Surinam Cockroach

Honestly, living in Florida, I’m surprised I didn’t run into a photographable roach sooner. You are, at this moment, eye to eye with the nymph of a Surinam cockroach, Pycnoscelus surinamensis. She’s adorable, isn’t she? When she’s an adult, she’ll be about 18-25mm long (almost an inch) — right now, she’s about 8mm long.

Surinam roach nymphs are a uniform chocolate brown, with a shiny front half and a matte back half. Adults are winged, olive-green to brown, with a black head and a pale leading edge on the pronotum (first segment behind the head). I love the legs on this girl — her little feet are like trees!

We know she’s a “she” because all Surinam roaches in the US are female; they forgot to bring a male over with them when they spread here, and they reproduce by parthenogenesis, creating little clones of themselves. Only one percent of known animal species reproduce this way! Some other cockroach species can reproduce this way, but only if they have to — P. surinamensis, in the US, is one of a very, very few species that have to reproduce this way. (In some of its original populations in Asia, there are still both males and females.) Males are occasionally born in the female clone populations that migrated to places like the US and Australia, but they are nonfunctional.

These roaches also bear live young — or, at least, they carry their eggs internally (as a crazy “egg block” called an ootheca) until after they’ve hatched.

Surinam roaches burrow in loose soil, or hide beneath rocks or plant debris. They do sometimes live near human construction, but not necessarily in it if they can avoid it. (Despite my fear of having my house overrun, I did let this patient young lady go. It’s only a fair trade for posing for photos.)

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