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What is a palmetto bug?

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Home > Blog >  What is a palmetto bug?

Do you have a pest problem? Perhaps unsurprisingly, most households have some pesky bugs roaming around. And I know the sight alone is enough to make some people sick.

Weirdly, bugs have a way of making entries in the least opportune times. Palmetto bugs are one of those bugs. But when people think of Palmetto, they think of roaches. I mean, they look and walk like roaches. Must they be roaches?

In this article, we will learn exciting facts about Palmetto bugs. Of course, we'll look into the proper ways to prevent or rid your homes of these bugs. 

Palmetto bugs are common in Florida. In the real sense, the palmetto bug is a term used to refer to a specific species of roaches. Therefore, if you thought palmetto bugs were roaches, you are right. That said, it's important to note that all cockroaches are not palmetto bugs.

There are about 4,000 cockroach species in total, and about seventy of these are found in the US. Palmetto is one of these species and native to Florida, which lends its other name, Florida wood cockroach (according to Wikipedia)

Understanding Palmetto Bugs (Florida wood cockroach

First, Palmetto is derived from the palmetto tree, where these bugs love to hang out. But that doesn't mean you won't find them indoors. At least, that's where most people feel their negative impact the most. 

In extreme scenarios, home owners have had to contend with a palmetto bug infestation.

The Palmetto bug's scientific name is Eurycotis floridana, and they are often confused with American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana). The latter is also native in Florida, and some online publications confuse it with the palmetto bug.

However, the palmetto bug has an uncanny resemblance with the female oriental cockroach ( Blatta orientalis). A casual observer might have a hard time differentiating the two cockroach species. 

Without scientific due diligence, most people use palmetto bugs to describe several roaches and beetle species. And we might be guilty of wrongly naming these bugs. Whatever the case, finding a lasting pest control measure is all that matters when they are terrorizing your kitchen.

How Does The Palmetto Bug Look Like?

These pesky bugs have a reddish-brown coloring coupled with brown wings and cream thorax. Compared with the American roaches, the Palmetto bug, 1.2 to 1.6 inches in size, is shorter by approximately half an inch. 

However, these two roach species are considered huge by all means. The palmetto bug can fly, but it's not such a skilled flier. The public has multiple names they refer to the palmetto bug with, including croton bug or water bug, etc.

They are also referred to as the Florida Skunk roach because of the foul-smelling splash (up to 1 m) they emit when scared.

Palmetto bugs are native to southwest America, specifically the state of Florida and the west indies. They love damp,moisture-filled conditions and a warm climate. While they are at home outdoors, they wander off in damp indoor places such as bathrooms or the kitchen area.

Under normal circumstances, you'll find the palmetto bug chilling on the tropical palmetto tree. The palmetto tree has fan-shaped leaves. They thrive on these trees, a common feature in the southeast.

Primarily, these roach species live on the tree's base but will enter your home while rummaging for food. They would not survive in colder climates. You'll find the palmetto bugs under litter, tree holes, or under crevices and boards outdoors. 

Notably, these bugs do not bite or sting; however, that does not negate that they are an eyesore and disturbance around the home. 

How Do You Identify The Palmetto Bugs?

Plants and leaves are Palmetto's staple diet. These bugs carry disease-causing pathogens because of their affinity to unsanitary areas such as drains. Plus, the bugs love to munch on decaying leftovers and meat.

If they make it to the kitchen, they can contaminate utensils, food, and dishes they come into contact with. People develop digestive-related symptoms from these pathogens, such as diarrhea, vomiting, sneezing, or severe asthma attacks.

Palmetto bugs are social critters and thrive in hundreds or thousands at a time. Imagine one of those stunts by Fear Factor on their contestant to get a clear picture of these bugs at home. They loved to pour thousands of bugs, roaches, even on a contestant in a box!

Otherwise, as we've seen, they prefer tree bases or inside hollow trees or on wood piles or shrubs. During pest control, a small inference will have them running all over.

To quickly locate them, examine all the damp places around your home, including the swimming pool section, sprinkler, or roof shingles. The palmetto bugs are nocturnal and like to scavenge for food at night. It's no surprise why they want dark and damp places.

They'll feed on anything they find, such as food scraps in your garbage. Interestingly, the palmetto bugs can survive for up to three months without food and one month without water. 

