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How to Prevent a Palmetto Bug Infestation in Your RV

| Updated Jul 15, 2022

These little buggers can get in and stow away in your RV in certain parts of the country. Here’s how to prevent a palmetto bug infestation in your RV…

We’ve all heard about how to deal with mosquitos, but have you heard about palmetto bugs? These little buggers cause big problems in certain parts of the country.

One of our RV Lifestyle members recently encountered an unwanted bug (or five!). Ann wrote to our community to ask for help dealing with palmetto bugs that have recently taken up residence in her RV. She wrote: 

“We left South Carolina last month back home in Indiana. I am a contract healthcare worker. About 3 weeks after we got back to the new campground my husband saw a palmetto bug. We thought it was just one. Now we have killed 5. They are not in Indiana (until now). Has anyone had this happen! These bugs are quite terrifying and I was wondering if anyone knows how to get them gone.”

The FB post garnered almost 100 comments! The following outlines what palmetto bugs are and different ways to get rid of them according to our RV Lifestyle members who've dealt with them first-hand. 

Hey, if you buy something through my links, I might get a little something-something as a thank you. No extra cost to you, promise! Read our full affiliate disclosure here.

What is a Palmetto Bug? 

Many of you may have never heard of a palmetto bug. It makes sense if you have not spent much time in warm, coastal areas where these guys like to live. 

So what exactly is a palmetto bug? It is just a fancy name for a cockroach. The American Cockroach, to be exact. 

These bugs got their common moniker “palmetto bug” because they like to live in palmetto trees that grow in warm, coastal climates in states like Florida, Georgie, South Carolina, and California. 

They prefer damp conditions and can most commonly be found under leaves, woodpiles, and mulch or sewers. If they get into your house or RV, you’ll most likely see them in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, and under the sink.  

While many bugs are annoying but pose no health risks, palmetto bugs are a bit different. They can spread pathogens and contaminate your food. 

One thing they can spread is Salmonella as they walk across your counters and floors. So if you have had palmetto bugs inside your RV, sanitize your countertops before preparing food. 

How to Prevent a Palmetto Bug Infestation in Your RV

What Our RV Lifestyle Members Had to Say

When Ann asked how to prevent an all-out palmetto bug infestation, our RV Lifestyle members answered! Many of our community members had tips and tricks to get rid of these pesky pests. 

Use Bug Spray

One member, Angelique, said that this creature likely came into the RV in a box or paper bag. She went on to say that Raid would kill them. 

She said not to use a bug bomb but rather the Raid spray. Then air out the RV well afterward. 

Use Bug Bombs

Another member, Dale, said that in his experience, these bugs lay eggs quickly. Many of them lay eggs every three weeks. 

Conners suggested that you do bug bomb your RV, then repeat the process a few times for any newly hatched bugs. 

Use Traps

Another member had a similar experience in the South while renovating their RV. She said that she set traps and sprayed, which alleviated the problem. 

Cheryle Geiger added to that comment, saying that sticky traps are good to use. 

The Consensus

Though members recommend different products and methods, the advice boils down to one strategy: blast those buggers! 

No matter what treatment you decide to use, follow the instructions carefully. You want to be aware of potential hazards to your health and your pets when using potentially toxic substances. 

Palmetto bugs reproduce quickly. A few bugs can quickly turn into a palmetto bug infestation. So act fast!

Keep Palmetto Bugs Out in the First Place

Our RV Lifestyle Community members had some excellent advice on how to get rid of palmetto bugs. Plus, they gave tips on how to prevent them from getting in your RV in the first place.

Here’s what they had to say…

Seal Your Holes

In addition to setting traps, spraying, or bug bombing your RV, you should seal holes and the space around pipes to prevent access. 

Here’s a list of the 7 Best Sealants for RVs.

Pamela suggested using Home Defense from Home Depot to spray indoors and out before plugging holes. She also suggested using the expanding foam around pipes to close open spaces. 

One member, Christine, responded to her comment about using Home Defense. She said that if you use those sprays, let the enclosed area air thoroughly before entering. She noted that Home Defenses is a suitable insecticide but can be toxic to humans and pets. 

Inspect Items Before Bringing Them Into Your RV

One primary way palmetto bugs get into your RV is by hitching a ride on another item. One of our RV Lifestyle members mentioned checking boxes or plastic bags before bringing them in. 

Checking all items, especially ones stored outside in damp areas, is an excellent way to catch these pests before they make it into your indoor space. 

Give boxes or items a shake and move things around. Look for anything that scurries!

Fix Leaky or Damaged Pipes

Another great idea is to fix leaks and damaged pipes. These types of bugs like damp spaces. So the idea here is to remove the damp space by ensuring that the area under your sink stays dry. 

Fixing leaks should always be a priority anyway so that you do not grow mold inside your RV or damage the walls or floor. 

