You spy a tiny insect hustling across the floor. The glint and color of its shell is like a beetle’s or a cricket’s. But what it really looks like is a tiny, wingless—baby palmetto bug. Is it?
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Do Palmetto Bugs Have Babies?
The first thing to understand about palmetto bugs in general, is that they’re not just bugs. They’re cockroaches. And they’re typically not just any cockroaches, but the biggest (some would say scariest) cockroach in the United States, the American cockroach (known to some as water bugs).
And does the American cockroach make babies? It does—lots and lots of babies. In fact, given the rate at which roaches breed (females produce about 16 new roaches per month), there are likely to be more baby palmetto roaches running around the world at any given time, than palmetto roach adults.
Where Do Palmetto Bug Babies Come From?
Palmetto bugs begin life from an egg case called an ootheca which can contain over a dozen individual eggs. The female deposits its egg case in tiny cracks and crevices, or other protected space that provides access to food and water. Then in a few weeks, the young cockroaches hatch.
As juveniles, palmetto bugs are not technically referred to as babies, but nymphs, and they’re so tiny (about the size of a grain of rice) that you’d be unlikely to ever notice one if you weren’t specifically looking for it.
The nymph is soft and white as it emerges from its egg case, and remains in this vulnerable condition for several hours, waiting for its shell to harden.
It will return to this creamy white state several more times over the next months as it outgrows its old shell and grows a new one, shedding the old shell each time it completes a molt.
What Does a Baby Palmetto Bug Look Like?
After its body hardens and darkens, a palmetto bug baby will begin to look a lot like its adult counterpart—but with some easily spotted differences.
The most striking thing you’ll notice is the nymph’s lack of wings. Palmetto bugs don’t grow wings until their final molt, which means that they remain wingless for up to two years as they mature and grow.
They’re also typically lighter in color than the adults and closer to a shade of orange than the characteristic reddish-brown of palmetto bug adults.
Palmetto bug babies are of course, also smaller than the adults. But the fact that the roach you found is smaller than the palmetto bugs you’re used to, doesn’t mean that it’s a palmetto bug nymph.
If it turns out to be a tiny adult German cockroach for example, you’re going to have a whole different set of problems on your hands.
Where and How Do Baby Palmetto Bugs Live?
Like adults, palmetto bug nymphs survive by eating almost any kind of organic material, from human food to paper, glue and garbage. They stay mostly hidden, only venturing into the open for food and water.
As a species, palmetto bugs prefer tropical areas (like Florida), and thrive in them year round.
In certain areas of Florida for example, palmetto bugs seem to be everywhere. And they are.
Outdoors, you’ll find them in your garage, shed, garden, around your patio and on your lawn. Indoors, you’ll usually find them close to water pipes, sinks, and bathrooms. They’ll also shamelessly inhabit drains, sewers, crawl spaces, and garbage piles, feeding on truly disgusting buffets.
And where the adults are, the babies are right with them, helping palmetto bug colonies to grow, infest and spread.
Will I Notice Them in My Home?
Being small and vulnerable, palmetto bug nymphs are careful about being seen by predators, respond negatively to light, and spend most of their time hiding. Still, they need to come out to eat.
Though they could pop up anywhere, you’re most likely to find them in your bathroom, hiding under sinks and cabinets. Or crawling around inside your drains.
And once they’re inside your bathroom, they’ll dodge you and wait until you’re sleeping to do their business, surviving on tiny amounts of food and plentiful sources of standing and dripping water. A single leaky faucet or regular puddles in the shower make it easy for these cockroaches to survive.
How Do I Get Rid of Baby Palmetto Bugs?
Luckily, palmetto nymphs can be controlled in exactly the same ways as adults, and at the same time, too.
To begin with, water attracts palmetto bugs, and both nymphs and adults are extremely sensitive to humidity levels. Without enough moisture, they quickly become dehydrated. For these cockroaches, access to water is more important than food.
One way to get rid of palmetto bugs is to cut off their water supply. And if you haven’t already begun to do it, you should begin to do it now.
Make sure you dry up spills and fix any leaky faucets or pipes to force them out of your home. It’s also vital to starve them out the best you can. Keep your house free of crumbs and put away leftovers so palmetto bugs can’t share your food.
If you need to take more aggressive steps, but don’t have the level of infestation that calls for an exterminator, you can easily make progress with natural roach control solutions.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills palmetto bugs by dehydrating them. Boric acid and borax for roaches is effective. Roach baits are effective. And applying soapy water to the pests’ potential hiding places is an easy trick to try. You can also mix up a bit of baking soda with something sweet and let the bugs eat the (to them) poisonous mixture.
Finding a baby palmetto bug in your home is likely to be the sign of a bigger problem. Palmetto nymphs don’t travel far, so the chances of adults living nearby are very high.
If you’ve just discovered a pest problem, try solving it on your own first. If you find yourself facing an actual infestation, contact a pest control professional for help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Baby palmetto bugs can’t fly because they don’t yet have their wings. Baby palmetto bugs don’t begin to grow their wings until their final instars (or molting stages), when they’re almost adults. Adults will sometimes use their wings to fly short distances.
Baby palmetto bugs will almost never bite a person. It’s very rare for any cockroaches to bite humans. Baby palmetto bugs are even more hesitant to approach people than adults; they’re much more likely to stay hidden until they’re sure no predators are around.
Written by Andrew Martin. Reviewed by Rae Osborn, PhD.
Disclaimer: This page is strictly for informational use. When using insecticides, keep in mind—the label is the law. Insecticides should be applied correctly and safely when needed, and according to the laws of your state or country.
Andrew writes for, and along with his daughter, publishes Cockroach Facts. You can read more about him here.
Rae Osborn, PhD.
Dr. Rae Osborn holds Honors Bachelor of Science degrees in Zoology and Entomology, and a Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Natal in South Africa. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where her research was in Entomology. You can learn more about our contributors here.
- Barbara, Kathryn A. (2014) American cockroach. Featured Creatures. Retrieved from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/american_cockroach.htm
- 10 Natural Ways to Get Rid Of Palmetto Bugs – Cockroach vs Palmetto Bug. Well Living Ideas. Retrieved from https://www.welllivingideas.com/10-natural-ways-to-get-rid-of-palmetto-bugs-cockroach-vs-palmetto-bug/