How To Get Rid Of Palmetto Bugs

Palmetto bug is a name that is used to describe the Florida woods cockroach, its scientific name is Eurycotis floridana. It is often found on palmetto trees, which is how it got its name. It is commonly found in Florida and other nearby coastal areas, and is one of the largest cockroach species found in North America.

Palmetto Bug Identification

kill-palmetto-bugsThe palmetto bug is reddish-brown to black in color and has very small wings (they have fore wings and lack hind wings). They do not often fly and are clumsy and slow runners. Just like most of the other cockroach species the palmetto bug adults have flat elongated bodies with a set of long antennae and six legs. They are normally 1.2–1.6 inches (30–40 mm) long.

The species’ egg case is dark brown in color, 0.55–0.63 inches (14–16 mm) long, and contains 21-23 eggs. The egg case has indentations that show where the eggs are located. When alarmed, the adults emit an extremely foul smelling glandular secretion, this method of defense is quite unpleasant and has earned them alternate names like skunk roach and Florida stink roach.

It is often confused with the American cockroach, and many people use the ‘palmetto bug’ name to refer to the two species. Both cockroach species are large, and up to around 2 inches (around 5 cm) and are also superficially similar. One method of distinguishing them is by observing how the insects in question move, since the American cockroach is a proficient flier and runs more quickly than the Florida woods cockroach. Another difference between the two is that American cockroaches are usually found in large numbers in buildings while the Florida woods cockroach prefer outdoor conditions.

Signs Of A Palmetto Bug Infestation

The most conclusive sign of a palmetto bug infestation is simply seeing them in your house, but because they are nocturnal insects and prefer living outdoors they aren’t always easy to spot. You can use the signs below to identify a palmetto bug infestation.

  • Palmetto bug sighting – When a very severe infestation is present, the palmetto bug can often be seen during the day. Although this may not be true in all infestations, the severity of the palmetto bug infestation is directly proportional to the number of sightings during daylight hours. You can easily identify the palmetto bugs using the above descriptions. You may also see dead palmetto bugs.
  • Shell Casing – One of the most common signs of palmetto bugs is the presence of their small dark brown oval-shaped shell casings. These are usually found in hidden areas such as, behind kitchen cabinets, behind dishes, behind refrigerators, stoves and sinks, under floor drains and inside of motors and major appliances and within wall cracks.
  • Unpleasant Smell – Palmetto bugs give off a strong, oily odor, which becomes extremely pungent when they are in large numbers. Apart from the hygiene issues associated with a palmetto bug infestation in your home, their smell itself is quite unpleasant and it can easily permeate food that’s left exposed to the air.
  • Shed Skin – As immature palmetto bugs shed their skin, you can easily see old body shells around your house during the infestations. These body casings may include parts of a casing or maybe whole.
  • Fecal Matter – Palmetto bugs deposit fecal waste along the routes that they travel. Smaller palmetto bugs produce fecal waste that looks like black, sandy grains. You can also identify a palmetto bug infestation by sighting cockroach specks. These dark colored specks are regurgitated food and fecal pellets and they look like grains of ground pepper.
  • Other Signs – Since palmetto bugs will feed on nearly anything, including fabric and books, you may notice small holes on some of your items. You may also observe brown matter on your books and furniture, which is regurgitated food.

Where Palmetto Bugs Are Found

They prefer damp locations, and do well in warm, damp climates. Their native habitats include areas such as , such as West Indies and Florida. The species is found mostly outdoors and isn’t considered a major pest in houses. However they may sometimes be found indoors especially in extreme infestations and during cold weather conditions.

When they are found near houses, they are usually living in the surrounding trees, sheltered outdoor locations, such as under boards and lumber, under leaf litter, in tree holes, and other crevices. They may also be found in compost piles, vegetable or flower beds and shrubs. Outdoor garages and sheds that provide access to vegetation may also shelter palmetto bugs.

How To Kill Palmetto Bugs In 9 Steps

  1. Caulk the crevices, holes and cracks in your home (you may also use steel wool or copper mesh ) so that palmetto bugs don’t find routes through which they can enter your home. You can also use wire screens in air vents, windows and floor drains.
  2. Remove cardboard boxes from your home – The honeycomb design of cardboard provides palmetto bugs and other cockroaches the perfect space for reproducing and hiding.
  3. Eliminate water and food sources that palmetto bug could use such as leaks, dripping faucets, pet food and water, and dirty kitchens makes your house less attractive to palmetto bugs.
  4. Use a trash can that has a tight fitting lid.
  5. Fix any leaky faucets and drains ; palmetto bugs can live on water alone.
  6. At night empty pet food containers, or place them in a plastic bag.
  7. Vacuum your house regularly, and restrict consumption of food to one of the rooms. This will help in preventing palmetto bugs from spreading into others areas of your home.
  8. Baits -You can lightly dust boric acid where you have seen the bugs. You can also make your own bait by mixing one part sugar, two parts flour and one part boric acid. Add enough water to form little cakes or balls.
  9. Spray pesticide – The best organic sprays for palmetto bugs are the citrus products. To avoid purchasing expensive pesticides make your own natural pesticide by mixing one tablespoon of black pepper, 3.5 grams of tobacco dust and one teaspoon of liquid dish-washing detergent. Spray the mixture in areas where you can see the bugs. If you want to get rid of an extreme palmetto bug infestation it is advisable that you seek the help of a pest control expert.

