Water bugs are one of the more harmless bugs in nature. Even the giant water bugs won’t bite unless they’re mishandled. They are, however, ugly. This is especially true if there are dozens or hundreds of them skittering across your swimming pool or fish pond.
An infestation of water bugs won’t cause any harm but if you don’t want them hanging around, and you’re looking for a way to kill water bugs, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at Pest Strategies, we have professional pest control experts with years of experience in the field. We can show you how to get rid of water bugs and become your own exterminator without having to hire a professional to do it for you.
Keep on reading and we’ll show you how.
If trying to exterminate water bugs on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best trained professionals that are able to use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods.
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
What Attracts Water Bugs in the First Place?
Water bugs are attracted by the same thing that attracts any living organism – a food source, water, and harborage (a place to live). Water bugs, as the name implies, live mainly on water sources such as pools, puddles, ponds, lakes, and any standing water.
Their food sources include other insects, small fish, and small animals. They use their proboscis (a fancy word for a tubular beak) to inject a special enzyme into their prey that liquefies them from the inside out. Then they suck up the food through their proboscis.
There are many different types of water bugs, such as a giant water bug, palmetto bugs, and water boatmen, which are normally an outdoor bug. During cold weather, they’ll try to escape the cold by seeking entry points into your house.
In addition to warmth, they are also drawn to lights. If you’ve ever been dived bombed by bugs during a nighttime football game, the chances are, many of those bugs are water bugs, drawn by the stadium lights.
How to Tell the Difference Between Water Bugs and Roaches
Many people, especially in the South, will often confuse water bugs and cockroaches. They will claim that a species of cockroach such as the American Cockroach or Oriental Cockroaches are true water bugs, but they aren’t. They are different species.
Colloquial names, while they are popular in some regions such as the South, tend to confuse the issue and should be avoided whenever possible.
Physically, water bugs are shaped like long ovals that are black, dark brown, or tan and one to two inches long. They have long legs that help them paddle through the water or seem to walk on top of it due to the surface tension of water.
Water bugs are members of the order Hemiptera, true bugs. Hemiptera literally means “half-wing”. It refers to the fact that the front half of the forward wings are hard and tough, while the rest of the wings (and all of the second pair of wings) and thin and membranous.
The wings on cockroaches are membranous from end to end, so that’s a quick visual clue as to which one is which when you suspect you might have a water bug infestation. Pay attention to their wings and you’ll be able to identify them.
3 Natural Remedies to Quickly Get Rid of Water Bugs From Inside Your House
Fix The Leaks
Since water bugs are attracted to water, the first thing you want to do is fix any leaky faucets or pipes in the house. The main places to look are around the dishwasher and damp areas under the kitchen and/or bathroom sinks.
Bath traps under the bathtubs and showers, as well as around the toilet drain are other damp areas that water bugs will naturally be drawn to. If there isn’t a bath trap access panel in the wall behind your bathtub, you might have to cut one into the wall.
There are plastic panels that are designed to be inserted into any holes you cut in the drywall to give it a finished look while still providing quick access to the bath trap when you need it. The panels can be found in the DIY section of any hardware store.
Pay attention to the cracks and crevices around the bathtubs, sinks, and toilets. Water bugs can squeeze through incredibly tight places and even tiny crevices can be as open to them as a highway. Caulking the crevices is a good way to stop them in their tracks.
If there aren’t any leaks, or the water bugs can’t get to the leaks, you’ll be much less likely to have a water bug problem.
Seal The House
Caulking is a useful tool for more than just the bathrooms and kitchens though. Most houses have a multitude of cracks and crevices around the foundation, windows, doors, plumbing intrusions, and electrical intrusions. Those are all entry points they can use to get into your house.
Drier vents, which often exude warm moist air, are natural magnets for water bugs as well as a whole host of other household pests.
Take several tubes of caulk and make a slow circuit of your house, caulking every crack and crevice you can find. Take your time about it too. If you get done in less than two hours you’re going way too fast. Slow down and make sure you seal all the gaps.
When you’re done at the ground level and around the windows and doors, get out a ladder and caulk all around the wires and cables coming into your house up high. Remember, water bugs have wings so they find entry points around the soffits and eaves too.
If you have vinyl siding on your house, caulking isn’t going to do much good because of all the gaps inherent in vinyl siding that is hung rather than fastened in place. In that case, you’re going to need something else.
Although many experts warn against using things like baking soda because of federal regulations such as the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), there is good evidence that it does work.
This is because baking soda absorbs water, either from the environment around it or from bugs walking over it. Since water bugs are so small, any loss of water from their bodies is dangerous to them, often fatal.
