Welcome to sunny Florida, where the beaches are open year-round and the palmetto bug is the house guest that nobody asked for, but everyone seems to have.

Floridians are bound to encounter palmetto bugs in and around their homes. It’s a fact of life in Florida. Palmetto bugs are everywhere and won’t think twice about making themselves at home, in your home.

We tackle the palmetto bug in several solutions elsewhere. But since Florida is a special case, let’s dive deep into the ever-present palmetto bug Florida is known for.

Three Species of Florida Palmetto Bug

Illustration comparing 3 cockroaches referred to as the palmetto bug
3 roaches known as palmetto bugs. The American cockroach (left), the Florida Woods cockroach (middle), and the Smokybrown cockroach (right).

For all the stir it can create, the “palmetto bug” doesn’t really refer to just a single kind of insect. Rather, it’s a southern-coined, catch-all term applied to several different bugs, most of which are roaches.

The most common palmetto bugs are the:

Of the three types of roaches, the American cockroach is easily the most common – and most despised.

Florida’s Palmetto Bug Problem: The American Cockroach

Palmetto bug hot spots in Florida highlighting areas in Fort Myers, Panama City, and Tampa
“Hot spots” of Florida palmetto bug sightings, via Google

About the American cockroach in Florida

For most Floridians, the American cockroach is the palmetto bug they really have to deal with. And it’s pretty much everywhere in Florida, with certain “hot spots” scattered across the state.

Over 37% of homes in Tampa and St. Petersburg have been found to have cockroaches including the American variety, they exist all over the state, and they’re such a part of Florida life that it’s not unusual to hear them (half) jokingly referred to as Florida’s state bird.

Growing up to 2 inches in length, they’re not only remarkably large, but most active at night – providing ample and ongoing opportunities to scare you out of your skin. Flick on a bathroom light and you won’t be able to miss the one skittering across your bathtub. Or unsee the one crawling upside down just above your head.

To make matters worse, a startled palmetto bug has more up its sleeve than just running. Because it does something even more horrifying.

Do Florida Palmetto Bugs Fly?

Illustration of a palmetto bug flying toward camera on porch

Oh yes.

The American cockroach has long wings that make it a strong, if not stylish flier. It’s among the fastest runners among Florida pests, but if you catch one in your home or startle a few in your yard, they’re just as likely to take off and fly away.

Florida Palmetto Bug Season

Illustration of an American cockroach, nymph, and hatching egg sac
Palmetto bug adult, baby, hatchlings, and eggs

American roaches are active all year in Florida but they’re especially prevalent in the late summer.

These are the hottest, most humid months in the southern U.S. They’re also right in the middle of Florida’s rainy season. That means palmetto bugs are thriving outdoors. At the same time, they’re getting flooded out of soil and mulch by the storms and searching for ways indoors to escape the rain.

Prevention

Preventing Florida palmetto bugs is an ongoing battle that requires diligence and patience. Though they mostly live outside, they’ll go anywhere there’s food and water. Follow these expert tips for preventing them.

Always keep screens on doors and windows closed. Light attracts palmetto bugs and can draw them right through an open window. Like certain other species of cockroaches like the Oriental cockroach, they also crawl through pipes, so it’s a good idea to plug your drains.

Outdoors, palmetto bugs prefer moist sheltered areas, so live in piles of leaves, under rocks, or in beds of mulch. If your landscaping is full of decorative stones or cluttered with fallen leaves, you’re essentially inviting palmetto bugs to come and stay.

Florida palmetto bugs also feed on cardboard, so throw out those old, damp boxes in the garage or the back of kitchen cabinets. Also, make sure you’re sealing up any holes or cracks and crevices you find in the walls of your house. If you can see an opening, it’s definitely big enough to let in cockroaches.

How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs in Florida

It’s probably impossible to rid yourself completely of the palmetto bug. Florida natives consider regular sightings to be normal. However, you’ll still want to do your best to keep them out of your home and, especially, away from your food.

That means eliminating easy food sources by sealing food in hard containers and cleaning every day. The last thing you want to do is leave crumbs out as a midnight snack for palmetto bugs.

If you keep your house clean, organize your storage areas and use a dehumidifier to control the moisture in the air, you stand a good chance against them. All of these small steps add up to make your home less attractive to these pests and make it more difficult for them to survive.

Your best option for permanently getting rid of cockroaches in roach-dense areas like Florida is to call a professional pest control service. They’ll use sprays and roach baits to kill indoor roaches and create a perimeter to keep them out.


Sources

  1. Jacobs, Steve Sr. (2013) American Cockroaches. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/american-cockroaches
  2. Sampson, Zachary T. (2015) No, that’s not a palmetto bug; Tampa and St. Petersburg ranked among nation’s roach-iest metro areas. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from https://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/no-thats-not-a-palmetto-bug-tampa-and-st-petersburg-ranked-among-nations/2239669/
  3. Orwell, Mark (2019) Types of Flying Insects in Florida. Sciencing. Retrieved from https://sciencing.com/types-flying-insects-florida–6105691.html
  4. Wilkinson, Jeff (2018) Here’s the truth about palmetto bugs — most importantly, how to kill them. The State. Retrieved from https://www.thestate.com/news/local/article219058160.html

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