Palmetto bugs are also known as American cockroaches. If you are dealing with these insects on your property, you should know that there is more to them than just being a variety of cockroach and be aware of some ways to deal with palmetto bugs.
Biology of Palmetto Bugs
You may hear palmetto bugs referred to as water bugs, American cockroaches, or Florida woods cockroaches. This term always describes a type of cockroach that has a fairly long life expectancy compared to other varieties. They tend to reach adulthood, along with their sexual maturity in about 600 days on average and they usually live between one and two years. These are very common in sewer systems as well as a range of building types. Compared to other cockroaches, palmetto bugs are very large, growing up to 1 ½ to 2 inches in length. They can also fly, something which is true for both males and females. The wings have short leathery pads called tegmina and barely connect on the body, without extending over the abdomen at all. The young nymphs begin life with a grayish brown color, slowly turning reddish brown over the course of their first several molts. By adulthood, they are reddish brown and have bands that are light-yellow to tan.
Adult palmetto bugs have tooth-like projections along the edges of their dorsal segments. Although these insects are not dimorphic, you can see various body segments more easily than with some other insects due to the size of palmetto bugs. In addition to being larger than most other types of cockroaches, palmetto bugs tend to be very slow, not moving quickly away from disturbances. Like other types of cockroaches, palmetto bugs go through a life cycle with three stages, including egg, nymph, and finally adult. Eggs get deposited into an egg sac that remains attached to the female. It will start pale and become black or reddish brown. The nymphs typically go through seven molts and the later stages of nymphs will typically have yellow margins by their thorax.
Why Palmetto Bugs Are Pests
Looking at images or descriptions of palmetto bugs, it is not hard to see why these insects are considered pests. They are fairly large insects, something that most people do not necessarily want in their home. The good news is that it is unlikely that you will get bitten by a palmetto bug, although it may happen in the case of an extreme infestation and limited food sources. If a palmetto bug does bite you, it will typically just leave a red mark that is fairly small. The biggest issue with palmetto bugs is the fact that they carry pathogens that can carry diseases. This comes from the fact that these insects typically spend time in drains, sewers, and other unsanitary locations. They also frequently eat decaying animals and food scraps, which increases their chances of carrying pathogens.
As such, it is common for palmetto bugs to contaminate clean dishes, food, and kitchen counters when they are present. The most common side effect of this contamination is digestive issues. Symptoms will likely include diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. It is also possible for people to be allergic to the palmetto bugs, reacting to either the insects themselves or their droppings and shed skins. In the case of an allergic reaction, people can experience rashes, sneezing, and asthma attacks.
Methods for Controlling Palmetto Bugs
The professional methods for controlling palmetto bugs will be very similar to those for controlling any other type of cockroach and typically focus on spraying an insecticide in strategic locations. The insecticide chosen must work on American cockroaches or palmetto bugs, such as a broad-spectrum insecticide. You or the professional will need to apply the insecticide around the outside of the house, including by the exterior walls and foundation. Inside, it must be applied to crevices and cracks. In cases where you find evidence of palmetto bugs coming from the attic, the treatment needs to also include that space and anywhere that is accessible to it. The insecticide application should be around the perimeter and involve a liquid residual so the effects are long-lasting.
In addition to insecticide sprays, professionals commonly use dusts and a hand duster or similar tool to apply it. These dusts are insecticides that you can apply in wall voids, behind wall outlets, under as well as behind baseboards, under large appliances, and in cabinets. Professionals will also usually use an IGR, which is a chemical that stops an insect’s life cycle while it is in the larva or egg stage. This means that a palmetto bug that comes into contact with an IGR cannot reach adulthood, preventing it from reproducing. This type of treatment should be combined with other insecticides to help you target all life stages.
DIY Tips to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs
Supplement the professional methods of controlling palmetto bugs by making a few small changes to your home that will hopefully get rid of and prevent these insects. Start by fixing any pipes that you have which are leaky as the moisture will attract the palmetto bugs. Similarly, try not to leave any water in the sink. You should also take steps to remove the food sources which attracted the palmetto bugs. This includes always putting food away and placing it in airtight containers. This applies to human and pet food alike. You will also need to clean up any spilled food as soon as possible. It is also smart to limit yourself to eating food in just a single room and keeping that room very clean. This will discourage not only palmetto bugs but other pests as well. Further discourage palmetto bugs by getting rid of their hiding places. This can include bottles and cans for recycling and general clutter. Throw out any old paper piles and old boxes. You should also use caulk to seal up any crevices, cracks, or holes in the bathroom, kitchen, cabinets, and more. The palmetto bugs could use these cracks to get into your home, hide, or travel between locations in the home.
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