If you notice a palmetto bug inside the home, it's a sign of unfavorable outdoor conditions. Where should you search for them in your home? Besides the bathroom and kitchen damp sections, you can also search for them in crawl spaces, sewer, garbage bin, and frains. 

In the daytime, they are usually chill but wreak havoc in the night; worse still, it's a full-blown invasion when there's an infestation. A palmetto bug infestation means you can see them roaming during the day.

One clear sign of these bugs' invasion is the presence of chew marks on papers, curtains, bookbindings, or stamps. Further, their presence is denoted by a unique musty smell. They are attracted by starchy or sugary foodstuffs or substances. 

Still, you'll notice droppings and skins sheds that resemble pepper flakes normally visible in cracks and crevices. 

History Of Palmetto Bugs

Palmetto bugs have an exciting history, unbelievable even. The bugs are believed to have appeared on earth around 300 million years ago during the carboniferous period. Palmetto did not appear on the scene all by themselves, and they were accompanied by other familial insects such as crickets, dragonflies, cicada, grasshoppers, 

It would take another 150 million years before butterflies, bees, moths appeared after flowers came into the picture. Cockroaches, including palmetto bugs, have survived for years, even with other insects becoming extinct.

But that's not the juicy part of the story. The palmetto bugs are widely regarded as American as anything else American exports. However, these southern bugs we love to squash originated from Iran.

But that was when the country used to be the Persian empire. How did they cross the seas to make it to Southeast America? According to John Keasler in the Miami News, "the fascinating history of the Palmetto bugs."

John R Palmetto realized that the bugs could be trained to march and perform acrobatic tricks. This was a great addition to the circus world. Knowing he had a money-making act, he created the fantastic palmetto circus. And even P.T Barnum tried purchasing the talented cockroaches, but John refused.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when John took them on a national tour. The critters escaped from a train and found themselves in the Florida subtropical weather. And boy, it felt like back home in Persia. So the bugs stayed and established some colonies there.

The other urban legend claims that a real estate Salesman nicknamed the Palmetto bugs because they loved hanging around the Palmetto tree. Whichever story excites you more, don't forget that these bugs are nuisances. 

Palmetto bugs are well adapted to the weather of Florida and the Southeast region of America. 

How Do Palmetto Bugs Reproduce?

Reproduction starts with mating. In palmetto bugs, the female signifies her readiness to mate by raising her wings and releasing a pheromone. The pheromone attracts males for mating. In response to the mating call, the male will flap its wings in what seems like a wingy dance.

The female must then accept the male effort when she takes his advances, the male mounts on the female and deposits the sperms. Interestingly, a female can lay eggs for the rest of her lifespan from one mating.

Two days after mating, the female attaches her initial egg capsule on a plant stalk, branch, or wall. She sticks the egg capsule, otherwise referred to as ootheca, using her saliva. She picks the location that has fewer disturbances to attach the egg capsule.

She will repeat the same process once every week for the next fifteen to twenty weeks, which is the remainder of her lifespan. Within 50-55 days, the eggs will hatch into nymphs. The nymph is the lava stage of a cockroach. 

Typically, the nymphs go through ten to fifteen molts, and the initial one takes place before they exit the eggs. And all these take place between six months and a year before they reach adulthood. Initially, the nymph is about a quarter-inch long with a grayish-brown color changing color in every stage till they acquire their reddish-brown full-blown adult color. 

Difference Between Palmetto Bug and Cockroach

So far, we've seen that Palmetto bug is a collective term describing species of cockroaches native to Southeast America. You can say that all palmetto bugs are roaches, but not all roaches are palmetto bugs. 

What Can You Do to Deter Palmetto Bugs?

As we've seen from the discussion above, Palmetto bugs adore damp outdoor settings. However, they might make their way indoors if they run out of food or feel cold. Calm down, though, and these critters are out searching for food.

As a precaution, always keep your home dry because these bugs love dark and damp places. Some of the places that usually get damp include bathrooms and Kitchen sink areas, sprinkler systems, swimming pools, and sewers.

Some areas like your swimming pool and sewer systems or sprinklers are outdoors. However, your kitchen area should be dry at most times. 

