What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: palmetto bugs DO BITE
Location: Metro Atlanta
July 11, 2013 7:40 am
Hi Mr. Bugmann,
Last night I picked up a Palmetto looking bug, on my way to feed it to my Dragon Lizard, It clamped down on my finger. I did an Indian war dance and shook it off my finger to find blood dripping from it. My wife tracked it down and smacked it with a flip flop fly swatter. I went to inspect to see what it chomped down on me with, Well then I heard the toilet flush, My wife wanted to make sure it didn’t wake up and attack again. Anyway, Once I got the blood to stop I tried to find other occurrences with others. No luck. I was once bitten by a scorpion by its claw with a similar result.
Signature: Champ

Palmetto Bug Bite

Palmetto Bug Bite

Hi Champ,
Palmetto Bugs are a pretty name for the American Cockroach, actually a species believed to have been imported to the new world from Africa via slave ships.  Way back in 2003, we reported that Palmetto Bugs do not bite, but the spines on their legs might break the skin.  If your experience is accurate, it appears we may have been wrong ten years ago.

Palmetto Bug from India

Palmetto Bug from India from our archives

I’ll try to get a photo if I see another one so we know for comparing apples and apples. By the way have you ever heard the song “big cockroach” back Kip Adonna?

We have not heard of the song but we did locate this by Kip Addotta on Song Meanings.


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Atlanta, Georgia

22 Responses to Reported Palmetto Bug Bite

  1. Oh please do not tell me this. This is the only bug that really grosses me out and now this makes it even worse.

  2. Ellen says:

    I grew up in Houston, where swarms of these lovelies would leave the sewer systems on summer nights and gather by the hundreds under the glow of the streetlamps. I once heard a loud, “Crunch, crunch, crunch,” from across the living room, late one night. I scooted over to check it out, and there was a giant roach, crunching down on its midnight snack of ruffled potato chip. Yeah. I believe it could deliver a pretty good bite to a finger. I learned not to watch TV while lying on the floor, and I learned not to walk outside barefooted at night, either. The Kip Addotta song was probably written about the potato-chip-eating-bug from Houston.

  3. very interesting although i wonder if they would only bite if they were being picked up or provoked and not just landing on people to bite them of course having roaches in your bed nibbling on you would be no picnic either 😉

  4. Cesar Crash says:

    I caught wingless american cockroaches a few times, never been bitten… Anyway, I agree with Ellen “Anything with a mouth can bite.”

    • David Stevenson says:

      I woke last night because i felt something crawling on my face. I was scare because i thought it was a spider. I squished it with pillow jumped and turn the lights on and it was a palmetto bug. Omg. I almost flipped out. I went pick it up with a papertowel and it was still alive a tried to get away. I thought i was gojng to have a heart attack lol. Because im afraid of bugs. But i smashed it on the wall and it made a crunching sound so i knew it was dead then. I picked it up and flush it down the toilet. I think i will sleep with tv light on tonight. Lol

  5. Binky says:

    This bug is my biggest fear. I literally go in to fits if one gets near me. I live in central Georgia and our house is old they are everywhere. My son chases me with them. Ugh I wish I lived in a bubble.

  6. Sonya says:

    Palmetto bugs DO bite! I live in Atlanta and last night while in my kitchen I felt something crawling up the back of my arm. I quickly knocked it off and starting jumping and screaming when I saw that it was a Palmetto bug (one of the smaller ones that looks like a beetle). I couldn’t believe that thing was crawling on me!!! The back of my arm starting itching so I went to look at it in the bathroom and sure enough I had swelling, redness, and pain similar to that of a large mosquito bite! UGGH! I could not believe it!!! How nasty is that, ughh!!! I HATE those bugs! I had itching and hives on my back and right leg about 10 minutes later as well and had to take a bendadryl! Then I remembered years ago when I had blood work for allergy testing the results came back that I was allergic to a lot of things including cock roaches (along with a lot of other things like feathers and grass, etc) I couldn’t believe that. I Iive in a pretty nice apartment and we do not have roaches but these palmetto bugs get in from time to time and I hate them!!!

