Palmetto Bug is also known as the American cockroach, water bug, flying water bug and, in some areas of the South, the palmetto bug. It is the largest of the common species, growing to 1.5 inches or more in length. The color is reddish-brown, with a pale brown or yellow border on the upper surface of the pronotum. Both the male and female are fully winged. The wings of the male extend slightly beyond the tip of the abdomen, while those of the female are about the same length as the abdomen. The above image is of a female.
The female drops her egg capsule within a day after it is formed. Sometimes it is dropped in a suitable location, such as near a food source, or in a protected area. In this region, the preferred nest habitat may be outdoors in moist and decaying wood. At other times it may be glued to some surface with secretions from the female's mouth. Egg capsules are formed at the rate of about one per week until 15 or more capsules have been produced. Each capsule contains 14-16 eggs. At room temperature, nymphs will hatch out in 50-55 days. In the process of hatching, nymphs will molt and leave their first cast skins in the egg case.
Young nymphs are grayish-brown and each will molt 9-13 times before reaching maturity. After the first few molts, nymphs become more reddish brown in color. The time required to complete the entire process varies from 160-971 days. Under ideal conditions, an adult female can live up to 14-15 months; males for a somewhat shorter period. However, in natural populations many factors reduce their life span.
When indoors, the nymphs and adults are usually found in dark, moist areas of basements and crawl spaces as well as in and around bathtubs, clothes hampers, floor drains, pipe chases and sewers. In basements they are usually found in corner areas high on the walls. In the North, this roach is commonly associated with steam heat tunnels. In northern areas where such tunnels are not found, the American cockroach is restricted primarily to large institutional buildings. The American cockroach is also common around the manholes of sewers, and on the underside of metal covers of large sump pumps in boiler rooms. American cockroaches have also been observed migrating from one building to another during warm months
In the South, this roach is abundant in alleyways, yards, hollow trees and palm trees. Recent studies in Florida have shown that American cockroaches and other outdoor roaches are generally associated with trees and woodpiles in landscapes. They especially prefer moist, shady areas. Sometimes they are found under roof shingles or flashing, or even in the attic. Similar studies in Texas have shown that American and smoky-brown cockroaches often prefer moist, shady areas of ground cover, which are often found around foundations and near swimming pools. The presence of automatic sprinkler systems for irrigating these areas of turf and ground cover will provide particularly attractive and favorable living conditions for cockroach populations. When conditions are unfavorable, American cockroaches and other outdoor species may move indoors.
American cockroaches feed on a variety of foods, but decaying organic matter seems to be preferred. They also feed upon book bindings, manuscripts, clothing and glossy paper with starch sizing. Syrup and other sweets are also attractive. The adults can survive two or three months without food, but only about a month without water.
Adults Palmetto bugs have well-developed wings, but seldom fly. They are capable of gliding long distances and will cover considerable distances if they take off from a tree or roof top. In the South, and as far north as Kentucky, American cockroaches have been reported to fly only short distances.