Palmetto Bug – How to Identify And Get Rid of Them

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When you hear someone mention a palmetto bug you may not even know what they are or even what they look like. Because they are referred to by several names, it is often helpful if a description is given along with the name. From what they are to how to get rid of them, helpful tips and everything you need to know about palmetto bugs can be found below.

dragon fly on a palmetto

What is a palmetto bug?

The pest is known by a variety of names including the American cockroach, water bug, flying water bug, and the palmetto bug. You will generally hear the palmetto bug referred to as such in the southern states. It can grown to an inch and a half, sometimes even bigger. It generally tops out around two inches, but there have been longer insects reported. Palmetto bugs are reddish-brown in color, and both males and females have wings. In order to distinguish the gender, you will need to look at the wings. Females have wings that end at their abdomen while the males have wings that extend a little bit longer. The naked will not be able to tell the difference in the gender unless you are holding it in your hand.

Palmetto bug life cycle

The female palmetto bug will lay an egg capsule up to a day after it is formed. Where she places it varies, but typically it is placed in dead wood or near a food source. Sometimes these capsules will be laid in your home so make sure you check for and handle them immediately. On average the female will lay one egg capsule a week until around 15 have been laid. In ideal temperatures the babies will hatch around day 55, sometimes a bit earlier. By the time the palmetto bugs hatch they will have already molted once. Nymphs will molt several times before they hit maturity, which happens sometime between molt nine and 13. Their life span is relatively short, lasting just over a year in ideal conditions.

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Where will you find palmetto bugs?

There are several different places where you may find a palmetto bug. Depending on whether you are in the northern or southern region of the United States, the locations may vary a bit. Below you will find some common places you may find palmetto bugs.

  • Institutional buildings in the northern part of the United States
  • Around sewers
  • Under and in the hole around sump pumps
  • In dead or hollowed out trees
  • Alleys
  • Under roof shingles
  • Attics
  • Yards
  • Around swimming pools that are above ground
  • Around sprinkler systems
  • In cabinets
  • In and around garbage

What does a palmetto bug eat?

Because a palmetto bug is technically a cockroach, food isn’t necessary in abundance. They can go for two to three months without food, but only a month without water. This is why they generally hang out where water is plentiful in places like around manholes, swimming pools, and in other damp places. Below you will find a list of things palmetto bugs typically eat.

  • Decaying organic matter. This is usually dead trees and other shrubbery, but palmetto bugs have been found around decaying animals in the wild as well.
  • Paper goods. This includes the binding of older books, newspapers, and glossed over paper like you would find in children’s books.
  • Sugary foods. From breakfast cereal to syrup, palmetto bugs enjoy the finer things when it comes to the amount of sugar. Candy is also something they are attracted to, especially if it is left out around the house.
  • Clothing. Dirty clothes are especially appealing to palmetto bugs. Keep your laundry picked up off the floor and stay on top of it. If you let it build up, you may lose something you like to wear because of these pests.

How to keep palmetto bugs out of your home

If you live in the southern portion of the United States, you will know that it is unlikely that your home will be free of these pests. While nothing will guarantee a 100% success rate, there are steps you can take to make your home less appealing and less accessible to these pests. Below are some tips to help you keep your home free of palmetto bugs, if only for a short while.

  • Check your house for any possible entryways for the palmetto bugs. Make sure all of your screens are free of holes and all of your windows close properly. You should inspect your foundation as well. If you do find issues address them as quick as you can to avoid any issue with these pests.
  • Clean up your yard. Keep your lawn mowed to the shortest length possible. Any garbage laying around should be removed immediately. The less comfortable it is for these pests, the less likely they will be to stick around.
  • Take care of leaves immediately. Palmetto bugs love crawling around in piles of leaves. Bag them or burn them, whichever is the easier option.
  • Plant your garden away from your home. The further away it is from your home, the less likely these bugs will end up in your space. You can use pesticides to protect your plants while growing, but make sure you read the labels completely to ensure you are using the product properly and safely.
  • Fix leaky pipes. The sweat and dripping water is appealing to palmetto bugs. If you have leaks in your home, fix them immediately. Water is something these pests need to thrive and if you provide it, they will come in droves.

How to kill a palmetto bug

If you encounter one of these creatures you may be frightened. They are incredibly ugly looking and can omit some funky odors when they feel threatened. Getting them out of your home is important for peace of mind. If you spot one, the quicker you take care of it the less chance you have of a female hiding an egg in your home. You won’t know it happened until the incubation period happens and then you will see approximately 15 little palmetto bugs walking around your home. It is definitely not something for the faint of heart. These are some ways you can kill a palmetto bug and what you will need to complete the task.

  • Vacuum them up. If you have more than one palmetto bug in your home, the vacuum will work wonders. You can suck them up from farther away, which is beneficial to people who are afraid of these critters. Make sure you take the bag out immediately and dispose of it away from your home.
  • Make poisonous treats. The great thing about palmetto bugs is they cannot smell anything. You will easily be able to make treats laced with poison and place them around the kitchen or areas where you have the issue. Of course if you have children or pets this idea isn’t feasible. If you choose this method, be sure to use fast-acting poison so the bugs won’t die hours later in various parts of your home.
  • Natural pesticide. You can make your own pesticide at home, minus the actual poison. This is ideal for homes where children and pets are present. Mix tobacco dust, dish washing liquid, and black pepper. Place it in a spray bottle and generously spray it around rooms where the bugs have been present. While this obviously will taste disgusting to your kids or pets, it won’t harm them, which is beneficial. Label the mixture so that you are sure of what it is and so that no one else uses it for anything other than spraying the palmetto bugs.
  • Boric acid. This can be potentially dangerous and should be used with the utmost caution. Children and pets cannot be around this stuff so if you choose this route, please make sure they are out of the home for a few days and you clean everything up after the problem is solved. Placing this on the top of cabinets and other high places is ideal. Palmetto bugs like to climb to the highest possible place, so that is likely where you will find them.
  • Step on them. As gross as this sounds, it is the only sure way you will be able to kill them. If you are only seeing one or two in your home, this is effective and cheap. Make sure you clean up the mess immediately so that the odor doesn’t become too much to handle.

Palmetto bugs are harmless. They can be a sight for sore eyes, but they will not bite you or completely take over your home. In fact, a palmetto bug will only enter your home if the temperature gets too cold or they are seeking water. Palmetto bugs are predominant through Florida especially, but they are in the southern parts of the United States as well. The life of a palmetto bug is relatively short so if you do encounter an issue, it will not be long-term. Palmetto bugs are a pain, but they can be avoided if you pull out all of the stops.

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