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Palmetto Bug [Is it a COCKROACH?]

Palmetto bugs go wherever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the newness or cleanliness of the structure. They are the true apex species of Florida and will allow humans to live here only as long as they are amused by the sound of our screams” – An average Floridian (Reddit)

What is a palmetto bug?

Species of cockroaches that are larger than 1 inch are the same thing as palmetto bugs. It’s a regional name, which was first assigned to Florida Wood Cockroaches found in palmetto trees.

Later on, American & Smooky Brown cockroaches are also called palmetto bugs.

Below is a size comparison of commonly referred palmetto bugs.

Palmetto Bug Cockroaches size comparison

So, to simplify, LARGE COCKROACH = PALMETTO BUG (Larger than an inch), no matter what the species is. Be it the American cockroach, or Australian, or Florida wood, etc.

The world’s largest-ever palmetto bug found on record is common in Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.

The largest ever seen measures 4.5 inches in length and an estimated wingspan of 8.6 Inches.

This cockroach species is not common in the US, and you will be unlikely to come across any.

Other than that, the most common large palmetto bugs are the American cockroaches, growing up to 53mm (2 in) in length.

German Cockroaches are not palmetto bugs, and they tend to live inside, unlike palmetto bugs which live outsides. German cockroaches are quite small in size, and they will infest your home.

Palmetto Bug vs Cockroach

Palmetto bug is a regional name, first assigned in Florida state to a type of roaches found in palmetto tree trunks.

Later on, multiple species of roaches got the name. So, all cockroaches are not palmetto bugs, but every palmetto bug is a cockroach.

The American Cockroach, the Florida Wood Cockroach, the Australian Cockroach, and the Smoky Brown Cockroach are all referred to as palmetto bugs. The rule of thumb is its size.

They are normally larger than an inch; they like to live mainly outdoors but can be found indoors.

Palmetto Trees where palmetto bugs were commonly found.
Palmetto bugs, an outdoor insect
palmetto bugs on a branch of a tree

Species of palmetto bugs

There are many species of roaches worldwide, and around 60-70 are found in the USA. All of them are not palmetto bugs, but these are particularly referred to as palmetto bugs.

1. American Cockroaches – the most famous palmetto bugs

American Cockroach Palmetto Bug

The American cockroaches are the biggest in size and are commonly referred to as palmetto bugs.

Referred to as Palmetto BugYes.
Size30 mm to 53 mm
LifeUp-to 2 Years
Scientific NamePeriplaneta americana
HabitatIndoor: Prefer a moist, humid, and dark environment, particularly around pipes and drains.
Outdoor: In Sewers, Moist, humid environment areas such as tree holes and under mulch or similar landscape materials
Suitable TemperatureActive in Summer, favor 70-80 Fahrenheit
Die below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
FlyingBoth males and females can fly a short distance
AppearanceColor: Reddish-brown to brown color
Identity Mark: A yellowish mark in the shape of 8 on the back of the head, Large Size, Translucent wings,
Mode of entryDrain pipes, laundry vents, foundation cracks glide through from trees & branches.
ReproductionFemales produce 9-10 (range 6-14; maximum 90) oothecae, containing 14-16 eggs.
GeographyFound across the globe
HistoryOrigin: Africa
Reached the US via transportation on an infested ship

2. Florida Wood Cockroaches – the original palmetto bugs

The Florida Wood Cockroaches, as suggested by its name, were commonly spotted while cutting palm trees by the locals and got the palmetto bug name for the first time.

Florida Wood Cockroach Palmetto Bug
Referred as Palmetto BugYes. Original palmetto bugs.
Size30—40 mm (1.20—1.60 in)
LifeCan exceed 1 year
Scientific NameEurycotis floridana
HabitatIndoor: Does not infest homes & tend to live outside
Outdoor: Leaf litter, flower beds, compost, tree holes, and under mulch or similar landscape materials
Suitable TemperatureActive in Summer, favor 70-80 Fahrenheit
Die below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
FlyingNo wings & cant fly.
AppearanceColor: Reddish-brown to nearly black.
Identity Mark: No wings, wider bodies, slow, stinky, multiple bands on the back
Mode of entryIt can be brought in with other items like wood fire or by wandering via small gaps and openings.
ReproductionFemale lay first ootheca in 55 days.
48 days to hatch at 30°C–36°C.
Nymphs undergo six to eight molts in 100–120
GeographyNative to Southeastern states of USA
HistoryOrigin: Florida State

3. Smokybrown Cockroaches – Also known as the palmetto bug

The smokybrown cockroach is also referred to as a Palmetto Bug. These roaches are similar in shape to American roaches but are slightly smaller in size with no visible yellow band above their heads.

