I work for the Suwannee River Water Management District in Live Oak, Florida. In June I started organizing paperwork associated with our water quality monitoring. The floor of my office is temporarily piled with stacks of papers. On Monday June 15, 2015 I picked up one of the stacks from the floor and out fell a small bug. I was not too surprised because beetles, millipedes, and other invertebrates sometimes find their way into the building from outside.
I looked at the bug closely. What was this? The bug was dead, but still soft. It was black with an orange-red pronotum and yellow along the margins of the wings. At first glance, I thought it was a firefly, but no. This was a cockroach. A pretty little cockroach of a species that I had never seen before!
With a little searching on the World Wide Web, I was able to find a key to the cockroaches of Florida developed by Dr. Paul Choate, Professor of Entomology, and his students at the University of Florida (http://www.doyourownpestcontrol.com/SPEC/Manual/ufblattaria_new.pdf). However, none of the species in this publication matched the specimen from my office. With a further investigation on the Web, I discovered photos of the Pale Bordered Field Cockroach (Pseudomops septentrionalis), which did match the roach from my office. This tropical species is apparently native from Central America to Texas and has been spreading throughout the southeastern U.S. in recent years.
I contacted Dr. Paul Skelley with the Florida State Collection of Arthropods (FSCA) in Gainesville. He was not aware of any specimens of the Pale Bordered Field Cockroach from Florida. However, Bugguide.net (http://bugguide.net/node/view/7856/data) does list two previous reports, so my specimen is not the first sighting of this species in Florida. Michael Riffle posted a photo of a female with an egg case taken in Tallahassee on July 31, 2013 and Fran Rutkovsky posted a photo of another specimen from Tallahassee taken on June 2, 2015. I donated the specimen from my office to the FSCA to document its occurrence and Kyle Schnepp kindly confirmed the identification.
So doesn’t Florida have enough cockroaches, especially in Tallahassee? Apparently not! Huge changes are occurring in insect populations, most likely in response to global warming. As insects go, butterflies are relatively easy to track. The checkered-skippers are especially interesting because the once common Common Checkered-skipper (Pyrgus communis) has disappeared from Florida, while the Tropical Checkered-skipper (Pyrgus oileus) has expanded its range from the southern half of the state to throughout the southeast. In addition, the western White Checkered-skipper (Pyrgus albescens) invaded the Panhandle sometime in the 1990s and quickly spread throughout the state, even the Keys.
Luckily, the Pale Bordered Field Cockroach is not an insect that frequents houses. It prefers outdoor, wooded habitats. I’ve been searching for additional specimens in the vegetation outside my office building, but so far, no luck. How this new insect will affect Florida’s ecology remains to be seen. You never know what you may find in your yard or office for that matter!
The Pale Bordered Field Cockroach found in my office in Live Oak. The live insect is much prettier.