  7. Jenna says:

    Roaches, including palmetto bugs, do bite. Hence the cases of child neglect cases where the homes are infested & the children, especially infants, are covered in bites. I live in charleston and we have those dreaded palmetto bugs. I have seen one latch on to a friends shirt, not by those sticky prickly legs, but by mouth. It was horrifying to say the least.. friend has been in the mental hospital ever since, about 5 yrs now.. (ok, that part is a joke, but she is still very much affected by that incident & is obsessively afraid of them now)

  8. Susan says:

    I have been trying to track down what type of bite I have-it looks just like the one pictured! Small red with that black thing in the middle-think it was a palmetto bug-tis not biting needs to be restudied! I have been putting alcohol on the bite and corizone. Seems to be shrinking and less red. Never has hurt-did not even know it was there til I saw it-any advice-please! Thank you!

    • bugman says:

      The bite you describe sounds like a puncture wound, not the type of bite one would get from a Palmetto Bug which has mandibles. Our advice if you are concerned is to see a health care provider.

  9. Shannon says:

    Palmetto bugs, do infact, bite. I’ve been woken from a deep sleep while staying on the beach in Fl. By a bite. It wasn’t the spiny legs, either. I am deathly afraid of these assholes and recently jumped out of a moving vehicle when a German cockroach ran across the dashboard.

    • bugman says:

      We are no longer disputing the possibility that a Palmetto Bug might bite, though this posting describes a “Palmetto looking bug” which, since there is no image to prove its identity, might actually be a Root Borer in the genus Prionus, a group with very powerful mandibles that could definitely draw blood. The hysterical fear of being bitten by a basically harmless creature and the subsequent action “jumped out of a moving vehicle” seems far more dangerous to us. Many creatures will bite if provoked, but that is not typical behavior for most insects, exempting of course blood suckers like flies and mosquitoes that definitely target humans as food.

  10. Richard says:

    These nasty palmetto bugs terrify me. I was a bouncer in several night clubs and fought for entertainment and I am not at all ashamed to say that these bugs creep me out in every way possible. Several times now I have been awoken by these creatures craelung on me while I slept. I don’t know about the biting and I don’t want to know. God has a purpose for everything, but forgive me Lord, I have to question this one! No offense to entomologists everywhere, but your job takes a “special” kind of weird to actually want to play with and study bugs. I don’t think I’d fight an entomoligist. Who knows what “secret weapon” they may have in a little container! Kudos to you all. Yes, I’m a big, 6’2″ 250 lbs baby when it comes to bugs!

  11. Lili R says:

    ALOHA FROM HAWAI’I!!! I came across your site after googling Palmetto Bugs. OMG!!! Like many of the others, I’m completely terrified of any cockroach…but especially the HUGE flying Hawai’ian (American) Cockroach which I guess Southerner’s call a Palmetto Bug. Call it what you may, but a roach on the floor or ceiling is nasty in itself, but that 2″ shitface at eye level is absolutely INSANE!! I have actually fallen down running away from them. When they land on me, I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack and I always was told they bite…so this is worse yet!!! I can hear them fluttering their disgusting wings and I almost passed out one evening while I was cornered in my shower, being held hostage for over 30 minutes because I was scared motionless, knowing if I ran, it would land on my body and for sure eat me!! Lol! Honestly, I would have doused myself in bleach if that happened. Here, I swear, they go on full attack mode. No matter what I have tried, nothing has taken my fear and anxiety away, when it comes to cockroaches. There’s nothing else in this entire world, that freaks me out as much as roaches. Just seeing images of them makes my skin crawl. I paid my daughter $5 (cuz I didn’t have a 20!!) to pick a dead one up with a paper towel…I see absolutely nothing positive or meaningful about them, other than scaring the shit out of a grown ass human which is funny to watch…but not experience.

  12. C.J. says:

    When I was a child in Miami, FL, way back in the 1960’s we had jalousie windows and no air conditioning. I woke one night in terror with something biting me on the big toe… I screamed and my mom came in and flipped the light on and there it was looking at me… a HUGE Palmetto bug!!! I shrieked and flailed and cried and hid under the covers as it flew wildly around the room with my mom batting at it with a rolled up newspaper or something… I was traumatized and have been terrified of them ever since…. THEY DO BITE!

  13. peg peters says:

    Yes Palmetto bugs do bite….. One flew under my pajama top last night and it took me a few seconds to get it off me. After a sleepless night, I found a small red mark the size of a dime with a darker red dot (almost black) in the middle of it, where the creature had landed on my skin. I remember it pinching slightly, but at the time was only interested in getting if off me. They bite!

  14. Judy says:

    I put my shoes on and got in my car to go to town. Not even out of the driveway I felt something stabbing my toe. Took off my shoe to find a palmetto bug partially squished. That’s the last time I leave my shoes outside.

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