Unlike “Oriental cockroach” water bugs, which may run and hide at the flick of a light switch, giant water bugs are not necessarily shy. If they feel threatened, they may bite humans, causing swelling and possible allergic reactions. Although giant water bugs are often confused with cockroaches, especially the so-called “Oriental cockroach” water bug, they are not from the same family of insects.
Giant water bugs come from the order Hemiptera, and the family Belostomatidae, like to live and swim in freshwater. Unlike cockroaches, which are land insects despite having a preference for humid air, giant water bugs frequently swim to catch their prey in the wild. Their diet consists of minnows and tadpoles, and even larger animals like turtles and snakes. Humans may encounter them on rural property if they have ponds or other areas of standing water. They should be wary, as these giant bugs are known to bite and inject venom.
The term “water bug” may be used to describe a cockroach from the order Blattodea, the same insect order as the German cockroach and the American cockroach. When people use the term “water bug” for this insect, they are not talking about the freshwater swimmer that hunts tadpoles, but about “Blatta orientalis,” a cockroach common in various parts of the Western and Southern U.S.
It is easy to get confused with the term “water bug,” as true water bugs, known as giant water bugs, can grow up to four inches long, swim underwater, and even fly. While male “Oriental cockroach” water bugs have wings, they are flightless. Female “Oriental cockroaches” do not have wings at all. They do enjoy hanging out in very wet areas of the house, however. Strategies for pest control for these cockroaches bear a great resemblance to those for German and American cockroaches and include food grade diatomaceous earth, boric acid, and gel baits.
Strategies for dealing with the more aggressive giant water bugs include exercising caution around standing water, as these dangerous critters are even known to play dead before injecting their venom into humans. People should also be aware that they may encounter the larger, more aggressive variety of water bugs, the “giant water bug,” at night, as it is so attracted to electric lights that it has been known as the “electric-light bug.” Although it may be less common in household infestations, this flying giant water bug is a large, common insect in the United States and Canada. It is known as Lethocerus americanus.
Although giant water bugs are more likely to be found outdoors than indoors, their preference for very wet environments, leaky pipes, wet sinks, or areas of standing water can bring “Oriental cockroach” water bugs indoors. Like with standard cockroaches, keeping a less humid, cleaner environment can help avoid a water bug infestation. Specific water-related maintenance issues come into play more. For example, you might have standing water in a vacation home if you didn’t realize there had been a flood event. Or you might have a leaky pipe that hasn’t been checked in a while. Water bugs can enter a house through the pipes, sewer system, or gaps in walls, closing and sealing gaps is essential to preventing future issues as you manage an infestation.
The first step to getting rid of water roaches is to know you have them. Whereas German and American cockroaches are a light brown or brown-orange shade, “Oriental cockroach” water bugs are darker red-brown or black. Females can grow up to about an inch and a quarter, while males grow up to about an inch.
When you see cockroaches indoors, they may flee at the first sign of light or sound. They are equipped with cersi on their abdomen, which helps them sense and avoid predators. When you’ve identified them, you might decide to mix baking soda and powdered sugar to get rid of both “Oriental cockroach” water bugs and other cockroaches. But don’t hesitate to call for professional help, since water bugs may bite, leading to swelling or an allergic reaction. They also are drawn to the garbage and may spread diseases associated with common bacteria such as Salmonella.
From vinegar to baking soda to citronella, there are a variety of substances that will hurt a roach that walks through them. Whatever a roach walks through eventually gets absorbed into its body. However, care should always be used to find a solution that lasts, and that minimizes health risks. Diatomaceous earth must be food grade to be safe around people and must be reapplied every so often, or it loses effectiveness.
Other substances need to be handled with care to ensure both effectiveness and safety, causing many people to seek out pros in the field. Sprays are effective, but require caution because they could hurt kids or pets if not used properly. Traps could kill the roaches but might have limited effectiveness if there are many locations and entry points for the cockroaches in your home.
Sealing locations of water bug entry is effective if entry points are known, but many homeowners require assistance both to locate and to effectuate the sealing of walls in residence. The larger the infestation, the higher the likelihood that getting rid of it and preventing it in the future will not be a do-it-yourself job.
However, by frequently vacuuming, even in hard-to-reach spaces like under sofas or beds, and by emptying garbage regularly and cleaning up crumbs, homeowners can reduce the likelihood of a bad water bug infestation. They can limit the labor by only eating in certain designated areas of the house. Finally, they can ensure that leaks are fixed so that there isn’t an overly damp environment for the moisture-loving bugs to thrive in.