How to get rid of Palmetto Bugs (5 easy, effective methods)

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Palmetto Bugs are also widely known across the world as water bugs, wood roaches, croton bugs, and also go by the moniker of the American Cockroach. In general, the label of Palmetto Bug refers to several different species found throughout the United States with the greatest concentration existing in South Carolina and the southernmost states.

Interestingly, the name Palmetto Bug can also refer to several species of beetles as well. With the use of Palmetto Bug being used as a blanket term used to describe several species of roaches and beetles, there is often a high degree of confusion amongst homeowners, which leads to incorrectly made identification efforts.

Like with bed bugs, flea control, and rodent control, correctly identifying Palmetto Bugs is of paramount importance. With control measures that are largely specific to exact types of species, it is of great benefit for homeowners to be able to correctly identify the insects in question and to proceed accordingly.

For a comprehensive primer on Palmetto Bugs including identification information, control measures and more, read on below.

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Palmetto Bugs: At-a-glance

 ColorReddish-dark brown exterior coloring
 SizeLarge; 1.5 inches in length (about the size of a standard paperclip)
 Flying abilityHave wings and are capable of flying but rarely do
 DietOmnivore; eats meat and plants among many other things
 MarkingsDark markings are found throughout the exterior of an off-white colored prothorax
 Often mistaken for:

Smoky brown cockroaches which are also dark brown and winged but smaller in stature and lack the “sunglasses” design on their prothorax

Also the:

Scientifically referred to as the Periplaneta americana, the American Cockroach or Palmetto Bug, is a large and winged insect that measures about 1.5 inches in length or about the size of a standard paperclip. With a reddish-dark brown body, they have a creamy prothorax that is marked by dark brown designs that are reminiscent of miniature sunglasses.

With their propensity for the dampest of conditions, Palmetto Bugs are most ubiquitously found in rotting piles of wood, lumber or timber in addition to basements and sewers. Attracted to illumination, the rarely in-flight Palmetto Bug will fly to any source of light.

Much of the confusion surrounding Palmetto Bugs can be attributed to the propensity of southern states to call any large-sized, flying cockroach a Palmetto Bug. From Florida to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, wary homeowners commonly misidentify many of the bugs in their presence as being Palmetto Bugs, despite the reality that most of them are not.

As a consequence of the widespread misidentification habits of homeowners across the United States, the Palmetto Bug has risen through the ranks and is now considered to be amongst the most species of cockroaches in existence across the country.

Due to the Palmetto Bug’s preference for moisture-rich conditions, they are found in great abundance in the warm and moist tropical regions of the southern U.S. where they are found in a multitude of locales including but not limited to, pools, basements, piles of wet leaves, mounds of rotting wood, within the cracks in home foundations, and even bathrooms that are lacking in proper ventilation.

Palmetto Bugs: Infestations

A vast majority of the Palmetto Bug infestations occur in the northern part of the United States and homes and offices. Despite their prevalence in the southern part of the country, Palmetto Bugs are extremely adverse to the cold, frigid weather conditions found in the North and will as a result desperately seek solace in warmer environments, such as within the confines of a home or building.

Palmetto Bugs are inconspicuous creatures; much preferring a nocturnal lifestyle, they are hidden from human view in the day time hours. Despite their hard-to-find status, Palmetto Bugs are very much a reality and have a tendency to be found in massive groups of their peers which can number into the thousands. Collectively hidden from sight, Palmetto Bugs instinctively coalesce in safe havens that are marked by their damp and dark features. Common examples of outdoor locations that Palmetto Bugs reside in include places such as in the hollows of trees, throughout shrubbery, and under massive palm leaves. In homes, they can commonly be found in unexpected places such as under roofing shingles and within sprinkler systems and hoses.

It is at night when the Palmetto Bug essentially comes alive. They are highly active nocturnal insects that will forage tirelessly for food and eat nearly anything they come across, from food scraps and crumbs to glue and paper. Noted for their preference for starchy foods and anything containing sugar, Palmetto Bugs will gravitate quickly to preferred food sources.

Even without finding a ready supply of food, the Palmetto Bug can remain alive and well for an incredible three months and can even live up to a month without access to water. As a result of their resilient nature, Palmetto Bugs are especially fearsome creatures to homeowners and other building owners. Even the most prudent and stringent anti-Palmetto Bug measures can be all for nothing, given the ability of the species to survive without food or water for months on end.

