When you find yourself staring in the face of a water bug problem, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. These pests can wreak havoc on your peace of mind.

It’s time to take back your home! We’re going to help you learn how to get rid of waterbugs in a few simple steps, before and after they make themselves comfortable in your space.

What Are Water Bugs?

Three grid illustration comparing three outdoor cockroaches: the American, Oriental, and Smoky Brown species

Let’s clear something up: when we’re talking about water bugs (also known as Palmetto Bugs), we’re really talking about one of these 3 species of cockroaches:

  1. Oriental roaches
  2. American roaches
  3. Smoky brown roaches

Why the nickname? Well, there are domestic cockroaches—those are the indoor species and they’re the troublemakers.

And then there are water bugs—the outdoor roaches. Generally, water bugs stay outside but, sometimes, they do invade homes. That’s the situation you want to avoid.

(While we can’t just ignore Belostomatidae, the Giant Water Bug that lives in fresh water, it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of.)

Getting Rid of Waterbugs for Good

How do you get rid of water bugs? By rigorous application of the supplies and steps below. Once you’ve found a water bug in your space, it’s game on. Why? Because you might not be facing a dangerous cockroach infestation yet, but water bugs can multiply and spread just as quickly.

The good news is that the same things that kill and prevent cockroaches will work on water bugs, too. Let’s get started.

How to Kill Water Bugs

Stylized illustration of a bomb about to explode in a cockroach infestation

Does Anything Get Rid of Waterbugs Instantly?

We’re going to cover a few things that kill these pests, but with a delayed effect. But what if you want to kill them instantly? Even squishing them doesn’t always work because of their hard, flexible exoskeletons!

Killing them on contact comes down to using chemical pesticides. To use these products, you typically dilute the pesticide with water (according to the instructions) and spray it into cracks and crevices where you think water bugs are hiding.

The problem comes with your ability to access all those hiding places. Waterbugs are sneaky and you may never find where they’re actually hanging out.

Bug-killer sprays sold in supermarkets? They also work on waterbugs. However, killing one at a time won’t solve your water bug problem in the long run.

Getting Rid of Water Bugs Naturally

There are a number of natural ways to get rid of waterbugs. And if you’re going to do it yourself, you might want to consider these approaches first.

Diatomaceous Earth: Fast but Not Instant

One of the best water bug treatments is food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). It’s all-natural, it’s safe to use around children and pets and, best of all, it’s highly effective!

Most hardware stores sell DE and it’s easy to mix and apply. Some products even come with a duster to make things as simple as possible.

When using DE dust, you want the water bugs to eat it or, at least, walk through it. To attract the bugs to it, you can mix the DE with powdered sugar and spray a thin layer in specific parts of the house.

You can even use it outside, sprinkling it in the grass or mulch to form your very own anti-water-bug moat!

DE doesn’t quite kill instantly but it works more quickly than baits, which are designed to have delayed effects.

Will Baking Soda Kill Them?

Baking soda is a potential killer. It sucks up the water in the environment and can fatally dehydrate water bugs as they walk through it. However, baking soda isn’t nearly as effective as gel baits or chemical pesticides that are designed to kill them.

Boric Acid: An All-Natural Pest Killer

Boric acid is a great natural pest control product that works for water bugs, too! It’s poisonous to the bugs but, in small amounts, it’s not dangerous for pets or children.

Like DE, boric acid isn’t bait so you’ll have to mix it with something to attract the bugs. Again, sugar works really well.

All it takes is a little of the mixture, sprinkled thinly in areas where you think the water bugs are walking. Don’t use too much, though, or the bugs might not want to walk through it.

Home Remedies for Water Bugs

There are plenty of home remedies for waterbugs that may be worth exploring too, including homemade traps, and even essential oils.

Gel Baits: Your Secret Weapon Against Water Bugs

Baits are your secret weapons against water bugs because they’re insecticides hidden in a formula that water bugs just can’t wait to sink their teeth into.

You apply baits by spreading the gel near cracks and holes where water bugs might be hiding. For less of a mess, you can use bait stations, which hold the bait inside a compartment that you can discard after it’s worn off (or been eaten).

What makes bait so much better than simple sprays or traps is that it spreads the pesticide throughout the colony, from bug to bug.

A water bug doesn’t die immediately after it’s eaten the bait; usually, it dies later, after it’s returned to the nest. Then, as the other water bugs feed on the dead insect, they eat the pesticide, too! Even if only one or two water bugs eat the bait, it can kill a dozen or more as its effects spread.

So What’s the Single Best Approach?

The single best way to get rid of waterbugs is the one that eliminates the whole colony as quickly as possible. The winner, unsurprisingly, is the product that’s specially designed to deal with water bug infestations: gel baits.

How To Prevent Water Bugs

Cartoon illustration of a cockroach being stopped by a stop sign before entering a house.

Baits, sprays, and traps have their place, but how to keep water bugs away? Luckily, water bug prevention only takes a few simple changes.

How to Keep Water Bugs Out

Water bugs hate dry environments. Their ideal home is damp, dark and hidden, with lots of—you guessed it—water in the vicinity. Don’t give it to them! Chances are they’ll look for somewhere else to stay.

Just follow a few simple tips, targeting those areas, and you’ll start to see results in no time.

  1. Prevent standing water under gutters and pipes. Fix leaks, eliminate damp areas, and repair any areas where water collects before water bugs find it.
  2. Improve ventilation in storage rooms. Humidity and dampness are just what water bugs are looking for in a place to lay their eggs.
  3. Clean the dishes and change the garbage frequently. You’re making it too easy for water bugs to eat if you leave dirty dishes out overnight.
  4. Seal up entry points. Pay attention to ways waterbugs may be entering your home. Inspect exterior walls and your home’s foundation, looking for holes, cracks, and crevices that could be allowing waterbugs in. Inspect windows and doors for gaps that water bugs could crawl through.

Conclusion

Despite their less-threatening name, at the end of the day, water bugs are still cockroaches. The longer they’re in your house, the higher the risk that they’ll grow into a serious infestation—and when that happens, your best is to call in a pest control company as quickly as you can.

Now that you know how to get rid of waterbugs…

Let’s do this!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of waterbugs in the house (as opposed to outside)?

Treating water bugs inside the home is in some ways easier because areas that need treatment are more limited and you don’t have to deal with issues like rain washing pesticides away.
Getting rid of waterbugs inside the home is generally accomplished through the use of gel baits and powder pesticides.

How do you get rid of waterbugs outside the house?

Waterbugs outside the home can be treated with applications of a perimeter spray that kill those that come too close to the house.

Sources

  1. Pesticide Environmental Stewardship. NC State University Center for Integrated Pest Management. Retrieved from https://pesticidestewardship.org/homeowner/using-pesticides-safely-and-correctly/

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