Remember to always put the baits and pesticides in areas where children and pets cannot reach.

12 comments… add one
  1. Mike Leigh

    Thank you, very informative. Explained better than other sites. Alot easier for people not in the pest industry to understand.This site gives you good facts and does not just try to scare you into paying someone. Nice work

  2. Karen

    Do you mix it with water. All I see is pepper, tobacco dust and 1tsp of dish deteregent

  3. Mo Dye

    Last night as I was getting into MY CLEAN sheets and freshly turned mattress bed, and picked up my feather pillow to plump.. A HUGE BROWN PALMETTO BUG ran out from underneath. It stayed and hid on the top side of my mattress long enough to get my husband to chase, catch and kill it !! I had a hard time getting into that bed to sleep last night. I just now went into my kitchen and was soaking silverward in one side of my sink and LO AND BEHOLD ANOTHER ONE.. I ran water on it and tried to drown it, but it ended up flipping belly up under some silverware and that is where he is going to stay till my husband comes home. I just went around the house and placed shallow plastic lids with that Boric Roach killer powder in most every room !!! I never had any idea that one could climb up on a bed.. and a clean one at that !!!

    1. KLB

      Oh my goodness, I just had my first experience with one on my bed as well, I’m not sure how it got there but I moved a pile of my husbands clothes that I was going to hang in the closet and i set it on the vanity in our room. Then all of a sudden there was one of those disgusting palmettos bugs. I let my husband kill it. However I began combing our bedroom and found multiple droppings on our bed. Im a so grossed out and terrified to sleep in our bed tonight.

  4. Rhonda

    We are finding them coming in our house and I am freaking out!!! We live in TN and I always thought these lived in FL. I have looked outside to try to find a nest somewhere to get rid of it. My husband and son have went in the attic to put pesticides out up there in case there were any there. Some of the ones we are seeing are dying, so I know the spray we are spraying all over the perimeter of the house and rooms is helping, but some are still alive and well when we find them. I am glad the stuff is killing some of them, but I want them 100% GONE and not even coming in to die. I am losing my mind here folks. Anyone know where else outside I need to be looking? Inside?

  5. Sharon DePasqua

    I just had one fly in my hair,laying in bed with the light on flew in from the hall. I also screemed and had my husband come kill it.
    GROSS.

  6. George

    The bug can some times be spotted if you go into your kitchen after dark when you turn on the light. I keep a spray bottle of kitchen cleaner where I can find it in the dark. Get the spray bottlle, turn on the light & if you see one spray it over & over again. Usually they will slow down enough where you can grab them with paper towel. Then you can let it go outside or kill it. I’ve heard of people using hair spray but that’s messy to clean up. If you do it this there is no doubt the bug is taken care of & you just wipe up the cleaner you sprayed.

  7. Margaret

    we get these bugs a lot in South Carolina and i have found 91% alcohol kills them in a few seconds. and use of citrus oil in and around doors and windows. cover all drain holes with a stopper or or inexpensive mesh drain food catchers. I have noticed no bugs when i filled the crevices along the base of the house outside with borax. keep all cardboard boxes, papers that are not necessary out of the house. Use the vacuum sealed bags to store clothes papers and any items the critters like. Use cedar blocks in closets and draws.
    If all this fails get a pest control company.

  8. Donna

    LET IT GO OUTSIDE?!!!! Never. Search and destroy! I want the last sight they see in this life to be the bottom of my shoe. . .

  9. Dee

    My husband found hundreds of them when he cut a branch off of our palm tree
    How do I treat the palm so that I don’t kill the tree

  10. Doreen

    This a.m. during pool aerobics in our condo pool, a huge palmetto bb, that initially looked like a long brown leaf, started swimming toward us. The best workout i ever got was clawing my way out of the pool without using the stairs. We caught it with the pool net n flung it over the bushes into the parking lot. I’ve seen them around occasionally, even though they spray once a month, but I didn’t know they swam like Michael Phelps! Ugh!

  11. Linda G

    I recently bought a condo in Myrtle Beach after spending many winters here. I had never seen a palmetto bug in any of my rentals or any friends place.
    My unit is a downstairs end unit. I have the air conditioning units for the whole building outside my wall.
    My HOA pays for a professional company to come out once a month to spray the interiors of all units in the building. I seem to be the only one who has a problem with these big disgusting things. I am away some days to a month and I come in to find 6-30 of these dead or almost dead. My house is clean, no food left out and no dripping water. I have found them in bathtub, outside bathroom and even in bedrooms. I find it hard to sleep some nights. I wish I knew what else to do to keep them out.

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