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What are “Water Bugs” ?

smokey brown cockroach, waterbug If you life in North Carolina I am sure you have seen what many people here refer to as water bugs. Most of the time the bugs are actually various species of Roaches. The most common type of Roach we call water bugs is the Smokey Brown Cockroach (picture on right). We also commonly see American Cockroaches referred to as water bugs. The truth is these bugs are not at all water bugs.

Cockroaches are one of the most adaptable species the world has ever seen. In fact one of the oldest cockroach fossils ever seen was said to be 350 million years old. This would actually predate the earliest known dinosaurs by 150 million years. So they not only lived before the dinosaurs they survived through their down fall. Cockroaches do like warm moist areas but they are not actually aquatic insects.

water strider, water bug    There is such a thing as a real water bug though. In fact there are several species. True water bugs actually spend there time either swimming through or walking on water. The bug to the left is called a water strider. The water strider relies on the surface tension of water, combined with the unique structure of their legs to walk on water. This water bug has legs that have little hairs on them that repel water and trap air.

Water striders are about a half inch long with a thin body. They have three sets of legs. The front legs are much shorter than the others and are used for catching and holding prey. Water striders can actually be considered a beneficial insect because they will feed on mosquito larva and other insects on the water surface.

Water striders are common in North Carolina, you can find them in ponds and other bodies of water that are calm or slow moving.

Not all bugs are bad, even the smokey brown cockroach is not something to worry too much about. Seeing one of these every now and then shouldn’t be cause for alarm. I know that many people think that if you see one roach it means you actually have thousands but that is not always true. With the cockroach species commonly called water bugs more often then not you are just seeing one wonder in from outside. Most commonly these roaches will infest crawl spaces.

If you are frequently seeing Smokey Brown Roaches you can try some of the do it yourself tips in the following blog post ( water bug article ).

When should you be worried about roaches?

  1. If the roaches you see are smaller (about 1/2 inch long) and seem to mostly be hanging around your kitchen cabinets, there is a good chance they are German roaches. German roaches can explode in population very quickly and should be eradicated as soon as possible.
  2. If you are frequently seeing roaches, even if they are smokey brown roaches, you should get something done. Even though these roaches do not typically infest a home any where near as bad as German roaches, they can grow in numbers to the point of being a serious nuisance.

When a roach infestation becomes bad they can pose a serious threat to your health and comfort.

The main areas of German cock roach infestation will be inside the home. Especially in kitchen and bath room cabinets. They love heat and moisture so around dish washer, refrigerators, and ovens are very likely areas.

The main areas of a smokey brown infestation will usually be in the crawl space or other areas like storage rooms and basements. We commonly find them around decaying organic material like mulch or dead leaves. Keeping your yard as free of debris and decaying organic material will help make your home less attractive to “water bugs”.