How to Get Rid of Water Bugs

By: Austin Henderson  | 
Large, flat, brown insect on cement
Although the giant water bug looks similar to a cockroach, they're actually completely different beasts. Vinicius R. Souza / Shutterstock

Many homeowners benefit from knowing how to get rid of water bugs, a common pest concern. While they are generally outdoor creatures, these insects can find their way into our homes, causing distress.

Learn about water bugs, including how to distinguish them from cockroaches, and gain effective strategies for keeping them out of your living spaces.


Strategies to Rid Your Home of Water Bugs

Dealing with a water bug infestation in your home can be a challenging task. However, with the right approach and tools, you can effectively tackle these aquatic insects. Whether you're facing a few toe biters or a full-blown water bug infestation, the key is to act quickly and decisively.

Here are some tried-and-true pest control methods to help you get rid of water bugs and reclaim your space.


  1. Home remedies: Natural solutions can be effective in managing a water bug infestation. A spray bottle filled with a mixture of water and essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus can deter these pests. Similarly, food-grade diatomaceous earth scattered around potential entry points can act as a deterrent.
  2. Chemical treatments: For a serious infestation, you can use a chemical bug spray designed for aquatic insects. However, always follow the instructions to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  3. Physical traps: Sticky traps placed in strategic areas (e.g., near water pipes or recycling bins) can capture and kill water bugs that have wandered a short distance from their aquatic habitats.

What Is a Water Bug?

Often mistaken for cockroaches or palmetto bugs, water bugs actually aren't even a part of the roach family. True water bugs, including the impressive giant water bugs, are aquatic insects.

Unlike cockroaches, which thrive in damp environments like drain pipes, water bugs are more at home in freshwater ponds and standing water, using their flattened hind legs that resemble oars to navigate.


Another difference between the critters: Cockroaches can survive indefinitely in a domestic environment, whereas water bugs can only survive for a limited time away from their aquatic habitats. This time varies, but it's generally not long-term.

The Great Indoors: Why Water Bugs Come Inside

While water bugs typically live outdoors, they sometimes venture into homes, seeking warmth during cold temperatures.

Seeking shelter and possibly lured by food sources like pet food or food leftovers, these bugs can become unwelcome house guests.

Do Water Bugs Bite?

Although water bugs sometimes bite people, it's a rare occurrence. Still, their presence can be unsettling if you're not big on creepy-crawlies.


Water Bugs vs. Cockroaches: What's the Difference?

It's easy to confuse water bugs with cockroaches, but there are key differences — specifically their respective habitats and physical characteristics. Water bugs are larger, with more prominent pinchers and a more robust build, while cockroaches tend to be smaller, with a flatter appearance.

An actual water bug, such as the giant water bug, is a true aquatic insect. It can breathe underwater and lurks in natural settings like swimming pools or ponds.


The dark brown insects typically have six legs and are known for their paralyzing venom, which they use to subdue prey. (But fear not! The venom only has a paralyzing effect on their small prey. Water bug venom usually only causes mild irritation and redness in humans.)

Cockroaches, on the other hand, prefer damp areas but are not aquatic. Species like Oriental cockroaches and American cockroaches have long antennae and are often found in apartment buildings and houses, seeking food in cracks and crevices.

Cockroaches can cause allergic reactions in some people and are often considered pests due to their potential to infest homes.


Preventive Measures: Keeping Water Bugs at Bay

Prevention is key when it comes to managing water bugs. By taking proactive steps, you can create an environment that's less inviting to these bugs, thereby reducing the likelihood of an infestation.

Here's a comprehensive approach to prevent water bugs from making your home their new habitat.


  1. Seal entry points: Examine your home for cracks and gaps, especially around water pipes and in damp environments. Sealing these can prevent water bugs from gaining easy access.
  2. Environmental control: Since water bugs thrive near water, eliminate standing water around your house. Keeping your home dry and clean, with tight-fitting lids on garbage and recycling bins, reduces the attraction for these pests.
  3. Regular maintenance: Regular cleaning, including washing dirty dishes promptly and disposing of food waste in tightly sealed containers, minimizes the food sources that can attract water bugs.

Reclaiming Your Space

Remember, while water bugs might find their way into your home, their stay is not for long, due to their need for aquatic environments. By understanding these creatures and taking the right measures, you can effectively rid your home of water bugs and prevent future invasions.

Keep in mind that these strategies are specific to actual water bugs, not cockroaches. Stay vigilant and maintain a clean, dry home. Soon you'll have your peaceful abode back, water bug-free!

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.