Clean Food Spills and Take Out Trash Regularly

Another simple practice is to take out the trash regularly and clean spills when they occur. 

Keeping your RV clean will help repel bugs since they will not be attracted to the smell of old food. 

Use a Pest Control Company

If your situation turns into a palmetto bug infestation, then you should consider calling in the experts. Many companies will spray your RV just like you would your home. 

Look up local extermination companies wherever you travel and request a “house” call. 

Have You Dealt with a Palmetto Bug Infestation?

If you've ever had a palmetto bug infestation in your RV, what did you do? Please share your experience and advice in the comments below to help save others from having to deal with a palmetto bug infestation of their own!

Speaking of Bugs…

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Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!

How to Prevent a Palmetto Bug Infestation in Your RV 2

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content! 


FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers

What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?

The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.

Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?

One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities. 
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.

Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?

Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or  Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.

But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?

Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.

Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?

While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2022-07-14

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

11 Responses to “How to Prevent a Palmetto Bug Infestation in Your RV”

July 19, 2022at5:05 pm, JANET FOLKERTS said:

Palmetto bugs FLY..they don’t necessarily come in with groceries, boxes, etc. They can fly in thru
a door or window left open. They are huge and will eat and mess as much as a full grown mouse.
Boric Acid seems to have be the best solution for me in C. FL. but beware of where you put it if you have pets.

Reply

July 19, 2022at5:16 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Palmetto bugs are sure something you want to keep out of the rig. Thanks for sharing these tips, Janet! Team RV Lifestyle

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July 15, 2022at11:17 pm, Jim Sadey said:

Bayer 4031982B Suspend 16oz, White or Tempo Sc Ultra Premise Pest Control Spray by Durvet These are both very excellent bug killers when used correctly. I have used both products for many years in our home and on the outside around the bottom 2 – 3 feet of siding and concrete. The second product listed used to be made by Bayer as is the first. They are almost the same. Excellent products with no odor/smell. Safe around pets and kids/adults when dry. Use a pump-up sprayer to apply. I’m not sure about Palmetto Bugs, but pretty sure 99% of all bugs will be killed. These products are used by professionals in hospitals restaurants, hotels, businesses, and many other places. The products come in a concentrated form in small bottles and you mix with water and a small bottle will last a long time, of course, it depends on how much spraying you do. I highly recommend it, I don’t think you will be disappointed with your purchase. I’m not being paid for this nor am I affiliated with either company. Happy bug-free life!

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July 17, 2022at10:24 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing this, Jim! Team RV Lifesytle

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July 14, 2022at7:02 pm, Kelly R said:

Diatomaceous earth for Palmetto Bugs – two grades, one I use in the yard and one is food grade. I put some under kitchen and bathroom cabinets, behind washer and dryer, out in my shop, at outside threshold of exterior doors and along my house foundation. Relatively safe for humans and pets. DO NOT BREATH IN. Kills most bugs including palmettos and fleas. Cheap at hardware stores. Google or read instructions to make yourself comfortable with. Sure beats toxic sprays. I sprinkle from old canister with holes poked in the lid. Will find dead palmettos on their back with legs up in the air. Florida boy for the last 50 years. I have only seen a stranger wander in a couple of times in the last many years.

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July 15, 2022at12:55 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Great details and tips – thank you for sharing so we can all learn from your experience. Happy Trails! Team RV Lifestyle

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July 14, 2022at5:13 pm, Richard Owens said:

Palmetto bugs are not cockroaches. Two different bugs. Palmetto bugs normally stay around water areas such as sewer and storm drains. Spray those areas first and then any holes that they may enter.

Reply

July 14, 2022at7:57 am, Connie Fowler said:

I grew up in Louisiana in the 60s and 70s, and we constantly had these things in our house. Definitely, you must plug up your holes. A no-smell way to treat if you have them when you get home is to sprinkle boric acid on the floors and leave the RV. The roaches walk across it, lick it from their legs, and then die. It is toxic to pets, so you want to get it all up. There used to be a product called Roach Proof (or Pruf-not sure of the spelling). But its main ingredient was boric acid. My solution to this is to just not go to the South in the summer when these things are active. I have still have nightmares and I can’t stand the smell of Raid. I now live in the north!

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July 15, 2022at12:54 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Nightmares on these bugs is not good! Thank you for sharing your experience and for all the helpful ideas – Team RV Lifestyle

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July 14, 2022at7:24 am, Nancee Mccarthy said:

We parked our camper on a friends 3 acres. Went to visit and had huge palmettos everywhere. Six killed before we went to bed. She did a bug bomb for us and we always use the Ortho Home defense inside and out. All baseboards and inside cabinets and around vents. Next visit found one dead bug and nothing else.

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July 15, 2022at12:53 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Good thinking with the bug bomb and WOW on the huge palmettos everywhere! Thanks for sharing – Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

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