Palmetto bug is a common name used to describe almost any large cockroach, but it's most properly used for the Florida woods cockroach. This insect, which lives in Florida and nearby coastal areas, is one of the largest species found in North America and is reddish-brown to black with very small wings. They do not fly often or well and are slow and clumsy runners. Their usual defense is an unpleasant chemical spray that has earned them alternate names like Florida stink roach and skunk roach. This species is not a significant household pest, preferring outdoor living conditions.
The scientific name for the palmetto bug is Eurycotis floridana. It is often confused with the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, and many people use the name for either species. Both types are large, growing up to about 2 inches (about 5 cm) and are superficially similar. One way to distinguish them is to observe how the insects in question move, as the American cockroach is a proficient flier and runs much more quickly than the Florida woods cockroach. American cockroaches are also found in large numbers in buildings while palmetto bugs prefer outdoor conditions. This roach is sometimes confused with giant water bugs, but these are not closely related to cockroaches and live in or near outdoor pools, swamps and lakes.
One of the reasons that people dislike palmetto bugs and other cockroaches so much is that they are known to spread disease. If they get into food, they can contaminate it and make the people who eat it sick. The chemical spray that this species emits can also get on dishes and kitchen utensils, as can roach feces, which contain pheromones that attract more roaches. Some people are also allergic to these bugs; the symptoms of an allergic reaction can include a rash, asthma, itchy eyes, and a sore throat.
Living Conditions and Diet
These insects prefer humid, warm living conditions with temperatures ranging from 86° to 96°F (30° to 36°C). They eat decaying vegetation such as that found in brushy woods or around buildings. When found near buildings, they most often are living in and around trees, shrubbery and flower or vegetable beds and compost piles. Outdoor sheds and garages with good access to vegetation may also shelter this species. Any palmetto bug found indoors was probably brought in with wood or other items stored outside, since they typically prefer to live outside.
Although the palmetto bug is not usually an indoor pest, there are still occasions when controlling the population is necessary or desirable. Individuals or small groups found indoors can simply be carried outside and released. Keeping vegetation, wood piles, and other places where the roaches like to live away from a house can help keep the bugs away. Roaches are attracted to water, so any leaks or standing water should be eliminated. If the problem persists, then searching out and blocking holes where the bugs are entering the house is usually effective. Roach control baits and sprays also work, but since an indoor infestation is rare, it's usually not necessary.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Females lay their eggs in cases that range from 0.50 to 0.6 inches long (13 to 16 mm) then glue the egg case someplace dark and warm. The eggs hatch into juveniles called nymphs in about 48 days. Nymphs look like smaller adults and molt several times before reaching full size. It takes about five to six months from the time an egg is laid for the hatchlings to reach maturity. Adults can live for a year or longer.
How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs Organically
Preventative pest control measures are not always going to be 100% effective against palmetto bugs. Despite your best effort to eliminate standing water, trim exterior vegetation and store away woodpiles, infestations are still possible.
Not every homeowner knows how to get rid of palmetto bugs when an indoor infestation is detected. A natural tendency is to treat the problem with a chemical insecticide solution. However, there are a few organic methods people might consider using instead to eliminate these pests.
Roaches are typically averse to citrus-scented substances. Consequently, lemons and oranges are ideal fruit choices to incorporate into a palmetto bug repellent spray. The do-it-yourself recipe for such a concoction is affordable, natural, and, most importantly, effective.
Essential Oil Sprays
For a few dollars more than the cost of making a citrus spray, the smell of essential oils is equally as objectionable to palmetto bugs. There are several essential oil odors that could serve as repellents when concocted into a spray. The most notable choices are peppermint, catnip, clove and cedarwood.
Baking Soda and Powdered Sugar Blend
One of the more simple, but scientific, techniques to get rid of palmetto bugs involves just two common household items. When an equal parts blend of baking soda and powdered sugar is scattered on a flat surface, the temptation is often too great for the roach to resist.
After it finishes eating the baking soda and the powdered sugar, it will seek a water source. The resulting chemical reaction created by the combined substances inside the palmetto bug's stomach, specifically between the baking soda and the water, will ultimately end up killing it.
Do Palmetto Bugs Fly Vertically?
A question often asked about palmetto bugs is whether they have the ability to fly vertically. After all, once the insect enters a house, it is not uncommon to spot it crawling on ceilings and walls. The short answer to this question is, no, palmetto bugs are not vertical fliers. The reasons vary, however, depending on the species.
The Florida woods cockroach does not fly at all simply because it lacks traditional wings. It does not have a hind set, and its forewings develop into what is known as tegmina. These short, leathery pads just barely converge at the center of the body, unable to provide enough length for any sort of lift.
Most other species are incapable of flying vertically because the wings that they do possess are not anatomically designed for this purpose. The cockroaches are more apt to glide in a descending direction from higher to lower areas.
Do Palmetto Bugs Bite?
Although rare, palmetto bugs are able to bite humans. More than likely, this action would be the result of a scarce food supply as opposed to an aggressive, unprovoked attack. The resulting skin irritation associated with a bite, typically a small, red mark, is relatively harmless. There are a couple of natural home remedies that someone who has been bitten by a palmetto bug can use to treat the affected area.
A tea bag that has been refrigerated for about thirty minutes holds the potential to soothe any skin irritation. The bag has nutrients that will help calm itching and inflammation. Alternatively, you could wet the tea bag and wring out the excess water to get the same relief as the refrigerated option.
The juice from a fresh lemon can be used as a topical treatment for a palmetto bug bite. It holds anti-inflammatory properties that aid in managing any common symptoms such as itchiness or swelling. It also hosts antibacterial elements that prevent infection and assist in the healing process.