Referred as Palmetto BugYes.
Size28—38 mm (1.15—1.50 in)
LifeCan exceed 1 year
Scientific NamePeriplaneta fuliginosa
HabitatIndoor: Prefer a moist, humid, and dark environment, particularly around pipes and drains.
Outdoor: In Sewers, Moist, humid environment areas such as tree holes and under mulch or similar landscape materials
Suitable TemperatureActive in Summer, favor 70-80 Fahrenheit
Die below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
FlyingMagnificent flyers. It can fly better than American cockroaches.
AppearanceColor: Dark smoky brown color
Identity Mark: Consistent brown color, very shiny. Dark brown head.
Mode of entryDrain pipes, laundry vents, foundation cracks glide through from trees & branches.
ReproductionFemales produce 8-10 egg cases, with 20 eggs per case, up to 32  oothecae in one lifetime.
GeographyCommon in Japan, southern United States, Australia
HistoryOriginated in southern China (Source)

Flying palmetto bugs

Not all types, but most of the palmetto bugs can fly or glide short distances. They are most active in a warm and humid environment and you will spot them taking a flight in late July, or early August.

You can check this article to learn more about palmetto bugs flying: Do palmetto bugs fly?

Are Palmetto bugs harmful?

Although palmetto bugs usually do not bite humans. When they do bite there is a small bite site reaction (a red spot).

Moreover, they can sometimes act as transmitters in diseases like Typhoid by transmitting the bacteria Salmonella Typhi (Reference).

Their feces or pieces of the shed exoskeleton can trigger Asthma attacks in prone patients (Reference).

I have written a complete article on when and how palmetto bugs bit. You can check it here:

I have written a complete article on when and how palmetto bugs bit. You can check it here: Do palmetto bugs bite?

Palmetto bugs and your home

Palmetto bugs can end up in your homes due to multiple ways. Unlike other insects, roaches need a regular source of water supply, so they keep searching for it.

Unfortunately, this can bring them inside your clean house as well. Removal of all sources of moisture in your clean house, like leaky roofs & pipes, running taps, seepage, fridge condenser leaks, and water stagnation around appliances and inside indoor plant trays, can significantly reduce a roach infestation.

A Palmetto bug or roach can come up through drains in your clean house.

Since the sewer system is the natural habitat of American cockroaches, they can find their way through sewer drainpipes into your clean bathrooms, kitchen, toilets, laundry, or other parts of your house.

Here is how to handle a palmetto bug hiding in your bathroom.

Aggregation pheromone — a musty odor” from another palmetto bug is the top of the list item which attracts a palmetto bug. Other things attracting cockroaches are the smell of decaying & decomposing plants & vegetation, and feces. A humid, dark & warm environment will also attract palmetto bugs.

How long can a palmetto bug live in a house? The palmetto bugs are very resilient creatures and they can live up to 1 month without eating and even a week without drinking in a house.

The overall life span is 2 years from hatching to adult under ideal conditions like inside a damp place in a house. Here is a complete article on How long can a palmetto bug live?

Palmetto Bug Infestation in homes

One palmetto bug does not mean there will be more. Palmetto bugs like to live outside & will rarely infest your house.

To confirm there are no more palmetto bugs in your house, try to notice any musty smell, shredded brownish skins, egg sacks, and droppings around possible hiding places.

Palmetto bugs of the Florida wood cockroaches species are unlikely to infest homes as they are slow and like eating decomposing and decaying plants.

However, the American & smokybrown species of palmetto bug still tend to infest homes and are found near drains of bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and basements.

Signs of palmetto bugs infestation

To identify an ongoing roach infestation, you can look for multiple signs that will help you conclude.

I have also made a complete guide that will help you conclude a palmetto bug infestation. Check it here: 11 Steps to conclude a Palmetto Bug Infestation

1. Look for palmetto bug egg sacks:

A palmetto bug eggs sack looks like a closed capsule in dark brownish color, with a hard case.

