Cockroaches have succeeded because they benefit from the success of humans. They seek shelter in homes, office spaces, and restaurants. Many live their lives outdoors in mulch and vegetation, especially in warmer climates. And while they may wander into your home, the vast majority of cockroaches are born outside.
Sewers provide food, water, and shelter for some insects that need to survive and are also used to offer protection from extreme weather and sunlight—sewers ideal for cockroaches. You can also find albino cockroaches spread throughout the wild in the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Cockroaches are curious explorers, which is why these insects often crawl up dry drain pipes and sometimes lay their eggs as they go. When the nymphs hatch, they continue creeping up and out of drains, often ending up in dark storage rooms, garbage rooms, basements, etc. Unkept homes can attract cockroach colonies, but they do have natural predators on St. John, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. Here are some of the animals that prey on cockroaches in the Virgin Islands:
Several tarantula species live in the British Virgin Islands and the U.S Virgin Islands, including Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. The exact number of tarantula variations and spider species is hard to say, but specimens found in wooded areas are generally small and relatively harmless to humans. Smaller tarantulas predominantly eat insects, such as katydids, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and even baby lizards if the opportunity arises.
There isn’t a distinct scientific consensus on how many tarantula species (or spiders for the matter) are spread between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Tarantulas can rip a cockroach apart in just a few seconds. Cockroaches are a bit more nutritious than crickets, so they provide a good energy source for many animals. Tarantulas do not have huge appetites and live in small caves-like holes on the ground.
The biggest and easiest to spot tarantula in the Virgin Islands is cyrtopholis bartholomei. These particular spiders hunt during the night and tend to lunge onto any small creature that ventures near its den. They use their fang-like chelicerae to inject venom into the prey.
A bite from one can be painful but is not incredibly dangerous to humans. When heavy rains are approaching or destructive tropical cyclones are imminent, you may find this particular tarantula on the walls of a home’s exterior or climbing tall trees searching for higher ground to avoid floodwaters.
Feral chickens (Red Jungle Fowl)
When you see chickens foraging near the shoreline or in random patches of grass in the Virgin Islands, they may be feeding on various wildlife. Chickens are wildly successful because they can and will eat just about anything. Because of their varied diet and selective breeding by humans, there are now over 500 breeds today.
The red jungle fowl (and other species of chicken) can eat foods it finds on the ground as an omnivore, including insects, worms, seeds, berries, and small reptiles. They will even eat cracked chicken eggs and eggs from other animal species. Feral chickens, domestic chickens that have returned to the wild, use similar omnivorous foraging tactics and will eat a similar diet if available.
Because of limited scientific data, it’s hard to decipher the variations in chicken breeds in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They also eat cockroaches, often banging the insects on pavement or rocks to stun them before swallowing them whole. Hatchlings that are just a few days old also take part in foraging for cockroaches.
The Virgin Islands are home to various lizard species, including the Saint Croix ground lizard, found on Protestant Cay, Ruth Cay, Green Cay, and Buck Island.
The most common lizards are ground lizards, the tree lizard, and green iguanas. More than one species of ground lizard lives in the Virgin Islands, and their size allows them to take down an impressive variety of carnivorous animals.
Ground lizards forage within fallen leaves and loosely compacted soil, preying on centipedes, moths, spiders, grasshoppers, hermit crabs, sand fleas, and segmented worms. They forage in the daytime and sometimes feast on cockroaches by stirring up decaying leaves under the forest canopy.
A centipede will devour any animal it can overpower and kill. The Amazonian giant centipede is known for its extreme aggression when finding food for its carnivorous diet. This is believed to be the species of centipede often spotted on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
It will consume whatever it can catch, with prey items including insects and vertebrates like frogs, snakes, lizards, mice, birds, and bats. No matter the prey type, this species will use its forcipules to inject toxins into its food and then cut into the food to consume it. Centipede bites are notoriously painful for many residents to encounter them.
A few things to note:
Records from U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Honduras are assumed to be accidental introductions or labeling errors. It’s unclear if the centipedes found in the Virgin Islands are native, invasive, or unique species that are undiscovered.
Although not deadly to humans, the venom can cause severe swelling, pain, redness, and even chills, weakness, and fever. An allergic reaction to the biological toxin may also result in death. In 2014, a four-year-old child in Venezuela died after being bitten by a giant centipede hidden inside an open soda can. Researchers at Universidad de Oriente later confirmed the specimen to be S. gigantea.
A small gecko found in the Virgin Island is known to make a croaking sound. It’s most commonly referred to as a ‘wood slave,’ is a tropical house gecko found in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These tiny geckos –which can vary in length and girth– venture out at night searching for insects. They are nocturnal and can be spotted scurrying for a dark crevice if disturbed in the daytime. They can eat moths, mosquitos, flies, and cockroaches if they’re quick enough.
Their bellies lay flat on walls and tree trunk as they hunt for smaller insects. They can also run parallel to the ground — or directly on the ceiling without falling thanks to their specialized limbs. There appears to be a variation in species on each island, but more scientific data is needed to identify the differences.
Featured image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal