Palmetto Bugs vs Cockroaches

Author: Kurt Treftz, Cascade Pest Control

You may have heard the term palmetto bug and wondered what in the world that is and if you need to worry about it in the Pacific Northwest.  Here’s your answer.

What is a palmetto bug?

Simply put a palmetto bug is a regional term for a large cockroach. If you reside in the southeastern part of the United States, often in Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina, you will probably hear this term to refer to a variety of large roaches. (Basically, all palmetto bugs are cockroaches, but not all cockroaches are palmetto bugs.) 

Mostly the term “palmetto bug” is associated with a few common varieties of cockroaches (from the 4500 species identified).

  • American cockroach (P. americana): This is the largest species of cockroach reaching an adult length of 4 cm. It is reddish brown and winged (in their adult form). They move extremely quickly and are most active at night.
  • Florida woods cockroach (Eurycotis floridana): Coming in at almost 4 cm when fully grown, it is just slightly smaller than its American cousin. They are dark to blackish brown with small forewings. They can eject an extremely noxious spray when alarmed which has earned them another nickname: Skunk roach.
  • Smokybrown cockroach (Periplaneta fuliginosa): Closely related to the American cockroach, the smokybrown cockroach is also a large pest. However, it is darker than its cousin with a uniform dark brown-mahogany coloration. It is a warm weather roach that prefers climates that are hot and humid. They aren’t cold tolerant but might seek to survive by going indoors.
  • Sometimes called palmetto bugs: Australian (P. australasiae), Brown (P. brunnea), and Death’s Head (Blaberus craniifer) cockroaches.
palmetto bug
Palmetto Roach

Why is it called a palmetto bug?

This name developed in those southeastern areas because of the cockroaches’ preference for living in the palmetto tree. Sabal Palm (palmetto) tree has been named the state tree of both Florida and South Carolina hence the prevalence of “palmetto bugs” in these regions. (You can even see the state referenced in the name of the cockroach listed above.)

These bugs live in this tropical plant enjoying the moisture and rotting vegetation and wood that they feed on. Of course, palmetto bugs can find these attributes in other places as well, but with the abundance of these palm trees, you are likely to find them there in particular.

Should I be concerned about palmetto bugs in Washington State?

If you are inclined to call large roaches palmetto bugs, then yes, you might encounter them in WA. But you might be the only one calling them that (maybe due to the noticeable lack of palmettos in the area). Unfortunately, cockroaches are present even here in the Pacific Northwest and the large American cockroach is one “palmetto bug” you might find.

The Seattle area doesn’t have quite as many cockroaches as the warmer, more humid, southern states, but homeowners and businesses throughout the Seattle area still struggle with roach infestations. In addition to the large American cockroach, you will find the other roaches that like indoor living like the brown-banded cockroach, the German cockroach, and the Oriental cockroach.

If you find yourself facing off with a large cockroach, you could call it a palmetto bug or you could call the experts at Cascade Pest Control for professional roach control: 888-989-8979.

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