If you live in a sub-tropical or warm climate like Jackson, MS, then you’re probably familiar with the palmetto bug, one of the most common types of cockroaches.
How much do you know about palmetto bugs? Let’s find out! Keep reading to learn all about the palmetto bug’s lifestyle and how to prevent an infestation.
What Is a Palmetto Bug?
Palmetto bugs are a species of cockroach.
The bugs are native to southern Africa. Slave ships brought the roaches to America during the 1800s.
There are two types of palmetto bugs that are most commonly found in warm, American states. They are the smokybrown cockroach and the American cockroach.
Smokybrown roaches have dark bodies, while the American cockroach is black. The American cockroach also has dark markings that resemble sunglasses around the bug’s eyes.
Where do palmetto bugs live? The cockroaches are commonly found in southern regions where climates are mild. The insects prefer temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and cannot survive in weather below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Palmetto bugs are drawn to warm and moist areas. Outside, they are commonly found in:
- Cracks and crevices
- Roof shingles
- Crawl spaces
- Ponds and swimming pools
If palmetto bugs get inside the home, they will hide in dark and damp places. This includes basements, under sinks, and beneath major appliances (such as the dishwasher or fridge).
When a female palmetto bug raises her wings into the air, it means she is ready to mate. As she does this, her body releases pheromones to attract nearby males.
A male will flap its wings to signal he wants to breed with a female. Males move backward into the female and deposit sperm. A female palmetto bug only needs to mate once to remain fertile for the rest of her life.
One to two days after mating, the female palmetto will deposit egg capsules. She will use saliva to attach the eggs to a damp area that won’t be disturbed. This includes branches, walls, and plants.
The female will continue depositing egg capsules for the rest of her life (which can be anywhere from 15 to 20 weeks). Each capsule contains about fifteen eggs.
Eggs hatch into nymphs after 50 days. The larvae take six to 12 months before reaching adulthood. They are less than a quarter of an inch in length and have a grey-brown color. The nymphs’ colors turn to reddish-brown as they enter adulthood.
Palmetto bugs have stomachs of steel. Their diet can include:
- Decaying wood
- Other insects
- Fungi and algae
- Animal food
The palmetto bug’s stomach has the ability to digest any type of organic matter, which allows the insects to enjoy a diverse diet.
Palmetto bugs live in large groups. They can survive up to one year, with females living slightly longer than males. The insects are natural survivalists and can live without feeding for up to three months.
How To Identify Palmetto Bugs
Palmetto bugs are between 1.5 and 2 inches in length, making them the largest type of cockroach found in the United States. Some long-living males are more than two inches long.
The insects have a dark-brown back and a light brown head. Palmetto bugs are nocturnal, so you’re most likely to come across them at night.
Males have wings that extend longer than females. But while both males and females have wings, the palmetto bug is rarely found flying.
Palmetto Bugs vs. Waterbugs
Palmetto bugs prefer moist regions and gravitate towards the water. In doing so, they are commonly mistaken for waterbugs.
Waterbugs are aquatic creatures. They have legs that act as paddles and stay afloat. While palmetto bugs live in damp areas, they cannot swim.
Palmettos are commonly found in sticks or logs around water, while waterbugs live in the water.
Palmetto Bugs vs. Cockroaches
Palmetto bugs are one out of 4,500 species of cockroaches throughout the world. While palmetto bugs are cockroaches, not all types of cockroaches are palmetto bugs.
People in the south refer to cockroaches are palmetto bugs because they are commonly found around palm leaves and shrubs.
Do Palmetto Bugs Bite?
While the insects can be annoying to find in your house, palmetto bugs do not pose an immediate threat to your family’s safety.
The insects will avoid people as much as possible. They rarely attack humans. If they bite, the bugs will leave a small red mark that fades within a few hours.
While they are not physically threatening, palmetto bugs can trigger asthma and allergies. Their droppings and shedding skin stimulate allergic reactions and can cause breathing problems.
Palmetto bugs can also transmit bacteria like salmonella and contaminate food sources.
What Attracts Palmetto Bugs To the Home?
Palmettos, and other types of roaches, will come inside the home for three reasons.
First, inclement weather drives the bugs indoors. Extreme temperatures, floods, and severe storms can make Palmetto bugs crawl inside for refuge.
Second, palmetto bugs will retreat into a house if there is food. Trash, pet food, and clutter can become an easy meal for a palmetto bug. The insects will hide during the day and feed during the night, making it hard to spot an infestation.
Third, palmetto bugs are attracted to damp and moist areas. Leaky pipes, stagnant water, holes, and cracks around the home create the perfect home for female palmettos to lay their eggs.
Preventing Palmetto Bug Infestations
Palmetto bugs are adaptable and not shy. If the weather outside gets cold or unsuitable, they will make themselves at home inside your house.
But the more homeowners know about why palmetto bugs are attracted to their home, the easier it is to prevent an infestation.
Keeping a tidy home can prevent insects from finding easy-to-access food sources. Clean your kitchen regularly, do not leave food out in the open, and empty the garbage regularly. Put away pet food overnight.
Clean up your home’s exterior. Rake dead leaves and dispose of rotting logs.
Decrease moisture throughout your home. Use dehumidifiers to keep the air dry. Check for water leaks around appliances, under sinks, and in bathrooms. Don’t keep standing water in or around your home.
Keep your home entrances secured to prevent the bugs from entering your home.
Seal cracks and holes around your foundation. Repair tears in window screens. Cover gaps around doors, windows, and attic vents.
You can also stop roach infestations by planting shrubs that naturally repel roaches. Catnip, bay leaves, chrysanthemums, cucumber, and garlic are plants known to keep pesky palmetto bugs away from your home. Adding these shrubs around the perimeter of your home can deter roaches from seeking shelter inside your residence.
How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs
Despite preventative measures, palmetto bugs may still find themselves inside your home. If this happens, there are a few different ways to eliminate the insects and stop the infestation from spreading.
If you spot a lone palmetto, try to kill it. They will likely be crawling, making it easy to crush them with a shoe or heavy object.
The problem with seeing one roach is there are probably more that you don’t see. Set up traps in areas where the roaches are most likely to frequent. This includes under kitchen sinks, in laundry rooms, and around trash cans.
Keep in mind that if you are using palmetto bug traps, keep them out of the reach of small children or pets.
Natural ingredients can act as poison for the pests. Vinegar and water mixtures will kill the bugs without posing risks to young kids or other animals.
Mix white distilled vinegar with warm water. Spray the mixture into the areas where the palmetto bugs have been spotted. The smell should prevent them from returning. Boric acid also works.
If you’re overwhelmed with a palmetto bug infestation, professionals can help.
A professional pest control company will determine the severity of your infestation and implement the most effective elimination methods. Professionals can safely administer pest control treatments to efficiently get rid of palmetto bugs once and for all.
Let Your Local Experts Eliminate Household Pests
Palmetto bugs are a type of cockroach that can become serious household pests. The insects can carry harmful bacteria and trigger allergic reactions.
While there are various ways to prevent an infestation, palmetto bugs are resourceful and may still find a way into your home.
Are you tired of dealing with palmetto bugs? If so, let our qualified pest control team help. Our specialists know how to ensure your home is clear of annoying pests and rodents.
Learn more about our residential pest control services. Together, we will eliminate roaches once and for all. Did you know Synergy² is a full-service pest company specializing in difficult-to-treat pest problems such as bed bugs and termites?
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