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Palmetto Bugs: What You Need to Know About These Cockroaches

June 05, 2023

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Palmetto bug is another name for the American cockroach, one of the three main species of cockroaches that are common in the U.S. Palmetto bugs thrive in warm climates, especially in southeastern coastal areas with humid weather. When these insects invade a home, they typically head toward spaces with high humidity, such as kitchens, basements, and bathrooms. Keep reading to learn more about the palmetto bug and how to rid your home of an infestation.

What is a palmetto bug? 

A palmetto bug is a type of cockroach that’s also known as the American cockroach, the Florida woods cockroach, the smoky-brown cockroach, and other names, depending on where you live. The palmetto bug’s body is reddish and dark brown, with wings covering its abdomen. The insect has six legs and two straight antennae.

This large nocturnal bug measures about 1.5” long and 1” wide. Some species grow to be up to 2” long. The mature female palmetto bug can reproduce in large numbers. She can produce egg cases, called ootheca, every eight days. Each egg case holds 21-23 eggs that hatch after about 50 days. 

Close up of a palmetto bug or american cockroach on wood

Do palmetto bugs fly? 

Palmetto bugs can fly. The bugs tend to fly toward light. These types of cockroaches aren’t very good navigators. They can glide around haphazardly when frightened, looking like they’re sometimes heading straight for you. 

Do palmetto bugs bite? 

These insects rarely bite because they’re not aggressive. Since these pests have a very varied diet, it’s unusual for them to resort to biting humans. If it does happen, a palmetto bug bite doesn’t hurt, and the resulting mark on the skin can look much like a bed bug bite that’s small and red.

What health risks do palmetto bugs pose?

Palmetto bugs can transmit bacteria to humans through food contamination. The bugs often travel in sewers and outdoors, where they come into contact with human and animal excrement. They can then spread salmonella and shigella to humans if they enter your home and bring the bacteria with them. A bite from a palmetto bug can cause similar health risks.

Some people are allergic to the body parts, urine, and feces of cockroaches. This allergic reaction to palmetto bugs can trigger asthma attacks in some people.

What does a palmetto bug nest look like? 

Palmetto bugs don’t make nests. Instead, they tend to huddle together indoors in large numbers in dark, humid spaces. These insects mainly like to live outdoors, especially in tropical palmetto trees and in other spots with moisture, decaying vegetation, and wood to feed on. When they do enter homes, they spend the daylight hours hiding in gaps in walls, kitchen cabinets, behind electrical outlets, near water heaters, and other warm, moist areas. 

Rather than making nests for reproduction, female palmetto bugs attach their egg cases to their sides, where they can be close to food supplies. 

What attracts palmetto bugs? 

Palmetto bugs are highly attracted to water. The insects must drink water daily to avoid becoming dehydrated. Because they’re drawn to places where water is present, palmetto bugs come into homes with leaky pipes, dripping faucets, and humid basements. 

The inside of your home will also attract these cockroaches if the weather outside cools down. The insects will seek shelter indoors where it’s warmer. 

How to get rid of palmetto bugs

The most effective method for getting rid of palmetto bugs is to call a professional pest company like Hawx. If you’re looking to prevent palmetto bugs in the first place, here are some thing you can do:

  • Seal up all cracks that the insects can use to get into the house 
  • Fix any leaks in pipes and faucets
  • Make sure any cracks in tiles, around windowsills, and under door sweeps are well-caulked or sealed
  • Clean up liquid spills immediately and keep all food in sealed containers
  • Keep all trash can lids securely closed

Pest control services 

Call on the experienced professionals at Hawx Pest Control if you suspect palmetto bugs have taken up residence in or near your home. Our effective pest treatments and preventive services target these types of cockroaches at their sources, eliminating live bugs and removing traces of their odors and residue. Contact our team today to schedule a free estimate.

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