How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs (Big Roach): Pest Control for Palmetto Bugs

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | April 2, 2024

A man sweeping away Palmetto Bugs crawling on the floor wonders how to get rid of Palmetto bugs, what is the best pest control for Palmetto Bugs, what smell do they hate, and how to keep Palmetto Bugs out of your house.

Have you been wondering how to get rid of Palmetto Bugs in your home or office? Then know you’re not alone.

Palmetto Bugs are a nuisance, and it is best to get rid of these giant roaches as soon as you notice their existence in your house. These bugs reproduce profusely, and within no time, your house will be filled with these cockroaches.

Palmetto Bugs are widespread in warm and humid regions. They usually hide in dark areas and only come out at night when it’s quiet and the lights are off.

In the United States, these creepy bugs are a menace in the southeastern states. Many homeowners in these states will tell you they have tried to get rid of them many times unsuccessfully.

So, if you’re wondering how to get rid of Palmetto bugs for good, this guide outlines the best ways to remove these pests from your home, and when you should contact a pest control professional to deal with them.

How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs: Pest Control for Palmetto Bugs

After confirming the presence of Palmetto Bugs in your home, you must eliminate them as soon as possible.

If they aren’t dealt with immediately, they can reproduce rapidly.

Graphic displaying various pest control for Palmetto Bugs, including essential oils, sticky traps, soapy water, borax powder, bait, food-grade diatomaceous earth, and bleach, set against a light green background.

Below is how to get rid of roaches, including Palmetto Bugs:

Essential Oils

Essential oils have for generations been used to repel bugs and harmful insects in the garden.6 Some of the most popular essential oils include peppermint, neem, tea tree, lavender and eucalyptus.

To make this concoction, mix 15 drops of any essential oil with 10 ounces of water and spray in the Palmetto Bugs’ hideout.

Peppermint is very effective and will even kill these roaches if it lands on them. However, this is not a one-day affair; keep spraying the mixture for a few days to ensure they don’t come back.

Remember, most essential oils are toxic to pets, so you must be careful when spraying.

Sticky Traps

Buy sticky Palmetto Bug traps from the hardware store and set them in areas where these roaches roam. You might have to put bait like food to attract them.

While this method is effective, you will need very many traps in case of an infestation. Be careful where you place the traps if you have pets like cats.

Soapy Water

Cheap and very effective. Mix dish washing soap and water, then spray on areas where these bugs hide.

When sprayed directly onto the roach, it will suffocate and die instantly.

Borax Powder

Mix equal amounts of borax and sugar and spread it where you suspect these bugs are hiding. Always wear a mask while mixing, and don’t spread in areas people or pets frequent.


Baits are very effective in killing roaches. Spread small bait in areas where you’ve seen them.

Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Spread diatomaceous earth in areas where the bugs are hiding. It will dehydrate them to death.


Does bleach kill roaches? Yes, but not as effectively as other ways in this list because the roaches must ingest the bleach, or you must spray them with the bleach.

How To Kill Palmetto Bugs (What Kills Palmetto Bugs Instantly)

If you are looking for ways to kill Palmetto Bugs instantly, you can use:

  • Aero spray insecticides.
  • Spray peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil or tea tree oil directly on the bugs.
  • Spray soapy water directly at the roaches.
  • Use electric traps.

How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs: What Smell Do Palmetto Bugs Hate?

Many insects hate strong smells. And you can use these plants or their essential oils to eliminate Palmetto Bugs.

Two reddish-brown Palmetto Bugs crawling on a textured wooden surface

(Image: janabuggs13)

Some of the smells Palmetto Bugs hate include:

When To Call for Exterminator for Palmetto Bugs

Immediately you spot one Palmetto Bug in your house, you should know there are more, so find a way to eliminate them. So, when to call an exterminator for roaches is when the above methods are unsuccessful or you can’t handle the roaches yourself.

An experienced exterminator will access the house to know why the bugs keep reappearing and offer a solution. But how much does an exterminator cost for roaches?

Exterminator prices will differ depending on your region, the size of your house, and the extent of the infestation. While the national average cost to hire a cockroach exterminator is $180, the prices can range anywhere between $100 to $1000.

