What is this bug?
January 29, 2014 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Tonight's special: Giant (for the Pacific Northwest) roach-looking creature--couple of photos inside.

Warning, the photos are of a dead critter. (I did not do the deadening, unless it was inadvertently in the dark.) Photo 1 and Photo 2

I live on an island in Puget Sound, in Washington state, in a rural setting, lots of woods nearby. While I have seen small cockroaches in crappy bookstores and restaurants in Seattle, they've all been under half an inch, and we're not really known for our "wild" roaches. Carpenter ants, yea, verily, and ground beetles, but nothing like this guy. This critter looks roach-ish, but is huge for our area: Between 1.5 to 2 inches long (please have a good laugh, Florida residents, I know you get fleas bigger than that).

My photo of its back is blurry, sorry, I was concerned about getting back inside to fill the gasoline moat and ready the matches. One wing (or wing cover?) is no longer attached.

In my 35 years in the area, I haven't seen anything like this, which doesn't mean it isn't a native. Love any insight, and thanks.
posted by maxwelton to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I Googled "Washington forest cockroach" and there are a few candidates, but nothing conclusive.

On the plus side, if it is a cockroach, it's good to keep in mind that most species of "wild" cockroach prefer to feed on woody detritus, and the pests we associate with the image of a "cockroach" are actually in the minority of the vast number of cockroach species.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:44 AM on January 29, 2014

Yeah, it looks like what in Florida they call a 'palmetto bug' but I call a giant cockroach. Once some students traveling through my former city brought in some books to sell me. Little did I know one of these critters had hitched a ride in the box. I found it dead the next morning and never saw another one until I moved to New Orleans and encountered one on a French Quarter sidewalk. I subsequently learned to do battle as necessary. They seem to like the climate and the food, just as people do.
posted by Anitanola at 1:37 AM on January 29, 2014

Yup. That there is one good old-fashioned, big-ass cockroach.

As a long-time NYC dweller, I've grown reluctantly over-familiar with the species, but I will say I was surprised to find a darker but equally appallingly large one crawling up the wall in my parent's home in Ohio. They live in the woods. Apparently 'wood roaches' are quite normal in wet, woodland areas all across North America. Enjoy! *shudder*
posted by involution at 2:39 AM on January 29, 2014

Definitely not a roach, but a beetle of some sort--you can tell that by the hard casing ("elytra," for the interested reader) over the wings, which all roaches lack.
posted by drlith at 3:29 AM on January 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

drlith is correct. I'm a native Floridian and can tell you that ain't no roach.
posted by Specklet at 4:23 AM on January 29, 2014

Yeah, it's not a cockroach. See the lack of a casing?

Could it be a Cedar Beetle (aka Cicada Parasite Beetle)? It has the orange abdomen and black body, and it's listed in the Insects of Washington State.

The only thing it's missing is its antennae - I'm guessing that it might be relating to the missing casing as well.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:50 AM on January 29, 2014

Whatsthatbug.com is a great site for figuring this out, they have lots of pictures of bugs, but you can also send in your own to get answered.
posted by Jaelma24 at 4:51 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm from a tropical island, it looks like the cockroach that resides in my homeland. They are quite large. They fly when the typhoons hit. My dad always said they look for the back of your neck to land on. That's not true, but they do land on the back of a neck if it is available…
posted by Yellow at 4:51 AM on January 29, 2014

Came in to suggest the website whatsthatbug.com
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:23 AM on January 29, 2014

jerusalem cricket? we got those in Oregon, and they look like nightmares
posted by angrycat at 6:11 AM on January 29, 2014

oh sorry as per pic 2 it's definitely not that. wood beetle?
posted by angrycat at 6:12 AM on January 29, 2014

If it helps, this bug was flying all over the place and it scared my dog so I squished it.

Things that scare the dog are not allowed.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:35 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

(If things that scare the dog are not allowed, it would explain the great extinction event the earth is going through. Poor pup.)

Thanks all for your ideas. I learned something about roaches and beetles, which I had no idea. I don't think it's a cedar beetle, or didn't, as there didn't seem to be a distinct taper between the body segments, but the critter has also been modified from its living appearance.
posted by maxwelton at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2014

It looks like a diving beetle to me. Could be family Dytiscidae?
posted by jardinier at 11:35 AM on January 29, 2014

Diving Beetle! They can also be found crawling around on the ground, and get to be about 2 inches long as adults. Are you near a pond or wetland? I work at a sciencey type-place located on a wetland and we have them, but they can be hard to find/see.

Edit to add: Jardiner has it.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 11:42 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

My grandfather was an entomologist and I have one of his field guides to insects, which is quite fun. It says:

"Shape often distinctive: elongate-oval, convex, streamlined; hind legs flattened and fringed with hairs. Hind tarsi with 1 or 2 claws. Front tibiae lacking spines. Antennae threadlike. Scutellum usually visible. Black, brown, or yellow-ish, often with light markings. 1.4-35.0 mm.
Members of this fairly large group are abundant in ponds, lakes, and streams. They are excellent swimmers, and when swimming move the hind legs in unison ... Predaceous diving beetles frequently fly to lights. Adults and larvae are highly predaceous, and feed on various small aquatic animals, including fish. Larvae (called water tigers) have large sicklelike jaws, and suck the body contents of the prey through channels in the jaws; they do not hesitate to attack an animal larger than themselves."

It also says that Dytiscids can also easily be confused for Hydrophiloidea, so it's worth looking at those as well:

"Antennae elbowed, clubbed. FW short, truncate, exposing 1 or 2 abdominal segments. Body usually oval, sometimes greatly flattened, or elongate and cylindrical. Hard-bodied, shiny, black (some with red markings). 1-10 mm.
These beetles usually occur around decaying organic matter - carrion, dung, decaying plants, and oozing sap - and apparently feed on other insects attracted to these materials. Some species are very flat and live under loose bark. The elongate cylindrical species live in the galleries of wood-boring insects. Larvae have much the same habits as adults'

I'm leaning toward the first one, Predaceous Diving Beetle (Family Dytiscidae).

(text from "A Field Guide to the Insects of American North of Mexico" by Donald J. Borror and Richard E. White. 1970. Houghton Mifflin Boston.)
posted by jardinier at 11:51 AM on January 29, 2014

Also - for what it's worth, I think it's terribly sad when people 'squish' bugs. You're killing them - destroying an incredibly complex and fascinating little thinking machine that plays an important role in the ecosystem. Think about whether you would enjoy being crushed to death and reconsider in the future.
posted by jardinier at 12:00 PM on January 29, 2014

Maxwelton, you might consider taking it into Bayview Nursery, if you still have the body. They've helped me identify bugs before.
posted by The otter lady at 12:49 PM on January 29, 2014

I had the same bug show up dead on my doorstep, in the PacNW area. Asked my pest guy about it, and he confirmed it was not a cockroach, was a beetle, and he was finding them dead at other places in the area as well.
posted by Diddly at 4:16 PM on January 29, 2014

Many thanks--I agree it looks like a diving beetle, or the close relative mentioned by jardinier. (There are some small ponds somewhat nearish, though nothing right on our doorstep.) Their sticking to the water for the most part would explain why I've never noticed them before.
posted by maxwelton at 4:36 PM on January 29, 2014

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