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If you’ve repeatedly stayed on the Outer Banks or another coastal Carolina area, you’ve probably come across large waterbugs, also known as “palmetto bugs”. They prefer dark and damp conditions -- this is why you see them a lot at night on the Outer Banks! Since the Outer Banks are barrier islands, situated between the sound and the ocean, they provide the ideal environment for waterbugs. If rain has been scarce, you may see them trying to infiltrate homes in the area. Conversely, you may come across these bugs under carports or on porches when it has recently rained. This is where the term “waterbug” likely comes from. The term “palmetto bug” is said to originate from the fact that these insects sometimes hang out in palmetto trees in South Carolina, the palmetto state.

Waterbugs are typically large, winged insects, measuring two inches or longer, with a light to dark brown color and markings. Outer Banks residents and visitors will usually see them around the exterior of homes, but they have been known to make it inside as well. We do employ regular spray prevention methods in all our homes. However, while spray prevention does help in reducing how often they are spotted, seeing these large pests is inevitable, and does not mean the homes have unsanitary conditions. If you do encounter a large number of palmetto bugs during your stay, please let us know. We will send out a contracted pest control company or have one of our techs come out and spray.

Here are some things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of encountering palmetto bugs during your stay:

  • Do not leave food out in the open. Instead, put it away in airtight containers after you are finished eating.
  • Clean the kitchen after cooking to remove any leftover crumbs or oils.
  • Take out the trash frequently.
  • Put your pet’s food away overnight.

Do I need to call to have the home sprayed every time I see a waterbug?

No. We perform regular, routine pest treatments. As mentioned earlier, waterbug sightings do not mean homes are unsanitary. They are common on the Outer Banks and sightings will occur.

Why do I sometimes see waterbugs indoors, instead of just around the exterior?

They will sometimes seek shelter indoors when it’s very hot and dry outside or when there’s an excess of rain.

What’s the most important prevention method for reducing waterbug sightings?

Eliminate standing water. Cleaning up leftover food is also important. However, waterbugs can live over a month without food, but not more than a week without water.