How To Keep Palmetto Bugs Out Of Your Home, According To An Expert

When you imagine Florida's natural landscape, you might picture white sand beaches, tropical flowers, and palm trees. But look a little closer at those palm fronds, and you're likely to find some rather unattractive inhabitants: palmetto bugs. In an exclusive interview with House Digest, Tim McMahan, owner of Pestegic and a certified Pest Control Technician, gives us the scoop on these unsightly critters.

"Palmetto bug is a regional term used in the southeastern U.S. to refer to smokey brown cockroaches and American cockroaches," he explains. "Both of these species prefer to live outside, and are frequently found living in the leaves of the palmetto plant, which is how they became known as a palmetto bug." Some people may also refer to the Florida woods cockroach as a palmetto bug — a bigger, meatier species than your typical house roach. In essence, a palmetto bug is an umbrella term for cockroaches, and they all share the same behaviors that drive humans up the wall. "While these bugs prefer to live outside, they will venture inside a home during unseasonably cold weather or in search of food,"warns McMahan. Here's his advice for keeping these nuisances out of your personal space.

Prioritize sanitation and store food properly

This may come as no surprise, but Tim McMahan's first tip is to eliminate attractants. He says, "Keeping your home clean is the easiest way to keep palmetto bugs and other insects out of your home. Don't leave food on your countertops overnight, and clean up spills right away." Most species of cockroaches can live up to a month without food, so it's crucial to keep up with regular cleaning. Even having just a few crumbs on the floor is enticing enough for them to stick around. And just because some food items are tucked away in your pantry or kept off the floor doesn't mean they're safe from hungry insects. "Dry goods like cereal, flour, oats, and dog food are all attractive food sources that should be kept in sealed, air-tight containers," advises McMahan. "This will keep them from attracting palmetto bugs and other insects like ants."

According to the expert, the kitchen is a prime spot for palmetto bugs. "Like all cockroaches, palmetto bugs are drawn to easily available food sources. They're especially attracted to homes with food crumbs, spills, and dirty garbage cans," he says. To deter them, sweep kitchen floors frequently, at least twice per week, or whenever you start to notice crumbs collecting on the floor. Palmetto bugs also love hiding underneath the refrigerator and stove for warmth, so clean behind these appliances as often as you can. 

Seal entry points and control moisture

If you're still having problems after practicing consistent cleaning habits, the next step is to figure out how the pests are coming into your home. McMahan explains, "Palmetto bugs can enter your home through small cracks or crevices. They only need a gap slightly larger than the thickness of a credit card to enter." Take a walk around the inside and outside of your house to look for any potential access points. "Pay special attention to any cracks in your foundation, gaps between your foundation and sill plates, and utility entry points," he says. If you find any suspicious spots, use caulk or expanding foam to fill the cracks and keep pests at bay.

McMahan further explains that food and warmth aren't the only things that palmetto bugs love about your house. "Like humans, palmetto bugs need both water and food to survive," he says. "It's important to clean up any standing water and repair any leaking faucets or drains. Pay special attention to the drains and water connections under your kitchen and bathroom sink inside cabinets. These are preferred harborages for palmetto bugs, and a water leak just makes [them] more attractive."

Schedule routine pest control

Trying to eliminate palmetto bugs by yourself can feel like an impossible task. Even if you sweep regularly, keep food sealed, and repair concrete cracks and leaks, these crafty critters may still turn your home into their habitat. Don't risk your health and happiness chasing bugs around all day; hire a professional to get the job done quickly and ensure these unwelcome guests won't come back.

Even if you aren't experiencing an infestation, it's important to schedule routine pest maintenance if you live in an area that's prone to palmetto bugs. It's much easier to prevent pests than it is to eradicate them. As Tim McMahan mentions, "Routine pest control services are designed to keep bugs out of your home. An exterior perimeter pest control treatment will create a band of protection around your doors, windows, foundation, and eaves. Any bug that attempts to enter your home will have to cross this band and will be eliminated by the pest control product."