How To Keep Palmetto Bugs Out of Your House

After successfully removing Palmetto Bugs from your house, you must ensure they don’t return. The first step is understanding why they keep coming and finding a solution.

How do they get into the house? Where do they find food?

Then do the following:

  • Clean your house thoroughly. Remove all clutter, like stacks of books, newspapers, and cardboard, where the bugs hide.
  • Clean the kitchen counter, dining area and dishes every evening so they can’t get food.
  • Keep food leftovers in tightly sealed containers.
  • Fix water leaks to ensure there is no excess moisture in the house.
  • Dispose of your trash regularly and ensure the trash can lid is always tightly closed.
  • Clean your yard. Mow the grass regularly and clean all debris from the yard.
  • Repair any broken door, window, wall or roof.
  • Plant some of the plants mentioned above to repel Palmetto Bugs.

Palmetto Bugs, like all roaches, are a nuisance. While they don’t attack people, they can trigger allergies due to their allergenic proteins and cause food-borne diseases because they carry bacteria and pathogens.

Why Do Palmetto Bugs Come to Your House?

Palmetto Bugs and other cockroaches will enter your house for food,8 water and shelter. And if they are readily available, they will stay.

Many people associate these bugs with dirty houses, but that’s not true.

While they appreciate garbage, they can also infest a clean house. Palmetto Bugs will enter your home and hide in dark, moist areas.

This can be under the fridge, piled newspapers, cardboard boxes or under the sink.

And due to their nocturnal nature, it might take long before you notice their presence. But how do they get into the house?

  • Gaps and cracks: Despite their size, Palmetto Bugs will squeeze themselves through tiny gaps and cracks to enter the house.
  • Doors and windows: Don’t be surprised to find these bugs in your house if your door or windows are poorly sealed or damaged.
  • Vents and pipes: Any gap or opening around pipes or utility lines is a pathway for Palmetto Bugs.
  • Hitchhiking: You can accidentally bring them in bags, boxes or items you bring inside from outside, like groceries, cardboard boxes or even potted plants.
  • Roof and attic: They can enter through tiny cracks on the roof, attic and cracks on the wall.

Signs You Have Palmetto Bugs in Your Home

As mentioned, Palmetto Bugs are adept at maintaining a discreet presence. And just because you spotted one doesn’t mean it’s the only one.

If you overlook that, there is a higher chance of an infestation because they have a high reproduction rate.

A female Palmetto Bug will lay one egg case (ootheca) containing 14 to 16 eggs weekly for about four to five months. The eggs will take 50 to 55 days to hatch.

This means a single Palmetto cockroach and her offspring will produce up to 800 cockroaches yearly.

This can’t be good for your house, so you must act swiftly once you note there are Palmetto Bugs. So, how can you know there are Palmetto Bugs in your home?

  • Sighting: When you see one Palmetto Bug, just know there are many hiding.
  • Droppings: If you see small, black pellet-like droppings, there is a high chance you have an infestation.
  • Egg casing: Check for egg cases glued in dark, moist areas or near food sources. Check areas like under the sink, basement corners or bathrooms.
    The more the egg cases, the worse the infestation.
  • Musty odor: If your house has an unusual, unpleasant smell, Palmetto Bugs could be the culprit.
  • Shed exoskeleton: Cockroaches usually shed their exoskeleton as they grow. Finding this in your house means they are actively breeding and growing, and soon there will be an infestation.
  • Grease stains: If, even after cleaning the walls, baseboards and countertops, you still find grease or brownish smear marks, you have Palmetto Bugs in your residence.
  • Damage to paper and organic materials: If your books, newspapers or similar items have chew marks, these bugs might be the culprit.
  • Allergies and respiratory issues: If your family, especially kids, are experiencing unexplained allergies and respiratory problems lately, it could be from Palmetto Bugs.

Palmetto Bugs (Big Roach)

(Eurycotis floridana)

Palmetto Bug in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Description: Palmetto Bugs are large cockroaches that can reach a length of 2 inches. They are usually dark brown to black with a flattened oval body shape. They have long antennae and large shield-like wings. Palmetto Bugs have six spiny legs.
  • Natural Habitat: Palmetto Bugs are usually found in forested areas, palmetto palm groves, mulch beds, leaf litter, hollow trees and underneath rotting logs.
  • Locations: Palmetto Bugs love warm, humid climates. In the United States, they are commonly found in southeastern states like Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana.

