People are moving to the South in droves, getting away from high taxes, crime, snow, and bizarre politics. They arrive to sunshine, friendly people, a much lower cost of living, and a better quality of life. 

Along with some surprises from Mother Nature. 

I discovered this myself when I first moved from the North. I had just taken a job in Mobile and was moving into my new apartment in Daphne. It was a beautiful October day, so I opened the sliding glass door to get some fresh air while I unpacked. 

Suddenly something small buzzed past my head and flew into the kitchen. “Great, I’ve got a hummingbird in here. Good luck catching it.” I opened every window, hoping it would fly out, but nothing happened, so I went into the kitchen to search for it. I didn’t see a hummingbird. 

Then I went to get a glass of water. And there, sitting atop the faucet, was the largest cockroach I’d ever seen. Then it flew away and out the door. Definitely not a hummingbird. 

So let me get this straight, I thought. The cockroaches in Alabama can fly? What sort of genetic mutation gone awry is this? A result of atomic testing in the 1950s like those sci-fi B-movies with giant insects? 

The next morning I was relating this story in the newsroom when one of the locals said, “Oh, that’s just a palmetto bug.” 

“Yeah,” said a guy from New England. “It’s the local euphemism for giant flying cockroaches.” 

I was warned not to set these bugs on fire. This might sound odd, but apparently there was a station employee who hated these cockroaches so much he created a household flamethrower using a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter. On one occasion he set a roach on fire. It ran into the wall and his apartment went up in flames. (So, do not try this at home.) 

But flying cockroaches aren’t the only oddities in this part of the country. I had been sent to Moultrie, Georgia, a little town in the southern part of the state. We arrived at dusk, and when I started talking to a guy I got a mouthful of tiny bugs. I practically gagged as he started laughing. “What’s with this swarm?” I asked, noting the things were everywhere. 

“Oh. Guess you ain't from here. Y’all are below the gnat line.” 

I covered my mouth, not wanting to swallow any more of these things. “The what?” 

“Imaginary line that runs through the middle of Georgia. Above the line, an average amount of gnats. Below the line, a ton of these things. And we’re waaayyyy below the gnat line.” 

So for the rest of our trip we talked through our teeth like a bunch of rich people at a polo match. 

But flying insects aren’t the only insects that surprised me. 

Like all good Italians, I have tomato plants in my garden. But I noted a few of the plants were stripped of leaves. Turns out there are these things called hornworms. 

Yes, worms with giant horns that look like stingers. 

They can’t bite or sting, but I didn’t want to take any chances with these giant caterpillars. So I developed a system to remove the hornworms from tomato plants by using a pair of salad tongs and tossing them to the birds. 

Still, there are other insects that bite. A trip to south Mississippi had me fighting yellow flies. And don’t even get me started on the giant mosquitoes. 

Over the years I’ve befriended nature’s sworn enemies of bugs: birds and lizards. We have several bird feeders around the yard and those little green lizards take care of gnats and small insects. Colorful lizards called skinks dine on larger bugs. 

Now that the weather is warming up the bugs will be making their presence known in a big way. You just might warn people visiting for spring break or moving from up North. 

As Sergeant Al said in the movie “Die Hard,” we’re gonna need a boatload of screen doors.

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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