Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach: Differences to Know

Palmetto bugs and cockroaches, their appearance, habitat, diet, ways of survival, and methods of getting rid of them.
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: August 17, 2023
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What is a palmetto bug? Is there a difference between a cockroach and a palmetto bug? We will answer these questions on palmetto bug vs. cockroach differences and provide more information about these household pests and their appearance, habitat, and diet so you can learn how to identify them. Palmetto bug refers to some cockroach species that derive their nickname from their habitat; the palmetto trees. You will see these dark brown bugs around and under the tropical plants, particularly in southeastern states such as Florida and South Carolina in the United States.

In our pest control guide, you will also discover why there are only some of the more than 4,500 cockroach species that are called palmetto bugs. We will also provide tips on how to prevent them and how to get rid of them in case of an infestation.

What Is a Palmetto Bug?

There are several species of cockroaches. Among them are the palmetto bugs, which are the cockroaches that are common in the southeast region in America. The name might also refer to some beetles in the same areas that have many tropical plants. These bugs harbor in the shrubs and fan-shaped palm leaves of palmetto trees.

Palmetto bugs are also found in other US regions where they also go by the name of Croton bugs or water bugs.

All palmetto bugs are cockroaches, but only some species of cockroaches are palmetto bugs. Palmetto bug is a term that is mostly associated with American cockroaches, smoky brown cockroaches, Florida woods cockroaches, and Australian cockroaches. You can get rid of palmetto bugs properly if you can differentiate between a German cockroach vs palmetto bug and other cockroach species.

Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach

We can consider all palmetto bugs cockroaches since the term is used to describe some species of cockroaches in certain regions that tend to have a tropical climate. Both palmetto bugs and wood roaches live indoors and outdoors, although the specific habitat varies in terms of the kind of trees and shrubs they favor. However, according to Michigan State University, wood roaches favor the outdoors more, where they feed on decaying organic matter.

Depending on the species, palmetto bugs and roaches may live in sewers, basements, trees, mulches, woodpiles, kitchens, and bathrooms. We will explain more about their habitats further in this article.

Palmetto bug vs. cockroach sizes are also slightly different; the latter is slightly smaller.


Before you can rush to get the best roach bombs and foggers like the Hot Shot Fogger With Odor Neutralizer, you should first confirm that you are actually dealing with a cockroach.

Cockroaches come in various shapes and sizes. Palmetto bugs are large cockroaches that can be as long as an inch and a half to two inches. The exoskeleton of nymphs and adult cockroaches has different colors. It starts out as grayish brown and then darkens to reddish brown or dark brown color. Adult palmetto bugs have a yellow or pale brown border and two spots around the pronotum, and brown wings that are 1 3/8 to 2 1/8 inches long covering the abdomen.

One difference between a smoky brown cockroach vs. palmetto bug vs. American cockroach is that the American cockroach is slightly longer by an inch.

Palmetto bugs have a thorax that is cream in color, two antennae, and six legs, but they do not fly despite having wings. What they do is glide with their wings when they jump.


As is the case with other cockroach species such as the German cockroach which can only be eliminated by the best German roach killers, palmetto bugs can survive in various conditions. However, they like warm and humid environments, which is why you are likely to have an infestation in your house during winter when they seek a warm shelter or if you live in areas with a tropical climate like in the Southeastern US.

You may find palmetto bugs in a clean home because food such as any scraps and garbage lying in the open can draw them to your house. They also access your home through crevices and pipes to seek moisture and shelter. You will spot their eggs and droppings behind your refrigerator and kitchen appliances and in moist areas like the bathroom.

Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach: Differences to Know
When it gets colder outside, palmetto bugs will enter your home, trying to find shelter.


Palmetto bugs are known to be filthy because they are not choosy about what they eat. Even decomposing food is fair game. They also eat items made of paper, cardboard, hemp or cotton. Despite their diverse eating habits, these bugs don’t need to eat frequently or to eat a lot of food.


You’ve probably heard people joking that cockroaches will still be around long after the world ends. Their endurance is one characteristic that is often associated with them because cockroaches have existed for more than 300 million years and they can survive up to one month without food. Dehydration kills them faster because they can die within a week without water but you should also know that cockroaches can survive after you decapitate them.

