was gone, razed, with condos going up on the site.  Our neighborhood had gone upscale.

The two family house we lived in was still there.  We didn’t recognize the street at all.  It looked really nice.

We parked in front of the house.  And I had to open my big mouth and say “Say, wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the apartment again?”

“Why not?” replied Billie.  She marched up the stairs and knocked on the door.

She came back down.  A young Hispanic man had answered her knock. And yes, we were more than welcome to come in and look around.

So we took our son up and showed him where we had started married life over 30 years before.  The young man proudly showed us around the apartment.  The kitchen had been totally renovated. The palmetto spot was gone.

So now, fast forward again, to 2019.  My spouse is already retired, and I am getting close.  And now, Florida beckons. We want to escape the harsh upstate New York winters for a month or maybe two.  Palmetto bugs or no palmetto bugs.

Funny how things change.

And that two family house in Hyde Park?  My cousin Barry isn't sure it's even there anymore.  There's been a lot of changes in that neighborhood.  But, if we come down again, he's willing to take us there to find out.

And hopefully, we won't see any palmetto bugs.


  1. I grew up in Ocala, my folks and brothers are still there...and I have no plans to go back, ever. I can not stand the humidity and when my/our son was accepted to Alfred State, I sent a big thank you and the big move was made from Alabama. My husband is from here, Hornell. He said he likes being "home" (he was also raised in Ocala).

  2. Oh yes, I understand about palmetto bugs. I’ve got a funny story about them.

    Florida has changed. When Drew’s parents retired to Florida he wanted to think about moving there.i couldn’t imagine even wanting to leave. NYC/Long Island. Now ..winter is coming...

  3. Never been to Flordia and not sure how I could handle the bugs. But I think I might have more of issue the gators.
    Coffee is on

  4. We've been having trouble with "water bugs" of late. I'm not sure if they're similar to Palmetto bugs, but they sound of the same sort. Ick.


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