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How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs | Step-by-Step Guide

How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs | Step-by-Step Guide

When your house is being overrun, learning how to get rid of palmetto bugs becomes critical. We will walk you through the process step by step so that you can get rid of these annoying pests for good.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


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How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs: A Summary

This guide goes into the step-by-step details of getting rid of palmetto bugs (or water bugs, as some folks call them). Looking for a quick and dirty overview of where to get started? We have a quick list for you to follow: 

  1. Hunt Down All Cracks & Holes
  2. Seal the Cracks and Open Spaces
  3. Fix Leaking Faucets and Eliminate Water Sources
  4. Wipe Down Food Preparation Surfaces
  5. Empty Garbage Cans Frequently
  6. Seal Food in Airtight Containers
  7. Set Poison Traps Around the House
  8. Look for Signs of a Return
  9. Disrupt the next Generation of Palmetto Bugs

How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs in 9 Steps

Piece titled How to Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs featuring such a bug in a solitary image sitting on a grey background

Lizabeth Stirling-Perkins/Shutterstock

Be prepared: getting rid of palmetto bugs isn’t easy. They tend to hide in the low-traffic, dark areas of your home. The steps below work to address the heart of the problem and get these pests out of your home permanently. 

1. Hunt Down All Cracks & Holes

Hunt down all of the cracks, holes, and other wiggle spaces around your doors, windows, and foundation. Palmetto bugs are always looking for a warm place to nest that has food and water.

They get into the house through these small cracks that seem impossible for anything to squeeze through, but these are tiny and determined insects. 

Use a good expanding caulk to ensure everything is truly airtight; you can find a good expanding caulk at virtually any hardware or big box store. 

2. Seal the Cracks and Open Spaces

After you have hunted down all of the cracks around your home, it’s time to spring into action. Use a good expanding caulk to ensure everything is truly airtight; you can find a good expanding caulk at virtually any hardware or big box store. 

Be sure that you have done a complete walkthrough of your home. Commonly overlooked areas are the closets and other dark spaces. Palmetto bugs can hide in the walls during the day and come out at night, so it’s critical to double-check everything in the name of full coverage. 

3. Fix Leaking Faucets and Eliminate Water Sources

Fixing the leaky faucets on every single sink is critical in the battle against palmetto bugs. They can live without food for over a month, but they can’t live without water that long. Even a faucet that doesn’t drip that much is still a great water source for pesky palmetto bugs. 

Faucet repair kits are not only cheap, but they also have an additional benefit: you also save money on your water bill every month. Every faucet is different, but following the instructions on the faucet repair kit will get you going in the right direction. 

The toilet and tub area should also be at the top of your list when fighting palmetto bugs. Some palmetto bugs prefer to live in sewer pipes, which means they can come up through the drains with ease. 

4. Wipe Down Food Preparation Surfaces

It sounds straightforward: make sure you wipe down all surfaces after preparing food. The lingering scent of food is a siren song for palmetto bugs. Getting rid of them for good means cutting down on the scent cues that draw them into your house. 

Disposable cleaning wipes make this an easy job; lemon-scented wipes give everything a clean scent that is also unappealing to bugs.

You can even follow up with a vinegar spray mixed with mint essential oil, as mint is extremely unpleasant to palmetto bugs. Food spills around the refrigerator and freezer are common; be sure to clean this area as much as possible.

Get underneath the fridge with a broom and sweep out any food particles. Palmetto bugs are attracted to all sources of heat, and your fridge puts out a lot of heat! 

5. Empty Garbage Cans Frequently

Emptying the garbage more frequently blocks palmetto bugs from feasting on food waste and other rotting items in the trash. Take the garbage outside and put it in a clean garbage container with a sturdy lid.

Don’t forget to wash the garbage cans out regularly with a bleach-based solution to prevent palmetto bugs from smelling food residue. Reducing your overall food waste levels is a smart decision. The less waste in the home, the less food the palmetto bugs can consume. 

6. Seal Food in Airtight Containers

Taking away food sources from palmetto bugs is critical when it’s time to get rid of them. You should store all food in airtight food containers.

Refrigerated foods should go back into the fridge as soon as possible after cooking. You should store dry foods in airtight jars that block the scent as much as possible. Palmetto bugs like sugar and starches for quick energy, so keep that in mind as you revise your food storage system.

Don’t forget to clean the floors after meals. Food bits left on the floor get brushed against baseboards and under tables, leaving a feast for palmetto bugs to enjoy.

If your family tends to eat in the living room or other carpeted areas, make sure to vacuum routinely. Encourage your family members to avoid eating in bedrooms to reduce places where lingering food smells attract bugs.

If they must eat at an office desk or in bed while watching TV, make sure that they bring the trash out of their room as soon as possible. 

7. Set Poison Traps Around the House

Palmetto bug infestations grow out of control quickly; stop them in their tracks with poison. While some homeowners may be against using chemicals, the reality is that many natural alternatives aren’t as effective against these invaders. 

A poison gel is a perfect solution to palmetto bugs, as it allows you to get the gel along baseboards, underneath cabinets, and other places where pests like to hide. The gel has chemicals that attract the bugs and get them curious enough to walk through the gel.

They take the gel back to the nest, not realizing that their buddies are in trouble. You don’t have to stick to chemical combinations to take care of palmetto bugs. A good mint mist around each room is an excellent deterrent. 

8. Look for Signs of a Return

Once you’ve gone through the process of treating the entire house, what’s left? Well, it’s time to watch for signs of return. It’s not enough to treat the problem for a little while and then call it a success. You must learn the signs of palmetto bugs around your home.

Are there small flecks that look like peppercorns along the walls? Those are fecal droppings. You should also check for shiny round shells, as those are palmetto bug egg casings. 

It’s typical to see egg casings around while treating for palmetto bugs, as their eggs take time to hatch. Perhaps you’ve already addressed the adult palmetto bug infestation. It’s essential to address the baby bugs before they grow up and breed more bugs to invade your home. 

9. Disrupt the next Generation of Palmetto Bugs

The final step in the process is to disrupt the next generation of palmetto bugs. The egg development cycle takes a while. As mentioned before, if you take out all of the adults, you can still have bug problems.

The babies hatch and want the same survival as the adults: food, shelter, and water! An insect growth regulator (IGR) is a powerful tool to have on your side. IGRs stop the egg development cycle completely.

This means that the eggs left behind by adult palmetto bugs never grow into adults themselves.

While IGRs are more expensive than the typical palmetto bug treatments, they are extremely effective in truly eliminating the problem. Severe infestations require multiple treatment angles, including preventing the next generation of bugs from taking over your home. 

Things to Consider

An American Cockroach (Palmetto Bug) lying on its back because someone followed our guide on how to get rid of them

Bird in Paradise Stock/Shutterstock

The battle against palmetto bugs can truly feel endless. However, there are a few points to consider before you dig in: 

  • You may need multiple treatment rounds to get rid of palmetto bugs for good. 
  • Even people with beautifully cleaned and well-kept homes can battle palmetto bugs, as your home still contains heat, water, and food. 
  • If you have extensive landscaping outside, be sure to treat the exterior spaces well to prevent palmetto bugs from using mulch or outdoor structures as breeding grounds.

So, How Do You Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs?

Getting rid of palmetto bugs means destroying their sources of food and water, as well as laying down poisons to not only take care of the current generation of invaders but their offspring as well.

Ensuring that any palmetto bug eggs don’t hatch into another wave of terror for your home is critical to beating the problem for good. The steps in this guide walk you from start to finish, where you can go back to enjoying your home to the fullest.

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