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Waterbug: What it is and How to Effectively Get Rid of it

Waterbugs or water bugs are often called roaches, however, true waterbugs are from a different order of insects called Nepomorpha. Even though there is a difference between cockroaches and waterbugs, no one likes to see either insect scurrying across the floor. Some common types of waterbugs are the giant water bug, back swimmer, water scorpion, and water boatman. Some species of waterbug can even grow up to 4 inches (10cm) in length.

Waterbugs live in bodies of water and you may be plagued with them if you have a swimming pool or live near a river, stream, or pond. Waterbugs can become real pests if they come into your home because they can give you a nasty bite. Thankfully, there are many effective natural ways to get rid of waterbugs.

In this article, you will learn how to identify true water bugs and find out the difference between waterbugs and roaches. At the end of the article, you will find out how to get rid of water bugs using natural methods.

Waterbug or Cockroach?

Many people refer to palmetto bugs, the American cockroach, and other roaches as waterbugs. This is possibly because cockroaches like to live near water sources in your home. Many people also confuse roaches with waterbugs because they look quite similar. However, there is a big difference between waterbugs and roaches.

Roaches are generally brownish in color and have long protruding antennae. On the other hand, waterbugs tend to be darker and their antennae aren’t as visible as cockroaches. Waterbugs are usually much larger than cockroaches, even the large palmetto bug.

Both waterbugs and cockroaches have wings and can fly if they need to. However, thankfully, both types of insects rarely fly.

Let’s look in more detail at some other characteristics of what a true waterbug is and how you can identify them.


Waterbugs can bite humans if they are disturbed or provoked. According to the Encyclopedia of Entomology, bites from waterbugs can produce a burning sensation that lasts several hours.1 Although, according to an environmental journal, it’s rare that waterbugs bite. But, if they do, their bite can cause excruciating pain and even numbness around the bite.2

The reason for this is that the saliva in a waterbug bite contains chemicals which are used to paralyze their prey.

Cockroaches rarely bite humans. However, a forensic medical journal stated that roaches will bite humans and cause skin injury.3 The bite can cause the skin to become inflamed, swollen, and itchy.


Waterbugs are commonly found around bodies of water like swimming pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. According to EduWebs.org, water bugs like slowly moving water where there is vegetation growing. They hold onto plants near the surface and prey on other bugs, small fish, and frogs.4

Cockroaches usually live in dark, damp crevices near sources of food and water. The University of Minnesota says that depending on the species of cockroach, some prefer humid conditions whereas others prefer cooler areas. Cockroaches can be found under sinks, in basements, garages, and behind baseboards.5

Both roaches and waterbugs are more active at night and will be attracted to bright lights.


There is a large difference in the diet of waterbugs and cockroaches. The website Encyclopedia.com says that waterbugs prey and feed on small fish, frogs, snakes, and turtles.6 They kill their prey by biting into them and secreting enzymes which dissolve body tissue. They then suck up the liquefied tissue.

Cockroaches are scavengers that will feed on a variety of different kinds of foods. According to the World Health Organization, cockroaches like to eat decaying matter and starchy items. They eat meat, cheese, pastry, grain products, and chocolate. They will also feed on book bindings, cardboard, and leather.7

One way to avoid a cockroach infestation and prevent waterbugs from entering into your home is to never leave out leftover food or drink. This will attract the bugs and will make it harder to get rid of the pesky insects for good.


Unless you kill off waterbugs or cockroaches quickly, they can live for up to a year or even longer if they have enough food and water to feed on.

The University of Florida says that cockroaches take about 1 ½ years to grow from the egg stage to become an adult. They can live for another year in the adult stage.8

Waterbugs develop into adults in about 2 months and may live for a year or longer.4

How to Differentiate Between Waterbugs and Cockroaches

So, there is a big difference between the habitats, diet, and activities of waterbugs and cockroaches. However, because both look similar and there are different ways of getting rid of the large insects, it still might not be easy to tell them apart. There are 3 main characteristics that can help you identify waterbugs from cockroaches:

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