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Palmetto Bugs Vs. Cockroaches: What’s the Difference?

Palmetto Bugs Vs. Cockroaches: What’s the Difference?

If you live in the South, you’ve likely (unintentionally) encountered the infamous “palmetto bug” at one point or another. These reddish-brown, scurrying critters can grow up to three inches in length and have an uncanny ability to show up wherever and whenever they’re most unwanted. When you spot one scurrying across your floor, it may occur to you that these pests look quite a lot like American cockroaches. As local pest control specialists, we are often asked, “What’s the difference between the two?” Keep reading to find out!

Pest Facts: Palmetto Bugs vs Cockroaches

Fun fact: palmetto bugs and cockroaches are actually one and the same. It’s a simple matter of puh-tei-tow vs po-tah-toe, in other words, a difference in local vernacular. But if you are finding these critters in your home, you are probably much more interested in getting rid of them than naming conventions. So whatever you opt to call these unwanted home invaders, our local exterminators have a few tips on how you can prevent, control, and get rid of them.

What Attracts Palmetto Bugs?

Palmetto bugs prefer simple living. Their primary drivers are basic needs like food, water, shelter, and nesting grounds. For the most part, we can relate, but that doesn’t mean we want them inside of our homes. Step number one is, of course, prevention, so that palmetto bugs don’t take up residence in your home.


American cockroaches (palmetto bugs) are omnivores. They are comfortable eating either plants or meat, although they have a preference for sweet and starchy foods. To minimize the threat of a palmetto bug infestation, dispose of food waste, trash, and recycling, wipe down your kitchen counters and do your laundry frequently. Palmetto bugs can survive up to three months without food, and one month without water, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t seek those resources out if they are close by.


Palmetto bugs thrive in warm and wet climates, which often drives them to your home. They will gravitate towards bushes and mulch around your foundations and congregate in your crawl spaces and garages which typically have sources of water or higher humidity. Our local pest control specialists always recommend prevention as the ideal course of action. Before you ever see a bug in your home, you can take steps to avoid the problem in the first place.

Reduce areas of dense vegetation around your foundation with bushes trimmed back at least and foot away from the foundation. Keep mulch areas thin by removing old mulch next to the foundation prior to adding new mulch. Keep your crawl space dry with dehumidifiers and ground liners and keep it clear of stored items. Eliminate clutter and keep your garage organized and reduce moisture with dehumidifiers.

The American cockroach is also nocturnal and tends to avoid bright light whenever possible, whereas, the Asian cockroach (also native to the Lowcountry) is actually attracted to artificial light, which may draw them into your home. Seal any gaps in your doors, windows, walls, and the exterior of your home.


A female cockroach will lay capsules in and around your home and may contain 15 to 20 eggs, depending on the species. Young palmetto bugs grow and mature for approximately a year, before living another six months as an adult. Once these bugs have invaded an area, the chemicals in their droppings can attract other palmetto bugs, rapidly compounding the problem. Nobody really needs an additional reason not to want these critters in your home, but trust us, you don’t want them in your home.

If you start to see roaches in your home, it’s best to attack the problem immediately. If left unchecked, they can multiply quickly, turning a small problem into a major infestation. Their presence can contaminate the food in your pantry and air in your home, aggravating lung conditions like asthma and allergies.

How Do You Get Rid of Palmetto Bugs?

These precautionary steps should help to keep invading pests out of your home. Unfortunately, though, once palmetto bugs settle in your space, they can be very difficult to remove as their hard exoskeleton allows them to be resistant to many store-bought pesticides. If you do happen to find yourself in that position, don’t worry – that’s where we come in!

Give Palmetto Exterminators a call for your free pest inspection, and one of our local exterminators will be right over to help you reclaim your property. We can help eliminate your infestation quickly and effectively, and our experts can set you up with a comprehensive plan to make sure your home or commercial property stays protected from a future infestation. Our Exterior Service Program controls these pest populations before they enter your home.