The most identifying feature is its size of 13—16 mm (0.51 —0.63 in), and the dorsal edge of the sack will have 18—24 sequential saw-like teeth. It will be most of the time attached to a substrate. You can learn more about palmetto bug egg cases here.

A female palmetto bug will lay its eggs sack, also called an ootheca, onto a substrate like a decaying log which helps in osmoregulation to avoid excess water retention or dehydration.

Often, tiny creeks and crevices with the right amount of moisture provide these ideal substrate surfaces for roaches to lay eggs.

2. Palmetto Bug Noises

It’s difficult to hear out palmetto bug noises, but they do make it. Unlike crickets or cicadas, the sound is dead low.

It’s more like stridulations from their wings or other body parts or a chirping sound they produce when they are threatened. They also make a cracking noise when they eat.

You can check this resource page for more information on palmetto bug noises: Do Palmetto Bugs Make Noise?

Life Cycle of palmetto bug

Under ideal conditions, the palmetto bugs often survive up to 2 years but usually, they have a lifespan between 13 to 16 months.

Like other insects, palmetto bugs go through a series of changes to transform into adult bugs measuring 1.5 to 2 inches in length. After the eggs are hatched the tiny creatures measuring a few centimeters are called nymphs.

The nymphs pass through successive stages of molts to transform into either a female or male palmetto bug.

The duration of this cycle is 6 to 12 months. Once the female reaches adulthood she will secrete a pheromone that attracts the male.

After mating within the next couple of days the female will start laying eggs for up to 10 months. Different species of the palmetto bug have slightly different life-cycle.

Active season

Palmetto bugs throughout the year live in an active state and they do not hibernate during winter. But in winter they are lazy enough that they do not roam around the house. They are more active in warmer temperatures.

Palmetto bugs love a humid environment so they are most active during the rainy summer season this is usually at the end of summer.

This is the ideal time for their growth and mating. Most adult palmetto bugs die in winter this does not mean that cold weather is killing them but this is because most of the adult bugs have reached their life span.

How to keep palmetto bug away from your house

To keep palmetto bugs out of your house;

  1. Clear the sides of the house of leaves & keep your walls dry. This will keep palmetto bugs and other insects out.
  2. Fix all sources of moisture in your house, like leaky roofs & pipes, running taps, seepage, fridge condenser leaks, and water stagnation around appliances and inside indoor plant trays.
  3. Become a minimalist to reduce hiding places like stacks of newspaper, a ton of crockery, an unlimited number of appliances, etc.
  4. Keep your trash covered and regularly empty your bin.
  5. Keep your house neat & clean as palmetto bug like decomposing food & vegetation. Remove spilled-over pet & human food immediately.
  6. Store leftover food in airtight containers or inside the fridge.
  7. Regularly clean in and around your pet feeds.
  8. Keep the gap from the floor at the bottom of an exterior door almost nonexistent.
  9. Seal all holes, cracks, or crevices across your house’s cabinets, kitchen, and bathrooms.
  10. Spray around dishwashers (hot & wet with free eats), sinks, and around pipe entrances.
  11. Drop food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (You can eat it with a spoon, entirely safe for children and pets) in and around all possible hiding places. When a palmetto bug walks through a layer of diatomaceous earth, the powder clings to its legs. Later, when the roach cleans itself, the powder causes desiccation of micro-abrasions in the waxy layer of its exoskeleton, eventually leading to dehydration and death.
  12. Spread Amdro ant granules on the Perimeter of the house. They can pretty much take care of palmetto bugs most of the time. It’s better than baits as they aren’t nesting inside.
  13. Use gel baits and place them in & around all possible hiding places.

Methods to kill a palmetto bug

1. Using Baking Soda to kill a palmetto bug

Baking soda is readily available in our kitchens, so take an equal baking soda and sugar mixture & sprinkle it behind appliances, sink, dishwasher, etc.

Fortunately, the sugar in the mix will help attract palmetto bugs. So, once they ingest the baking soda, it will produce enormous quantities of gas which will likely burst their digestive tract, hence killing them.

2. Killing palmetto bug with Insecticides

You can easily get rid of palmetto bugs including baby palmetto bugs commercially available insecticides. Insecticides with the chemical composition of Permethrin SFR 36.8% or D-fense SC is one of them.

