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

Cockroaches and "palmetto bugs" often get mixed up, but here's the deal: they're pretty much the same critters.

So, how do you spot the difference in your home? Stick around to learn how to tell these speedy bugs apart and keep your home pest-free.

Key Takeaways

  • Palmetto bugs are a type of cockroach that is often found in Florida.
  • Florida hosts various cockroach species, including the American, German, Smoky Brown, Florida Woods, and Oriental cockroaches.
  • Cockroaches and palmetto bugs differ in size, color, wing development, and preferred habitats, with palmetto bugs generally larger and more outdoor-oriented.
  • Cockroaches/Palmetto bugs can spread diseases like Salmonella and E. coli, and their presence can exacerbate allergies and asthma, especially in indoor environments.
  • Identifying and managing infestations requires vigilance for signs like droppings and egg cases, DIY methods like boric acid bait, and professional pest control for persistent issues.

Understanding Palmetto Bugs in Florida

Palmetto bugs are typical in warm, humid regions, particularly in Florida. They are not only a common annoyance but also a notable member of the cockroach family.

What Are Palmetto Bugs?

In Florida, the term "palmetto bug" often refers to the adult American cockroaches, which thrive in the state's tropical climate.

This cockroach species is often considered the "real" palmetto bug, especially in the southern and southeastern United States, such as South Carolina.

Despite their name, palmetto bugs are not exclusive to palmetto trees. However, these trees provide them with a typical habitat.

Besides checking for long antennae, recognizing a palmetto bug is straightforward if you know what to look for despite being often mistaken for water bugs:




Up to 1.5 inches long


Typically reddish-brown to black


Shorter than many other cockroaches, appearing underdeveloped


Notably, they are less agile compared to common cockroaches

Types of Cockroaches in Florida

Florida is home to many different species of cockroaches, each with distinctive characteristics. These versatile, hardy insects can adapt to various environments.

Here’s a closer look at some of the most prevalent roach species found in the state:

American Cockroach

Scientific NamePeriplaneta americana

  • Identifying Features: Reddish-brown, large cockroaches about 1.5 inches in length, wings
  • Habitats: Warm, moist areas, sewers, basements

German Cockroach

Scientific NameBlattella germanica

  • Identifying Features: Light brown, two dark stripes on the back, about 0.6 inches
  • Habitats: Kitchens, bathrooms, indoor settings

Smoky Brown Cockroach

Scientific NamePeriplaneta fuliginosa

  • Identifying Features: Uniform dark brown, about 1.2 inches
  • Habitats: Attics, crawl spaces, outdoor foliage

Florida Woods Cockroach

Scientific NameEurycotis floridana

  • Identifying Features: Dark brown to black, larger at about 1.6 inches, emits a defensive odor
  • Habitats: Yards with heavy foliage, tree hollows

Oriental Cockroach

Scientific NameBlatta orientalis

  • Identifying Features: Dark brown or black, about 1 inch, prefers cooler temperatures
  • Habitats: Damp, dark areas like drains, under debris

Identifying Signs of Infestations

cockroach vs palmetto bug

Cockroaches and palmetto bugs leave similar evidence of their unwelcome presence when scouting for signs of an infestation in a home.

Here's what you should keep an eye out for as homeowners in Florida:




Their feces look like small, black, or brown specks or pellets. 

Egg Cases

Both pests lay oblong, dark brown egg cases (oothecae). 


A musty, oily smell can be a telltale of a cockroach infestation, which strengthens with more significant numbers.


Look for chew marks on food packaging, books, and leather.


Seeing live or dead cockroaches and palmetto bugs, particularly during the day.

At-Home Cockroach Control Strategies

Effective management requires a combination of do-it-yourself diligence and professional pest control services for cockroaches and palmetto bug infestations.

The right approach can keep these pests at bay and prevent them from recurring problems in places like sewers, basements, mulch, and other humid areas.

DIY Control Methods

Controlling cockroaches and palmetto bugs can start with a few natural methods. One popular approach is the use of boric acid.

Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Mix equal parts of boric acid, flour, and sugar to create a bait that attracts the pests.
  2. Place the bait in shallow containers or dust it in areas where the insects are frequently spotted, such as kitchen cabinets and behind appliances.

For outdoor prevention, make sure to follow this checklist:

  • keep wood piles away from your home’s foundation
  • regularly clean gutters
  • minimize the use of mulch near your home's perimeter

Why Call Professional Pest Control?

Like bed bug infestations, key indicators signal the need for a professional exterminator for problems with cockroaches and palmetto bugs.

These include:

Key Indicators


Persistent Presence

If you consistently find cockroaches or palmetto bugs despite your DIY efforts, it's time to call in the professionals.

Rapid Reproduction

These pests can reproduce quickly, so a small problem can become a large infestation quickly.

Potential Damage

While cockroaches and palmetto bugs aren't known to cause damage like termites, their presence suggests other potential pest control issues.

Health Concerns

Professional pest control services have the correct tools and techniques to handle infestations.

Preventative Measures

A pest management professional can offer solutions to prevent future infestations.

Should You Seek Out the Experts?

When dealing with cockroaches or palmetto bugs, many of you squirm at the thought of these critters scuttling through your homes. Sometimes, ensuring a bug-free zone means reaching out for help.

So, if cockroaches and palmetto bugs are becoming all too familiar faces around your abode, picking up the phone to bring in pest control professionals (like us, Native Pest Management) might just be the smart move.