My family and I recently returned from a vacation in Hilton Head Island — you know, the South Carolina destination known for its sunny weather, miles of beautiful beaches, upscale resort communities, world-class golf venues, and, don’t forget, hordes of two-inch long cockroaches that only come out at night to suck your blood while you sleep. Wait, that’s a bit of a mis-characterization. These creatures are actually known as Palmetto bugs, named for the shade-creating Palmetto trees that grace the beautiful HH island. Sounds nice, right? Well, if you do a little research, you’ll find that these so-called “Palmetto bugs” are also known as “American cockroaches.” And that, friends, is called American marketing: putting a positive spin on something that is positively disgusting.
To prove the point that “Palmetto bug” is a total whitewash of what is, in essence, a filthy cockroach, just Google “Palmetto bugs”. You’ll see results like these:
The first hit — first hit — provides this provocative info:
American cockroach – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), also known as the waterbug, particularly in the southern United States, is the largest species of common …
Wikipedia, being the resource that it is, proves that the peaceful sounding Palmetto bug is nothing more than a large and vile cockroach, full of sin and degradation.
Of interest, the site also notes cockroach’s speed:
In an experiment carried out at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991, a Periplaneta americana registered a record speed of 5.4 kilometres per hour (3.4 mph), about 50 body lengths per second, which would be comparable to a human running at 330 kilometres per hour (210 mph).
There’s only one thing worse than freaky bugs and that’s fast, freaky bugs.
The second hit confirms the info in the first hit (Palmetto = cockroach) and makes it clear just how desirable these creatures are (“get rid of…”, “pests”):
How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs | eHow.com
How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs. Palmetto bugs, also known as American cockroaches, are frequent house pests in the southern United States.
http://www.ehow.com › Home Safety & Household Tips – Cached – Similar
You know something’s wrong when getting rid of Palmetto bugs shows up in the “home safety” category.
And here’s my favorite:
Cockroaches – How To Kill and Get Of Cockroaches
The most distinguishing characteristic of the true palmetto bug is it’s foul smell it … Control of palmetto bugs…
Now we’re dealing with true Palmetto bugs, their foul smell, and how out-of-control they can get. Nice.
Anyway, we had four encounters with Palmetto bugs (PB’s) in the space of seven days. Even though that’s an incident rate of less than one-bug-per-day, it’s still too high for a gated resort community where you can order peel and eat shrimp right on the beach. The details of the incidents, provided below, are beyond frightening:
Incident 1: At approximately 11 PM of the third night of our stay in Hilton Head, I got out of bed to go use the restroom. Clicking on the light, I noted a creature on the ceiling that looked like a small bird with two cell phone antenna coming out of its head and legs that looked like mini machetes. It was almost directly overhead and clearly on a reconnaissance mission, observing our location and habits and reporting back to PB headquarters, which, for all I know, might be in Pakistan. Questions ran through my mind: What if the creature had fallen or intentionally dropped into our bed? Would the ensuing panic, the screaming and thrashing about wake my wife? How would I dispatch the intruder to that Great Palmetto in the Sky without waking the children or losing my security deposit to drywall repairs? I grabbed a shirt, wadded it up into a ball, chucked it at the PB, knocking it to the floor. Unfortunately I didn’t find it after that…
Incident 2: The next evening, right at bedtime, one of my two sons spotted a PB under the couch. We went into full ballistic mode, raising the Rental Condo Alert Status to orange, and set up a perimeter. Armed with flip-flops and small pillows, the boys and I dodged and parried, lunged and leaped around that couch, drove the PB out of hiding, and dealt it a stunning blow similar to the effect of a flash-bang grenade. Our trained eyes confirmed that the PB’s rate of speed during its attempted escape probably exceeded four miles per hour — fast, but not fast enough. We ceremoniously scooped him up with a paper plate and let him enjoy a “water park” style ride known as The Flusher. As I entered the restroom to start him off on the ride, I was disturbed to see yet another PB in the sink. This one wasn’t as fast, having been up all day and probably snacking on our potato chips, and even seemed a little hung over. After flushing his friend, I tried to capture the one in the sink but he surprised me with a bold move — darting down the sink drain, under the stopper. Gone? I turned on the water for minute and then closed the stopper. Maybe the cleaning personnel would get to deal with him later.
The next day we received a text from a friend back home who also happened to be a former resident of Hilton Head Island. Note the word “former.” Here’s the actual text:
Oh by the way … forgot to warn u about very likely visitors called “Palmetto Bugs”, look like cockroaches but they r not :D
A quick analysis of this text: Note the nonchalant and friendly tone, using the words “visitors” and “Palmetto Bugs” and then outright denying the fact that these creatures are indeed blood-sucking cockroaches who operate a complex communication and infestation network. And then there’s the smiley face at the end of the text. Ironically, our friend used to be in marketing; as such, we were not amused by these antics. To thank our friend, we brought home a jar full of these so-called “visitors” and released them in our friend’s home. After all, they’re not cockroaches, right?
Incident 3: One afternoon my family I were relaxing in living room before going out to dinner. My wife went out on the screened-in porch to hang some towels out to dry. As she opened the double doors to the porch, I heard an evil snicker and saw a PB sprint along the doorway at a speed of six miles per hour. I calmly informed my wife of the situation to which she responded by launching herself into the air. Like any loving husband would, I helped her dig her fingers and toes out of the ceiling and come back down. This incident raised more questions: Was this the same PB we saw in Incident 1? Do PB’s work in shifts? If so, which shift gets premium pay? (Probably the day shift.)
Incident 4: During our final night in the rental condo, after everyone was in bed — the boys were sleeping on the sleeper sofa in the living room which opens to the dining area/kitchen — one of the boys called out to me, asking to turn up the air conditioning. I walked out to the main room, flipped on a light, and adjusted the thermostat. Then, one of the boys noticed it: a PB on the kitchen wall. Once again we raised the threat level and grabbed our weapons, this time a folded paper plate and a People magazine (the Royal Wedding issue). My son and I went to work, tracking, attacking. One good slap sent the PB to the floor where we watched in amazement as it accelerated to eight miles per hour and scurried under the dishwasher.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to step on a PB, even with shoes on. PB’s are just too big and likely would crack and splatter everywhere. (As as aside, Dave Barry would probably say that Palmetto Bug Stompers would be a great name for a band. Ironically, there is such a band in New Orleans!) Of all the weapons we employed in our fight against PB’s, however, the lowly flip flop sandal proved most effective to deliver a stunning blow without causing a mess.
Despite these incidents, we do highly recommend Hilton Head as a vacation destination and would like to go back sometime. The sun, the beach, the pool, the cool breezes, the peel and eat shrimp, the resort communities — all of it is good and worthwhile, even if you’re sharing space with and being closely watched by filthy American cockroaches. I mean Palmetto bugs.