Ideally, spray the whole house including exterior walls and the foundation to kill the palmetto bugs.

You learn more about baby palmetto bugs here.

3. Using Boric acid to kill palmetto bugs

Boric Acid can kill palmetto bugs by disrupting their digestive, nervous, and skeletal systems.

Although this is a slow process and takes time (three days) but is an effective and long-term remedy as the boric acid will stay on surfaces for longer. Hence, so you will not see palmetto bugs roaming around anymore.

Palmetto bugs die after ingesting boric acid due to the following reasons:

  1. The abrasive nature of boric acid disrupts the palmetto bug’s digestive tract, puncturing it.
  2. Due to its acidic ph and osmotic property, the acid disturbs acid-base and fluid balance.
  3. The acid dissolves the exoskeleton of the bug.
  4. The boric acid also interferes with the palmetto bug’s neurotransmission, destroying nerve conduction.

Process: A mixture of boric acid and sugar should be prepared and kept along with various corners of the house.

After a couple of days, the house should be inspected for dead palmetto bugs.

4. Using Lysol to kill palmetto bugs

A common disinfectant Lysol is another cheap alternative to chemical insecticides which can effectively kill palmetto bugs on contact.

Lysol can easily clog the respiratory pores on the body of palmetto bugs and hence will suffocate them to death. Moreover, the alcohol in the Lysol has an excellent ability to destroy their eggs as well.

I have written a complete article on how does Lysol kills a palmetto bug.

5. Using Hairspray to kill a palmetto bug

Hair spray can kill a cockroach because it contains Carboxymethylcellulose, which is a sticky substance. The hair spray sticks the wings and legs of the cockroach together, which suffocates them and makes them immobile.

The immobility and suffocation lead them to their demise within a few hours. (Complete Article: Will hairspray kill a palmetto bug?)

Palmetto Bug Repallents

Palmetto bugs hate the smell of insect repellents, Permethrin SFR 36.8%, and D-Fense SC. Cinnamon, garlic, bay leaves, and coffee grounds are among the kitchen items the palmetto bug hates most.

The natural repellents which the palmetto bugs hate most include:

  1. Mint oil not only repels the palmetto bugs but is also lethal to them.
  2. Lavender oil
  3. Peppermint Oil also kills palmetto bugs.

Peppermint oil is an excellent palmetto bug repellent. Peppermint oil also kills them.

Check this post where I have discussed all natural roach replannats in detail including the benifits, effictivness and usage: Natural Palmetto Bug Repallants

Pets and animals which like to feast on Palmetto Bugs

You can also take care of palmetto bugs with help of some pet animals. For example, consider keeping a cat. Following is a list of animals that like to feast on palmetto bugs.

Palmetto bugs are eaten by

  1. Cockroach Wasp Spiders
  2. A pet or feral cat
  3. Domestic Hens, Turkeys, etc.
  4. Reptiles, including bearded dragons, monitor lizards, and leopard geckos, fondly prey upon them.
  5. Birds including pigeons and hawks like to eat a roach.
  6. A large size frog will also eat palmetto bugs.
  7. Rats also like to prey on palmetto bugs.
  8. Centipedes may also kill a palmetto bug, though keeping them is also a problem

Other than these, palmetto bugs and roaches are a great source of nutrition & protein for a wide range of animals.

Palmetto bugs growth rate

The population growth & multiplication of palmetto bugs varies among different species, but it’s not exponential like German cockroaches. The growth is dependent on the supply of food and water, a safe place for the eggs & nymph to survive.

Almost all types of roaches including palmetto bugs can lay fertilized eggs after a single mating for the rest of their lives.

The female of the American Cockroach species of palmetto bug, on average produces one egg case a month for ten months, laying 16 eggs per egg case.

So, in ideal conditions, a single pair can multiply 160x excluding further off-springs which is quite fast. (Source)

When the eggs, hatch, a baby palmetto bug relies on the same food as the adults do. They are omnivorous, and they will eat anything from food scraps to paper, garbage, and even hair.

Although the baby palmetto bugs preferably are attracted more to starchy and sweet foods like potatoes, rice, and bakery items.

So, the supply of food is directly proportional to palmetto bugs’ population growth.