Palmetto Bugs: Reproduction

Making a single “egg capsule” that can contain anywhere from fourteen to sixteen eggs, female Palmetto Bugs have the ability to harvest up to ninety capsules in their lifetime, thus having the capacity to produce 1260 to 1440 eggs. Each of the multi-egg containing capsules is a mere half-inch in length. Dark brown in color and easily camouflaged, female Palmetto Bugs will hide their capsule enshrouded away from view and typically near a food source. In less than two months, the Palmetto Bug eggs will fully hatch into nymphs that are a gray colored with brown undertones that will increase in color saturation as the nymphs continue to mature. The nymphs go through a molting process and will molt anywhere from nine to thirteen times before they become full-fledged adults.

Palmetto Bugs: In your home, apartment, or building

Palmetto Bugs will make the mass migration to indoor safety when experiencing untenable conditions such as flooding or cold weather. Hiding within the dark recesses of homes, Palmetto Bugs are likely to be found drains, crawl spaces, basements, and sewers as well as in or near bathtubs and garbage cans holding food scraps.

Due to the fact that the Palmetto Bugs are unseen during the daylight hours, many homeowners will fail to notice a problem with the bugs until there is a widespread infestation. As such, it is crucially important to be aware of the signs of the presence of Palmetto Bugs. Not only do Palmetto Bugs emit a musty highly-odorous smell but they also impart damage to homes in the form of bite marks on anything from books, envelopes, paper scraps, curtains, and furniture. Of particular preference for Palmetto Bugs, is anything containing glue, starch, or sugar.

Aside from checking for odors associated with Palmetto Bugs and the various forms of damage that they inflict, you may also want to keep an eye out for their shedded skins and their droppings which will likely be found in or near nooks, crannies, cracks, and crevices in walls, floors, and foundations.

Palmetto Bugs: Bites

Fortunately, Palmetto Bugs very rarely bite humans. Palmetto Bugs eat nearly anything, meat and plants included and aren’t averse to nibbling on human skin; however, they are not known to bite humans.

Palmetto Bugs: Diseases

Despite the Palmetto Bugs disinclination to biting humans, they are fearsome creatures that can wreak havoc on households. Due to inhabiting the dirtiest of locales such as sewers, drains, decaying food, and near animals, Palmetto Bugs carry a plethora of pathogens that can contaminate many parts of a home, particularly the kitchen area.

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With their multitude of disease-laden pathogens, Palmetto Bugs can cross-contaminate food, dishes, counters, utensils, and more to create serious digestive problems from the illnesses people obtain as a result of Palmetto Bug contamination.

With symptomatology including diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, humans can have extremely adverse reactions to the presence of Palmetto Bugs and can even exhibit a serious reaction to the droppings and shedded skins of the bugs.

Palmetto Bugs: Flight

Both genders of Palmetto Bugs have wings and are able to fly. More likely to be found crawling than flying, Palmetto Bugs will fly short and quick distances and can be viewed gliding from location to location.

Palmetto Bugs: What attracts them and where they’re found

  • Warm conditions
  • Damp environment
  • Tropical weather
  • Dark habitats
  • Sewers
  • Crawlspaces
  • Attics
  • Basements
  • Trash cans
  • Locations with food
  • Under sinks
  • In sprinkler systems
  • In bathtub drains
  • In moist rotting wood
  • In shrubbery

Palmetto Bugs: Little-known facts

  • Palmetto Bugs are among the fastest insect species that exist in the world today
  • They can travel up to nearly five feet in a second
  • They use their speed to quickly hide from approaching humans
  • Surprisingly, Palmetto Bugs also love to eat things containing yeast and fat and will gravitate towards open beer bottles, bread, and even particles from human hair, skin, and nails
  • Of critical importance to Palmetto Bugs is humidity, much more so than water
  • Can live for a month even with a decapitated head

Palmetto Bugs: Control Measures

Palmetto Bugs must be dealt with patiently, systematically, and thoroughly. Often, the endeavor of taking on a Palmetto Bug infestation is overwhelming for many homeowners and building owners, and they instead call in professional pest control companies to categorically get the job done safely, effectively, and quickly.