Image Credit: National Park Service14

But why and how do these bugs enter houses? Is it possible to prevent Palmetto Bugs from taking residence in your home?

And how do you eliminate them if they are already in the house? Read along for the answers and much more on how to get rid of Palmetto Bugs.5

What Is a Palmetto Bug (Big Roach)

Palmetto Bug is a general name for several large cockroaches in the Southeastern United States.2 They are given this name because they are commonly found on Palmetto trees.

For this reason, don’t be surprised when you hear different descriptions of Palmetto Bugs.

They will be referring to any of the three cockroaches below:

1. American Cockroach

(Periplaneta americana)

American cockroach is also called Kakerlac or Bombay Canary.7 They are natives of the Middle East, Africa, Portugal and southern Spain.

The American cockroach is the largest roach and can grow to a length of 2 inches.

Close-up image of a big roach on a textured surface.

(Image: Colin Ybarra9)

It also has the longest life cycle among roaches, 700 days. It’s reddish brown to dark brown with a yellowish figure eight pattern on its pronotum that differentiates it from other Palmetto Bugs.

This bug is very fast. In fact, it’s one of the fastest insects.

Close-up of a large reddish-brown cockroach on a cracked and textured surface.

(Image: kenkneidel10)

2. Smoky Brown Cockroach

(Pariplaneta fuliginosa)

This Palmetto Bug is also found in Australia, Japan, and South America. It’s large, dark brown to black, with a shiny, long, slender body.

It can fly in warm temperatures. This roach is known to lose moisture faster than other Palmetto Bugs, so it loves areas with constant moisture.

3. Florida Woods Cockroach

(Eurycotis floridana)

Florida Woods cockroach is a large,1 dark brown to black cockroach. It has well-developed wings extending beyond the abdomen but is not a strong flier.

Close-up of several reddish-brown cockroaches on a piece of weathered wood with a blue background.

(Image: Happy189211)

It’s one of the slowest-moving cockroaches and usually produces a smelly defensive chemical.

Palmetto Bugs are omnivore scavengers and will eat almost everything. They’ll eat food scraps, leather, grease, dead insects, decaying plant matter and pet food.

Typically, they are outside dwellers but will seek shelter indoors when temperatures drop.

They’ll move anywhere they can easily find food, so don’t be surprised when you see these creepy bugs if you have any of the things mentioned above in your house or yard.

Palmetto Bugs vs Cockroach: What’s the Difference?

There is no real difference between Palmetto Bugs and cockroaches. Basically, Palmetto Bugs are species of large cockroaches found in the Southeastern United States.

There are over 4,000 types of cockroaches in the world. Seventy of these, including the Palmetto Bugs, are found in the United States.

Other species of cockroaches include German, Madagascar Hissing, and African Giant cockroaches. Palmetto Bugs get their name because they are commonly found living in and near Palmetto trees.

As mentioned above, the Palmetto Bug may refer to any of the three types of large cockroaches, depending on the region. For instance, the Palmetto Bug in Florida refers to the Florida Wood cockroach and Smoky Brown cockroaches in Southern Carolina.

Where Are Palmetto Bugs Found?

Palmetto Bugs love warm, humid climates, hence their preference for the Southeastern United States region. They are commonly found in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

Naturally, these insects live outside but seek shelter in homes with their ideal living conditions.

Here are some areas that Palmetto Bugs will find ideal for living:

  • Indoors: When the temperature outside drops, these bugs will look for warm, moist areas to live in. So, if they can enter your house, they’ll camp in kitchen cabinets, behind the sink, bathroom and any other dark, moist space.
    And they’ll never want to leave if you leave food lying around. In fact, they’ll multiply like crazy.
  • Sewers and drains: Like other cockroaches, Palmetto Bugs love sewer systems and drainage pipes. They’ll use the sewer line to enter your home and establish a breeding ground along it.
  • Wood piles and outdoor debris: Palmetto Bugs’ diet includes decaying plant matter. They will establish and thrive under woodpiles, leaf litter and other debris.
  • Basement, attic and crawl spaces: These bugs usually prefer places with darkness, moisture and relative seclusion. Basements and crawl spaces offer these conditions, especially in high humidity.
  • Appliances and electronics: Don’t be surprised when you find Palmetto Bugs under the fridge, computers and television. They are there for the heat.
  • Garbage storage site: If you don’t cover and dispose of your garbage regularly, that’s an open invitation to Palmetto Bugs and many other insects. Garbage sites are ideal as they are moist and have plenty of food.