Since the palmetto bugs are searching for food in the form of food, scraps ensure that you feed in one area of the house. You should eat food in one place to avoid turning different sections into their assembly points.

In essence, food scraps might fall in each section you eat from. The roaches have adapted to the changing human diet. Initially, they survived on a plant-based diet. But now, they feed on sweet and starch crumbles if they come into contact with them.

What else can you do to safeguard your home against palmetto bugs?

Here are more natural methods you can use to deter the palmetto bugs

  1. Use a homemade palmetto bug repellant: using mint oil makes a natural insecticide that is useful in killing palmetto bugs or any other form of roaches. Essential oils are a lifesaver and are used to repel pesky bugs. Mint oils are toxic to most bugs and repel them while masking the musty smell they leave behind after an infestation. You can make a scented spray by adding twenty drops of peppermint in a bottle filled with water. 
  2. You can make another natural spray mixing water and soap. This mixture is an affordable way of getting rid of palmetto bugs. Just mix equal parts of dish soap and water and pour it into a spray bottle, then hit the bugs the best shot you got!
  3. Using Coffee grounds, fill a jar with coffee grounds with water. Place this jar near the palmetto bugs because the mixture will attract them. They'll make their way into the jar. They won't be able to leave the jar. You can pour out the content of the jar after a few days.
  4. Using neem oil baits: buy natural neem oil and use it with the baits. Strategically place the baits along the palmetto bugs paths; the neem oil affects the Palmetto bugs' natural breeding cycle 
  5. Always clean your kitchen after meals: wipe the surface that has interacted with foods. While the food should be stored in watertight containers to deter the bugs from accessing it.
  6. Discard boxes or papers where the cockroaches might hide in the house. 
  7. Store your waste in a tightly closed bin while the waste should be kept tightly in a plastic bag. 

How To Permanently Get Rid Of Palmetto Bugs

Using Glue Traps

Glue traps are a standard method of getting rid of pesky bugs and pests. You have to place the glue traps strategically, especially where there's an influx of palmetto bugs. To get an idea of where to place them, you can review the previously marked sections as hotspots. You can use a toxic or non-toxic glue trap.

Using Boric acid Palmetto Bug Bait

Boric acid is an affordable way of getting rid of the critters. Boric acid can destroy bugs in two ways. One way is when the bugs ingest the boric acid. Once the acid is in the bug system, it will affect its digestive system. Eventually, it will mess with the bug's nervous system, killing it. A boric death is not instantaneous but effective nonetheless.

Alternatively, when boric acid comes into contact with the bug's exoskeleton, it will dry them out, killing them. Remember to handle boric acid with care because it is a toxic element.

Using Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

The food-grade diatomaceous earth comes in powder form. These substances are naturally abrasive. Sprinkle the powder near places with palmetto bugs. When they step on the powder, it will have the same effect as a man standing on shards of broken glass barefoot. While you might not feel the impact immediately, it affects the bugs eventually.

However, handling the powder with extra care is advisable because it is highly toxic if you inhale excess amounts. 

Consider Getting A cat.

Many cat owners report that a cat helps catch the roaches as they roam around the home. If you have considered getting a cat, getting rid of palmetto bugs is enough motivation. Some cats catch and feed on the roaches once they capture them.

Even so, cats should only be encouraged to catch the bugs but not feed on them because of the pathogens they carry with them. Scavenging bugs have disease-causing organisms that will affect your cat if ingested.

Seal all The Cracks and Gaps in The house

Sealing the cracks and gaps in the house won't kill the bugs; however, it will deter them from entering. Even though the palmetto bugs are relatively large, they can still pass through gaping holes and gaps.

One way to seal these gaps is through boarding the entry points. Further, close electrical outlets where bugs might enter your home. 

Final Thoughts

Palmetto bugs are typical roaches, albeit their distinguishing characteristics. Typically, they will remain outdoors on the base of the palmetto tree. Occasionally, they'll invade your home in search of warmth and food.

Naturally, they are adapted to eating plants, but they'll go for starch and sugary substances in your home. Again, they like hiding in damp and dark places. If you notice a few bugs crawling somewhere, you should prevent an infestation.

If there are hollow trees in your backyard, you can remove them. Keep the palmetto bugs magnet dry at all times. If the infestation is overwhelming, contact a pest control expert to rid you of the menace. 

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