Pest Identification

Learn More About the Pests Invading Your Home

What's the Difference Between a Cockroach and a Palmetto Bug?

Cockroaches are one of the hardest pests to eradicate, due to their ability to hide almost anywhere and survive on almost any organic material, and their resistance to most methods of extermination. Cockroaches infestations can be harmful as well as cause annoyance, eating the bindings of books and food that has been left out, contaminating foods and surfaces in your home, and finding their way into places where they don’t belong. 

The name “palmetto bug” is often used to refer to numerous kinds of cockroaches, and some people will even refer to some large species of beetles as palmetto bugs. However, the term palmetto bug most often is referencing the American Cockroach, Florida Woods Cockroach, or the Smokybrown Cockroach.


What Is a Palmetto Bug?


The term, palmetto bug, is often used to refer to beetles, roaches, water bugs, and other roach-looking insects and is more of a colloquial term instead of a species’ classification name. Palmetto bugs are known to prefer damp, moist locations, and at times will find shelter in indoor spaces such as bathrooms. While certain cockroaches specifically seek indoor sanctuary, palmetto bugs are interpreted to prefer an outdoor lifestyle, taking shelter in tree holes, between crevices and under none other than, palmetto tree leaves! 

In the southern part of the United States, one thing that makes a particular roach species, that residents call a palmetto bug, unique is that when alarmed, it can spray a stinky liquid up to one meter. Because of this, it is often called by the nicknames skunk cockroach, stinking cockroach, Florida skunk roach, or just stinkroach. Only the adult insects can produce the spray, which is not harmful but can be irritating to the eyes of humans, in addition to producing a foul odor. An interesting fact is that some species of mice that prey on palmetto bugs have found out how to avoid getting sprayed.


How to Identify a Palmetto Bug


So how can you avoid mistaking a palmetto bug for another type of cockroach? One way is by their large size. They typically grow to be anywhere from 1.25 to 2.0 inches long, though one roach who won a Florida woods cockroach size contest was a whopping 2.4 inches. These mostly harmless pests will typically only be found outdoors, but if you do run into one, watch out for its stinky spray.