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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Beware the giant cockroach, UF researchers warn

9

October

1189340749_2 Now that hurricane season is nearly over, Floridians may have a new treat in store from Mother Nature: 3-inch-long hissing cockroaches.

Two University of Florida entomologists warned last month in an article in Florida Pest Pro magazine that a growing interest among reptile enthusiasts to farm cockroaches as lizard food could result in the introduction of several new varieties to the state.

Phil Koehler and Roberto Pereira, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, are concerned mainly with the Turkestan cockroach, which has migrated to the Southwest United States by hitching a ride on military personnel and equipment returning from the Middle East.

But other types, including the Madagascar hissing roach (shown), the lobster roach and the orange spotted roach, also could be gaining a foothold.

Koehler_2 "We have 69 species of cockroaches in the United States, and 29 of them were brought in from other countries," said Koehler, left, in a news release. "And now we have these new species being shipped into the state."

Longtime reptile enthusiast James Tuttle, who runs a roach-supply company that ships insects all over the country, said pet owners are attracted to roaches in part because they’re cheaper than crickets, another popular lizard food. They’re also less noisy and don’t smell as bad, and they reproduce much faster.

"You can spend $50 (on roaches) and in six months, never have to buy food again," Tuttle said.

Donna Winchester, higher education reporter

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[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:59am]

    

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