ABC Blog

Are Palmetto Bugs Florida’s Most Hated Pest?

palmetto bug

What’s dark brown, winged and lives in even the cleanest of homes in Florida? If you said a palmetto bug, you are correct! If you didn’t (or even if you did), you can learn more about Florida’s most hated pest below.

Difference Between Palmetto Bugs and Cockroaches?

Quite simply, a palmetto bug is another name for the American cockroach. This species is the largest of the domestic cockroaches, averaging around four centimeters long. While German roaches are the most common roaches found across the country, American roaches are the second most prevalent. You can find palmetto bugs indoors in Florida, especially in commercial settings. In the northern states, palmetto bugs are found more often in steam heat tunnels or inside of large buildings.

Believe it or not, the American cockroach arrived in this country in 1625 from Africa. As with many other pests, cockroaches have mostly been spread through commerce. Although you are more likely to find cockroaches in restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and other places where food is stored and prepared, palmetto bugs can also make their way into homes, particularly after it rains. Outside, roaches are prevalent in damp areas with high humidity, such as in hollow trees, woodpiles, compost piles and in mulch. You can sometimes find palmetto bugs under roof shingles or around your attic. Roaches often make their way indoors in search of food or water. It should come as no surprise that you are likely to find roaches in and around where you keep your garbage.

Roaches are often on the move, using sewers and trees and shrubs to travel from one place to another. Since palmetto bugs don’t like bright conditions, during the day you may spot one near your sink, bath or toilet.

We’ve compiled a few of our most frequently asked customer questions and useful tips to help you eliminate Orlando’s most hated pest.

What do palmetto bugs look like?

Knowing what the bugs, their nymphs and their eggs look like is the easiest way to determine whether or not you are dealing with palmetto bugs.

A female cockroach lays her eggs in a brown egg case which is about 8 millimeters long and 5 millimeters tall. This hard, purse-shaped case is called an ootheca. The ootheca contains the water the eggs need to develop. Females can lay up to two oothecae a week and each case contains about 16 eggs. The female places the ootheca near a food source, sometimes using her saliva to glue it to a surface.

Once an egg hatches, the palmetto bug becomes a nymph until it becomes an adult. When it’s born, an American cockroach is white. After molting, the roach changes from a reddish-brown to become darker in color. The average roach molts anywhere from six to 14 times. The nymph stage lasts around two years.

Full-grown palmetto bugs usually live another year or so after the nymph stage. A female roach can produce about 150 offspring during its lifetime. Adults are usually reddish-brown and range in size from one to two inches, with long thick antennae. These insects do have wings. The presence of either nymphs and eggs is a warning sign that a home might be infested.

The presence of either nymphs or eggs is a warning sign that a home might be infested.

Do palmetto bugs make noises?

The sound of a person stepping on a palmetto bug is probably the loudest noise attributed to these pests. Aside from the fluttering of wings or the clicking and scampering sounds that a variety of bug species make, palmetto bugs don’t typically make a lot of noise. However, some species of cockroaches do hiss and chirp.

Do roaches pose health risks?

Yes. Cockroaches carry bacteria into your home. They can crawl into pantries and cabinets where cookware, plates, and cutlery are kept, effectively spreading the infectious bacteria to your food source. Since roaches can often travel through sewer systems, they can also transmit viruses. We most often find palmetto bug nests in homes in and around the kitchen area.

Under normal circumstances, cockroaches do not bite humans. These pests are omnivorous, meaning they eat meat and plant-based substances, but they do not feed on humans or our blood the way other insects, like mosquitoes, do. What roaches do that is harmful to humans is to contaminate food by defecating on the food we eat or leaving behind empty eggs, dead skin or tiny hairs. In addition, roaches often regurgitate food while eating and some of that residue may be left behind if palmetto bugs find something tasty in your pantry.

How do I know if I have a roach infestation?

If you see multiple dead adult roaches around your home, multiple nymph-sized immature roaches and the tiny oval-shaped egg sacks, you may have an infestation on your hands. If you think you have these roaches hiding in your home, look to the dark corners and damp spaces, like under the refrigerator and in the pantry or laundry room. A serious infestation can be identified by a strong musty smell that is often associated with these bugs.

Will palmetto bugs try to crawl into my ears, nose or mouth while I am asleep?

It might sound silly, but people really do ask this question. No, roaches do not intentionally try to crawl inside living people’s heads.

It is true that cockroaches like damp and dark hiding spots, but your ear and mouth are also attached to the rest of your body. Cockroaches will avoid a human if they know they’ve encountered one, because humans are perceived as a threat.

That said, it isn’t uncommon to find a palmetto bug crawling on your bed if your bed is in the travel path between the insect’s entry point or nesting area and the food source it is trying to reach. Keep in mind that under your bed would be the ideal hiding spot for a roach who is trying to avoid bright areas.

If you find much smaller brown bugs in your bed, you might have a bed bug problem on your hands.

How to Keep Palmetto Bugs Away

The one question we don’t have to answer is whether or not your family wants to get rid of palmetto bugs. Of course you do!

The truth is that even the cleanest of homes are subject to an occasional invader from the outdoors. But there are a few things you can do to minimize the chances of an infestation:

  • Do the dishes. Roaches of all kinds will go wherever food is available to them, and that means a sink full of dirty dishes will be a magnet for these pests.
  • Reduce clutter. Keep your pantry, laundry room, closets and other dark storage areas of your home organized. De-cluttering your space leaves little room for cockroaches to hide.
  • Secure food containers and trash cans. Keep lids on trash cans, pet food and other food containers in your kitchen.
  • Seal entry points. If you live around a lot of tree cover and foliage, you are likely to see a palmetto bug or two around your property. Make sure your windows are screened off from the outdoors and that there are no ways for these creatures to find their way indoors.

If you have spotted a few cockroaches, you can take steps to eliminate them on your own.

  • Sprinkle boric acid around entry points and in areas that are vulnerable to cockroaches. You can find boric acid in the detergent aisle of the drug store. If you have pets and children, make sure they cannot access and ingest this chemical.
  • Place satchels of catnip in dark or damp areas of the home, like the closet or the pantry, to deter roaches naturally.
  • Store-bought treatments may be effective. A few different types include glue strips, gel bait and bait stations.

Call in the Experts for Roach Control

Roaches can multiply quickly and eat almost anything, so homeowners usually find it challenging to control these pests without bringing in the experts. Trust the pest control technicians at ABC to quickly diagnose the source of your roach problem and suggest a treatment plan to address your palmetto bug problem. Once the roaches are gone, we can also suggest ways to keep them out in the future. Schedule a service today.

Learn More