Are Palmetto Bugs Dangerous (Do Palmetto Bugs Bite?)

Palmetto Bugs are nocturnal. They hide all day and only come out to look for food when it’s dark.

For this reason, chances of seeing them are low unless there’s any infestation and food scarcity.

A hand holding a piece of bark with a Palmetto Bug on it.

(Image: daniel_e12)

So, are Palmetto Bugs dangerous? Not really.

They are not considered dangerous to people because they don’t pose a direct threat like some pests like venomous spiders or stinging insects.

Do Palmetto Bugs bite? They rarely bite because they try to avoid contact with humans, and they are not aggressive.

However, when threatened or cornered, they’ll nip or pinch with their mouth or scratch with their leg spine.

The bite is not life-threatening or painful, but it will leave a small red mark with little irritation.

Nonetheless, they are a nuisance and carry potential health risks like:

  • Allergies: Some people get skin reactions or respiratory issues when they come into contact with Palmetto Bugs’ feces, saliva, and shed skin because they have allergenic proteins.
  • Contamination: According to the Environmental Protection Agency,4 Palmetto Bugs carry bacteria and pathogens like salmonella that can contaminate food, food preparation surfaces and utensils. This can cause foodborne illnesses.
  • Asthma triggers: Palmetto Bugs are a hazard for asthmatic people because their allergenic proteins will worsen asthma symptoms. Data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America indicate that they can increase asthmatic attacks in children.3
  • Unsanitary conditions: If you have these bugs in your home, you have excess moisture or food debris. This will attract other pests.

To keep these bugs away from your home, you must maintain a clean home and seal all entry points. But if they are already present, use the methods mentioned above on how to get rid of Palmetto Bugs. 

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs

How Do Palmetto Bugs Enter a House?

Palmetto Bugs will use even the smallest opening to get into your house. They will crawl under doors, through pipes or cracks in your roof, window and wall.

How Do I Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs?

You can use various methods, including spraying peppermint oil, soapy water, traps, baits, or aero-spray insecticides. Always exercise caution if you have children and pets.

How Do I Prevent Palmetto Bugs From Coming Back?

Palmetto Bugs usually come in search of food, water and shelter. Clean your house and yard thoroughly, dispose of trash well, and seal any entry point they may use.


1Bibbs, C. S. Baldwin, R. W. (2018, October 1). Florida Woods Cockroach (AKA Palmetto Bug) Eurycotis floridana (Walker). University of Florida. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

2Koehler, P. G., Bayer, B. E., Branscome, D. (2022, February 17). Cockroaches and Their Management. University of Florida. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

3Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (2015, October). Cockroach Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

4United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, March 8). Cockroaches and Schools. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

5Department of Health. (2008, July). Get Rid of Cockroaches. New York State Department of Health. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

6Kassiri, H. (2016, October 4). Evaluation of Some Plant Essential Oils against the Brown-Banded Cockroach, Supella longipalpa (Blattaria: Ectobiidae): A Mechanical Vector of Human Pathogens. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

7Merchant, M., & Hurley, J. (2017, November 21). Common Name(s): American Cockroach, Palmetto Bug, waterbug. Extension Entomology. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

8Peairs, F., & Weissling, T. J. (2012, July). Cockroaches – 5.553 – Extension. CSU Extension. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

9Photo by Colin Ybarra. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

10Photo by kenkneidel. CC0 1.0 Deed. Resized and Changed Format. iNaturalist. Retrieved from <>

11Photo by Happy1892. CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed. Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

12Photo by daniel_e. iNaturalist. Retrieved from <>

13Photo by janabuggs. iNaturalist. Retrieved from <>

14Palmetto Bug Photo by National Park Service / Public Domain. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. National Park Service. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from <>