I grew up in Florida, and it was common to see roaches (also called palmetto bugs). However, they were most noticeable around our palm trees. I was curious if there was a relation between palm trees and roaches, so I did some research. Here’s what I found.
Palm trees attract many bugs, including cockroaches, due to the shelter they provide from their leaves and shallow root structure. Since roaches like to nest in or underneath palm trees, they’re commonly called palmetto bugs. The best way to prevent bugs on palm trees is to keep your yard clean and prune palm leaves.
So, palm trees do attract bugs such as roaches, but why exactly is this the case? Also, what other bugs are attracted to palm trees and how can we get rid of them? Let’s take a look at more of the details.
Why Do Palm Trees Attract Roaches (Palmetto Bugs)?
Roaches are attracted to palm trees because their leaves provide more shelter than other, smaller leaves such as oak. Additionally, palm trees have an expansive, shallow root system, perfect for roaches to build their nests. However, roaches will also take advantage of other shelters such as piles of wood or leaves.
Palmetto trees, such as the sabal palm, are commonly found in subtropical and tropical regions such as the South Eastern US, and especially Florida (source). Palm trees are so common in these areas that the sabal palm is the state tree of Florida.
Fun Fact: Palm trees aren’t actually trees, but are more closely related to grass!Check out my other post: “Are palm trees grass?”
Palm trees frequently shed their fan-shaped leaves, which make the perfect shelter for roaches. Not only will roaches build their nest in the fallen leaves, but in the palm tree’s spacious root system.
Also, roaches will use palm tree leaves that are close to the house to gain access to the roof. From there, they’ll try finding a way into the attic and the rest of the house. This is why keeping palm tree leaves pruned is one of the best things you can do to prevent roach infestations.
While roaches prefer to nest in or underneath palm trees, they’ll also nest in other trees, wood and leaf piles, and sewer systems (source).
Generally, roaches are opportunists and aren’t too picky where they nest, as long as it provides sufficient cover, darkness, and humidity.
Which Other Bugs Do Palm Trees Attract?
Palm trees attract many bugs including flies, bees, wasps, mosquitos, termites, and scorpions due to the shelter the palm tree’s leaves and roots provide. While palm trees make a great place for these bugs to nest, you can deter bugs by keeping your palm tree leaves pruned and the yard clean and free of garbage.
Even though roaches are the most common bug that’s found in or under palm trees (hence the name “palmetto bug”), other bugs are likely to be found there as well.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prevent and repel bugs from nesting in and around your palm trees.
How To Get Rid of Bugs in Palm Trees
You can get rid of bugs, including roaches, around palm trees by keeping a clean yard, picking up garbage, pulling weeds, and raking leaves. Doing so will reduce and remove any hiding places. Additionally, you can use non-toxic baits, sprays, and other deterrents. For best results, perform several of these together.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to prevent AND deter bugs from your palm trees.
Most people know that if you turn on the lights quickly roaches will run for shelter in the shadows. This is because roaches know they’re vulnerable in the light and open spaces. They know they have better odds of survival if they scavenge during the night when they’re largely unseen, making them nocturnal bugs (source).
If you eliminate the bugs’ hiding places, they’ll be greatly deterred and will move on to nest elsewhere. Even if they were to try to stay behind, they’ll be picked off easily by birds, lizards, and other predators. This is why prevention is one of the most effective and environmentally-friendly solutions.
To do help prevent bug infestations around your house, clean up and remove:
- Fallen or extra palm leaves
- Wood piles
- Leaf piles
By picking up garbage, you’re not only removing their hiding place, but also their food source. By making it more difficult for bugs to nest, they’ll find that it’s not worth the effort and move on from your home.
To clarify—don’t remove your woodpiles if you need them. Just move them off of the ground, making it harder for bugs to nest. This will also prevent rainwater from soaking the wood. Also, keeping it further away from your home will reduce the chance the bugs will make it indoors.
If you’ve already taken preventative measures, and it’s not helping, it might be time to look at deterrents and repellents.
Here are the most common deterrents you can use for bugs (including roaches):
- Insect growth regulators
- Sprays and inorganic dusts
Aim to use non-toxic treatments, especially if you have kids, pets, or livestock. I used to work at a veterinarian, and believe me, I’ve seen my share of pets that got into poison.
Now, I’m not too well-versed on the types of deterrents you should use, so if you’d like to learn more, check out this post on the 5 best ways to get rid of roaches by Terminix.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. Check out this list to see your local services.
- Permaculture Consultation: Need help with a bigger project? Send us a message.