Palmetto Bugs vs Cockroaches? (They’re basically the same)

palmetto bug on person's hand

Trying to figure out the differences between cockroaches versus Palmetto Bugs? Palmetto bugs and the common American Cockroach are essentially the same insects, just different naming conventions.

A Palmetto Bug is a somewhat polite name for a common American cockroach

What are Palmetto Bugs?

Well, in short, the Palmetto bug is a fancy nickname for the common American cockroach. The nomenclature appears to be regionally focused on Florida and neighboring states. The bugs got the nickname because they can be commonly found hiding under the big leaves of the palmetto tree. Cockroaches are indigenous to the region.

The weather and habitat are perfect for them to thrive in large colonies. In other parts of the U.S., it’s much easier to eliminate a roach infestation. In Florida, the conditions are just right for them to overrun nearly any home if left untreated.

Are there different kinds of Palmetto Bugs?

While it is true that every Palmetto Bug is actually a cockroach, it is also true that all kinds of different roaches get lumped in under the name. The most common is the American Cockroach, but there are others, such as the wood cockroach and the increasingly widespread Asian cockroach.

Do Palmetto Bugs bite?

While they are capable of biting, cockroaches don’t often see humans and large animals (like your pet dogs or cat) as food sources. Palmetto bugs primarily consume waste—both meat and vegetable matter. Basically, anything you could compost can also serve as cockroach food.

Palmetto bug’s diet can include strange items like the following:

Cockroaches sometimes eat their dead because it’s efficient and doesn’t harm them to do so. If cockroaches resort to biting humans, it means they’re hungry. They have run out of whatever natural source of sustenance they’ve been living on and are on the lookout for new food sources. Palmetto bugs tend to be afraid of people, but there have been cases where roaches bit infants or elderly bed-bound patients. This normally won’t happen unless there’s a significant cockroach infestation and many roaches are competing for food.

Water Bugs, which are related to cockroaches but a different subspecies, live outdoors, near ponds or creeks and these bugs are active hunters. If a water bug crosses your path, it may take a bite out of you and it can be rather painful. These specific bugs are known in some locations as toe biters.

Do Palmetto Bugs fly?

Palmetto bugs have wings that they can use under certain conditions. Only adult Palmetto bugs have fully developed wings that they use to glide. Cockroaches tend to use their wings to drop from high elevations unharmed. You can sometimes see roaches flying from ceiling fans or walls after they’re startled and are trying to make a quick getaway.

Video showing a flying Palmetto Bug

Not all species of cockroaches are equally proficient fliers. The American cockroach does well with its wings, using them frequently to traverse distances or drop down onto unsuspecting people from the ceiling. Some other cockroach species, like German cockroaches, don’t fly or glide at all even though they have wings.

Even though a large portion of the cockroach population is capable of short-distance flight and gliding, they tend to prefer foot over the wing. The reason for this is weight. For many of the larger specimens, it would be a less efficient use of energy reserves to fly. So, Palmetto Bugs only fly if they find it absolutely necessary.

Video showing how cockroaches jumpy and glide with their wings

How to fight a Palmetto Bug invasion

The best bet is to contact a professional to fight a roach infestation with special bait, fumigation, and roach traps. Over-the-counter roach killers may or may not work effectively, depending on the level of immunity the colony has developed. In recent years, roaches have been growing resistance and immunity at an alarming rate. New and stronger methods of eradication are required to fight the growing plague.

How to get rid of Palmetto Bugs

Keep a clean kitchen. Palmetto bugs love to eat whatever you love to eat and your leftovers are what draws them into your home. Dishes left in the sink overnight and overflowing trashcans are an open invitation to an all-you-can-eat buffet for the little pests. Keeping a lid on pet food and storing your food in sealed containers go a long way toward cutting off the supply lines.

There are also a number of home remedies that can help keep a growing roach infestation in check. You can create different kinds of traps with glass jars, vaseline, and food-based bait. The vaseline prevents roaches from crawling back out after falling into the baited jar. 

Some of the best kinds of natural bait reportedly include coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable clippings. Pretty much any kind of compostable refuse will do. Set up these bait jars around the house and wait for them to fill up with roaches.

Once the jars have a number of roaches trapped, dump them into a bucket of hot, soapy water. Cockroaches are not very good swimmers because they breathe through their legs and the soap in the water will prevent them from floating. Any kind of dish liquid will get the job done. Be aware though, that roaches can hold their breath for about 40 minutes.

The water needs to be very hot and you have to wait them out. Flushing them down the toilet might remove them from your home temporarily but it may not kill them and they could just crawl right back in through the pipes.

Boric acid has been widely and successfully used to eliminate large roach populations. It is commonly available as a fine powder that you use to dust your home. Be mindful though, boric acid is a toxic substance and you don’t want to accidentally inhale the powder.

Dusting with boric acid may also be unwise if you have pets or small children in the home that could potentially inhale or eat the insecticide dust. Any time you deal with poisonous pesticides, use safety precautions.

Check for places outside that are attracting Palmetto Bugs

Video showing some things outside your home that can attract Palmetto Bugs (aka American Cockroaches)

By David Jackson

I enjoy learning about new pest control strategies and sharing what I learn at I aim to create a reliable resource for people dealing with all sorts of pest issues.

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