DIY methods can be highly effective for smaller infestations, particularly with Palmetto Bugs that are smaller in stature. It is highly recommended that consumers use a variety of products as a “system” to eradicate the presence of Palmetto Bugs comprehensively. Commonly used products include a range of ready-to-use, out-of-the-box products such as spray killers, baits, traps, and insect growth regulators among others.

Among the many products you should have in your arsenal, baits are of the utmost importance. Tried and true, homeowners have used poison-filled, gel-style baits for small-scale Palmetto Bug infestations for years. Palmetto Bugs will eat the gel poison and subsequently distribute it amongst their peers, thus enabling homeowners to easily and effectively kill off Palmetto populations with minimal effort. The dead bodies of Palmetto Bugs will actually be eaten by other Palmetto Bugs, and the entire population will dwindle into extinction.

Far more affordable than employing the services of a pest control company or exterminator, homeowners are encouraged to try a range of affordable products, with gel poison baits at the top of their shopping list.

Advion Cockroach Gel Bait, 4-syringes – Best Roach Killer is among the best selling products available on the market today. At a budget-conscious cost of just $23.99, it has topped top seller lists for roach baits for years. With the active ingredient of Indoxacarb, this product effectively attracts Palmetto Bugs and kills off their population rapidly.

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Use gel poison baits in areas such as basements, crawl spaces, attics and more. For outdoors use, insert baits in areas with mulch, piles of wood, shrubs, and more.

Another fantastic product choice is Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) which is a professional-style aerosol spray used for crawling insects such as Palmetto Bugs and is used in a variety of applications for indoor and outdoor use. In combination with gel poison baits, Insect Growth Regulators are among your most important tools in contending with Palmetto Bug infestations.

Martin’s Insect Growth Regulator is the hottest selling IGR available on the market today. Cost-effective, high-performance and rapid-acting, it is a favorite among homeowners. Used to systematically disrupt the reproduction cycle of Palmetto Bugs, IGRs are used to prevent nymphs from reaching adult status, thus rendering it incapable of reproducing. Massively effective for contending with current Palmetto populations as well as preventing future ones, IGRs should be reapplied regularly every four to six weeks for a total of six months to ensure a comprehensive elimination of the Palmetto Bug infestation.

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Palmetto Bugs: “Green Methods”


Ensure proper sanitation in your home. Remember that Palmetto Bugs require a trifecta of things to survive, including water, food, humidity and a place to hide. Be vigilant in keeping your home moisture free by sealing cracks and leaks. Wrap food tightly. Sweep up food particles. Do not leave food out on counters.


Repair nooks and crannies and other Palmetto hiding places. Use caulk to repair cracks and holes surrounding windows, frames, doors, baseboards, and even water pipes

Hiding places

In addition to sealing cracks, nooks, crannies and more, ensure that you discard piles of old papers, musty books, and old boxes where Palmetto Bugs are known to hide and forage for glue-based meals.

Your trash can

Make sure that you do not use an open-type trash can. Instead, opt for a trash can with a lid that fits tightly and securely. Tie garbage bags securely overnight for disposal in the morning.


Roaches can live without food and if they can obtain water from your leaky faucets and drains, they can live on it for months. Fix and seal all leaks immediately to circumvent their presence in these locations.

Use your vacuum cleaner regularly

To avoid the spread of Palmetto Bugs to other parts of your home via nail, skin, hair, and food particles.

Empty dog and cat food

Empty pet-food containers regularly, preferably every night or place them in a resealable plastic bag.


Have family members eat in the kitchen only to minimize the risk of Palmetto Bugs migrating to other rooms.

#1 Mission

Seal, caulk and repair your way through your house to make it exceedingly difficult for Palmetto Bugs to find an entry point to your home’s interior. All of your doors, windows, and frames should be attached securely and fit snugly to prevent possible entry by Palmetto Bugs. Also, try placing mesh-style screening over vents and floor drains and even windows that must be opened from time to time.

Palmetto Bugs: Professional Pest Control and Extermination

There are many benefits in using professional pest control services for your Palmetto Bugs extermination efforts. Armed with the experience, education, skills, and necessary equipment to systematically and comprehensively extinguish Palmetto Bug infestations, pest control companies take the guesswork out of the extermination process that many homeowners find confounding. With their expertise and arsenal of knowledge, pest control professionals will source Palmetto Bug hiding spots in and outside of your home to ensure that your home is pest-free, safe, and clean.

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