We can credit their longevity and survival to their adaptability to different climates and their diet which consists of almost everything they can find, including paper and decaying matter.

Palmetto bugs also have a high reproduction rate that can lead to rampant infestation. You can research how boric acid kills roaches if you need a DIY pesticide, but a severe case might require a professional exterminator.

What Do Palmetto Bugs Eggs Look Like?

There are 8 palmetto bug eggs on each of the two sides of an ootheca or egg case. The egg capsules are approximately eight millimeters long and they range from reddish-brown to brownish-black color. You can quickly have a palmetto bug infestation because they breed and grow at a fast and extensive rate, with the female producing up to 90 egg capsules in its lifetime.

Palmetto Bugs Infestation?

If you find baby roaches or egg cases in your house, you should prevent an infestation by searching for their nests. You might find palmetto bugs in cracks, standing water, leaking pipes and faucets, and under the leaves of palmetto trees, which is their favorite spot.

Preventative measures include trimming the trees around your house, sealing openings that palmetto bugs can use to access your house, fixing leaking pipes, emptying the garbage regularly, and cleaning your kitchen.

Some people suggest replacing the outdoor light with yellow lights to repel palmetto bugs and wood roaches.

How Do You Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs?

We recommend the best roach killers as the fastest way to get rid of household pests such as palmetto bugs in your home. You could also place baits like Combat Max 12 Month Roach Killing Bait in strategic areas where the bugs harbor or move frequently in your house.

Other DIY options include spraying the palmetto bugs and cockroaches with a mixture of soap and water or water and oil to suffocate them or using powdered sugar and boric acid to kill the roaches.

Preventing Palmetto Bugs from Returning

The following are the tips that will help you avoid palmetto bug infestations in the future.

1. Clean

Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach: Differences to Know

The Florida palmetto bugs and cockroaches come to your house to seek food, water, and shelter. Keeping a clean kitchen with no food crumbs will force them to source for food elsewhere.

2. Deep Clean

These pests lay eggs that hatch quickly and you might have baby roaches hiding in deep crevices. Check for the American cockroach and palmetto bug areas we listed earlier and also deep clean inside cabinets and behind appliances such as refrigerators a few times a year to get rid of their nests.

3. Seal Cracks

Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach: Differences to Know

Your house structure might develop cracks in walls over time and in corners where your countertop meets the wall, or in vents and baseboards. Seal these cracks to prevent them from becoming entry points for palmetto bugs in your house.

4. Fix Leaky Pipes

Moisture can attract palmetto bugs. So, fix any leaking pipes to prevent standing water under your sink and elsewhere in your house.

5. Keep It Cool

Keeping the air in your house can deter palmetto bugs and roaches, in general, because they prefer a humid and warm environment.

6. Don’t Keep Lots of Newspapers

Palmetto Bug vs. Cockroach: Differences to Know

Stacked newspapers can serve as both food and hiding spots for these bugs. Reducing clutter can help to prevent an invasion by pests so you won’t have to spend money on the pest control company for a dire infestation.

7. Keep Pet Bowls Empty

Since food and standing water are the main things that attract palmetto bugs and baby roaches to a house, check that your pet bowl and other food containers are empty or sealed properly after your meals.


Are palmetto bugs hazardous to your health?

Palmetto bugs are not likely to bite humans. However, their droppings and shed skin are known to harbor bacteria and allergens that can cause allergies and other diseases such as food poisoning if the bugs eat them and transmit them to your food.

Will cockroaches, or palmetto bugs in the trees enter my home?

One of the wood roach vs. palmetto bug differences is their habitat. The former lives in and underwoods whereas the latter is commonly found at the base of palm trees, thus the nickname. These bugs can use the tree’s overgrown branches to enter the upper parts of your house or to access it through windows and other openings if the trees are very close to your house.

Final Thoughts

With all these factors considered, it is no wonder that the palmetto bug is often confused with the common cockroach. They are both brown, have six legs, and can be found in similar environments. However, there are several key ways to tell these two insects apart. Palmetto bugs are bigger and can glide with their wings. Luckily, the measures you take to get rid of them are the same as for cockroaches. So either way, you’re in for a fight against palmetto bug vs. cockroach!

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