Best known as a species of cockroach, palmetto bugs have existed for millions of years, so they’re experts at adapting to their surroundings. They can—and do—eat just about anything, including food crumbs, glue, soap, cosmetics, pet food, paper, leather, and (yuck) other insects. They can also survive up to three months with no food at all.
Palmetto bugs are abundant throughout the hot, humid American South, yet they also thrive in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
While they’re not likely to bite you, palmetto bugs and palmetto bug droppings can lead to a bacterial or viral disease. It’s important to do everything you can to remove them from your home or apartment. In this article, we’ll help you identify and get rid of palmetto bugs and offer a few effective strategies to keep them from coming back.
How to Identify Palmetto Bugs
A palmetto bug is dark or reddish brown and 30-40 mm long. It has short wings on its sides so it can glide from high places to the ground. Palmetto bugs rarely use their wings to fly, but they will fly to escape a dangerous situation.
If you see one palmetto bug, there are probably many more nearby. Female palmetto bugs can lay up to 90 eggs in their lifetime after mating just once. The eggs hatch inside an egg case, which looks like a tan or brown medicine capsule that you may find in a cupboard near food.
Where to Usually Find Palmetto Bugs
During warm-weather months, palmetto bugs live outdoors in sewers and tree stumps and under mulch. They find their way indoors when the temperature drops and get inside by crawling through gaps in doors and windows, torn screens, and cracks.
If you suspect you have an infestation, look for palmetto bugs in the dark and damp areas of your home, such as:
- Under the sink or refrigerator
- In attics and crawl spaces
- Near plumbing fixtures or septic tanks
- Around the swimming pool Under piles of leaves or mulch
- Underneath roof shingles
- Inside tree stumps and bushes
How to Get Rid Of Palmetto Bug Infestations in the Home
Because they pose a health hazard, you want to get rid of palmetto bugs especially when they begin to leave droppings. Here are a few natural and chemical options that help:
- Peppermint can drive palmetto bugs outside because they don’t like the smell of it. Fill a spray bottle with water and add 20 drops of peppermint oil, then spray it into their hiding places. This home bug spray is safe for pets and works well as child-friendly pest control.
- Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth behind baseboards, in cracks and crevices, and wherever you think palmetto bugs live. It’s a natural way to kill palmetto bugs by drying out their bodies.
- Mix 1 part sugar with three parts borax and put it anywhere you’ve seen a palmetto bug or droppings. Once the insect eats the sugar, the borax will poison them.
How To Prevent Palmetto Bugs from Entering Your Home
As your home pest-control products get to work, here are a few things to do to protect your home from future palmetto bug problems:
- Seal cracks and holes around your home’s foundation.
- Put mesh around air vents and floor drains to create a physical barrier.
- Repair tears in window screens.
- Fix leaky pipes and keep bathroom and kitchen cabinets dry.
- Seal any gaps around doors, windows, and attic vents.
- Clean up spills and crumbs immediately, and store food in tightly sealed containers.
- Take out the garbage and recyclables regularly.
- Keep mulch levels to 2 or 3 inches and leave space between the mulch and your house.
Are Palmetto Bugs Harmful to Humans and Pets?
Similar to cockroaches, palmetto bugs can spread disease and bacteria by roaming your home which is dangerous for both humans and animals. Palmetto bugs that spend a long enough time in your home can begin to leave fecal matter in the areas they roam which is unsafe to inhale and be near. They are not known to bite, although have been known to do so when there isn’t enough food for them to consume.
Palmetto bugs and their fecal matter are best to be dealt with immediately.
How to Clean Up Dead Palmetto Bugs
The final step is to dispose of the dead bugs and disinfect all surfaces with palmetto bugs or droppings. Wear gloves and a protective mask to protect yourself from contaminants.
Vacuum or sweep the floor, including underneath appliances and inside cracks and crevices. Dispose of all dead palmetto bugs and droppings in a trash can outside.
Next, super-clean everything that may have been contaminated. Wash dishes and utensils in hot soapy water. Wipe down counters and cabinets with a disinfectant spray. Did you see a palmetto bug in your pantry or cupboards? Take everything out and wipe down all the shelves.
If you have children, wash anything that the bugs might have crawled on, like bedding, bottles, teething rings, and toys. And if you have pets, wash their food and water bowls and toys.
It takes time and effort to control palmetto bugs in your home, but it’s worth the trouble. By doing a thorough job now, you can make sure you got them all, and you won’t have to worry about uninvited guests every time you turn on a light.