Mosquitoes flying around

The Difference Between Palmetto Bugs and Cockroaches

May 03, 2023

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Taking action when you first spot cockroaches can simplify dealing with infestations. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about the different species of cockroaches, so it can be difficult to know when you should call in the pros. This post will explain the difference between cockroaches, palmetto bugs, and waterbugs. 

What’s the difference between a palmetto bug vs. a cockroach? 

Many people wonder what a palmetto bug is compared to a cockroach, but they’re actually the same thing. Palmetto bug is another name for the American cockroach, one of the three main species of cockroaches that are common in the U.S.

Are palmetto bugs cockroaches?

Palmetto bugs are American cockroaches. They’re cousins of the German cockroach, which is the most common type of cockroach in the U.S. Here are some key differences between the two:

  • Color: Palmetto bugs are usually reddish-brown or dark brown in color, while German cockroaches are lighter brown.
  • Markings: German cockroaches usually have dark lines running the length of their heads. Rather than stripes, American cockroaches usually have lighter markings behind their heads that look similar to eye spots when you view the insects from above.
  • Locations: Palmetto bugs tend to live inside drains and in basements and crawl spaces. You’re more likely to find German cockroaches in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Diet: Palmetto bugs eat organic matter like paper, hair, and food scraps. German cockroaches usually live off human food like grease, sugar, starch, and meat.
  • Movements: Palmetto bugs will use their wings to glide rather than fly. While German cockroaches have well-developed wings, they tend to scuttle and crawl over surfaces rather than glide or fly from place to place.
Close up of a palmetto bug or american cockroach on wood
Palmetto Bug (American Cockroach)

Palmetto bug vs. cockroach size 

The common German cockroach and the palmetto bug also differ in size. American cockroaches are usually around 1 to 2 inches long, while German cockroaches are smaller, at about ½ inch long.

What’s the difference between a palmetto bug vs. a waterbug? 

Palmetto bug is another name for the American cockroach, while waterbug is the common name for the Oriental cockroach (and sometimes the American cockroach as well, just to make things confusing). Like the American cockroach, the Oriental cockroach prefers wet areas like basements and drains. However, the Oriental cockroach prefers to live outdoors in leaf litter and organic material, and can be found primarily in northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the humid Southeast. American cockroaches start to get more common in the northern U.S.

Palmetto bugs and waterbugs look quite different from each other. While the American cockroach is usually reddish-brown with a dull body, the Oriental cockroach is typically black and has a glossy shine. 

Oriental Cockroach crawling on a branch
Waterbug (Oriental Cockroach)

What types of insects look like cockroaches?

It turns out that palmetto bugs and waterbugs are other names for species of cockroaches, but there are also insects that look like cockroaches but aren’t. Some insects you may mistake for cockroaches include:

  • Crickets: With their flat black bodies, crickets can look like Oriental cockroaches. However, the chirping sounds make it easy to tell the two insects apart.
  • Giant water bugs: The giant water bug is black in color like the Oriental cockroach but is much bigger, at around 1 inch in length. You’ll likely see water bugs near ponds and other outdoor water sources rather than indoors or in plumbing systems.
  • June bugs: June bugs, or June beetles, are reddish-brown like palmetto bugs, but you’re more likely to see them flying rather than gliding. They have rounder, wider bodies than cockroaches.

How to get rid of palmetto bugs and cockroaches in your home

Palmetto bugs and other types of cockroaches can be difficult to deal with on your own. Although there are home remedies for these pests out there, they often fail to completely eliminate infestations.

The best thing you can do if you spot any species of cockroach is to call a professional pest control company. Experienced professionals can locate nesting points and develop a treatment plan to effectively address infestations.

Pest control services 

Hawx Pest Control has the state-of-the-art technologies, trusted tools, and high-quality products needed to deal with cockroaches. Our licensed pest control technicians know how to find cockroaches and address them in the most effective way. What’s more, we will work to locate potential entry points for you to fix or block to reduce the risk of cockroaches returning in the future. You can also count on us to share cockroach prevention tips for ongoing pest control and recommend a maintenance treatment schedule as needed.

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