However, the limitation of baking soda is that it has to be replaced on a regular basis. If you live in an area with humidity in excess of 50%, you may have to change it on a daily basis in order for it to remain effective.
Check out the video below for more ideas on how to handle your water bug problem.
How to get rid of water bugs from outside your home?
Pesticides and diatomaceous earth are the methods that will work best around the outside, due to their ability to resist the elements of wind, rain, sunshine, and temperature fluctuations.
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4 Additional Remedies to Get Rid of Water Bugs From Inside Your House Fast
Most bugs don’t like the smell of many essential oils, especially peppermint oil. Mix 7-10 drops of peppermint oil in a cup of warm water and spray it around the cracks and crevices inside the house where water bugs might get in.
When they encounter the smell, many of them will be driven away. It won’t kill them but they find the odor offensive enough that they’ll avoid it if possible. Essential oils don’t have a lot of staying power so you’ll have to reapply it every few days.
Borax or Boric Acid
Borax or boric acid contain natural elements that will be toxic to water bugs if they ingest it. Sprinkle a fine dusting of it around the areas where you’ve seen water bugs coming into the house.
Be aware though, that borax is also toxic to pets and children. Ensure that wherever you sprinkle it that your children and pets can’t get to it. After all, the point is to keep out the bugs, not endanger your family.
Read More: Does BORAX Kill Roaches?
Diatomaceous earth is made of the fossilized remains of microscopic creatures called diatoms. It works much like baking soda by absorbing fluids from the insects as they pass over it. The razor-sharp edges of it cut the insects too, speeding up the process.
Put a fine dusting of diatomaceous earth around the areas where you’ve seen water bugs. As they cross it, they’ll dehydrate and die. The nice thing about diatomaceous earth is that it doesn’t have to be replaced as baking soda does.
Once it is in place, it should be good for several weeks at a time. You’ll know it is working when you start finding dead water bugs. You’ll need to clean up the dead bugs, of course, but the diatomaceous earth can remain.
Any pyrethrin-based insecticide will be effective at killing water bugs. In this group will be such pesticides as Bifenthrin, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, and Permethrin. There are a variety of trade names they’ll be sold under. Just look for the list of active ingredients and if one of these is listed, you’ve got a good insecticide.
You’ll need to get a 1-gallon pump-up sprayer. The pesticides and the sprayers are both available on Amazon. Closely follow the mixing instructions on the label of the pesticides. Don’t over-mix or under-mix. When it comes to pesticides, the label is the law.
Even though you’re using them yourself at home, you’re still required to obey the law.
Once you have the pesticide mixed, use the sprayer to spray all of the baseboards, cracks and crevices, and around all the windows and doors in the house. Be sure to spray around the plumbing under all the sinks, and under all the appliances in the house.
Getting Rid of Water Bugs From Your Property Completely
This is an impossible task. It may be 99% possible to keep water bugs out of your house (with an occasional determined bug making it past all your barriers) but keeping them completely off your property can never be done.
What you can do is keep their presence down to a dull roar, so to speak. As long as their numbers don’t approach the point of an infestation, it should be considered “mission accomplished.” The problem is, definitions of “infestation” don’t include any actual numbers.
If the presence of “X” number of water bugs bothers you, then for you, that’s an infestation. Someone else might regard it as an occasional bug with nothing to be concerned about. Your comfort level will be specific to you.
Just realize, 100% control is an impossibility. As long as you understand that, you won’t be disappointed.
How to Get Rid of Water Bugs From Outside Your Home
Pesticides and diatomaceous earth are the methods that will work best around the outside, due to their ability to resist the elements of wind, rain, sunshine, and temperature fluctuations. The other methods will break down quickly when exposed to these environmental factors.
For the best results, use both. Spray first with the pesticide all the way around the house then, after it has dried, give it a good dusting with diatomaceous earth. It will act like a one-two punch in boxing to really take out the water bugs before they come inside.
Read More: What is Diatomaceous Earth?
How to Get Rid of Water Bugs From Your Pool
Water bugs love standing water, of which your swimming pool is happy home number one for them. Protect it by using an algaecide in your pool to prevent the formation of the algae that water bugs love to eat.
It’s a simple fact of life, if there is nothing for water bugs to eat they’ll have to move somewhere else to find food. Keeping your swimming clean and sparkling not only makes it safe for your family to swim in, but it also removes a major attractant for water bugs.
How to Get Rid of Water Bugs From Your Garbage
Your outside garbage cans create a food source for water bugs by creating a breeding ground for the insects they prey on. The first, and easiest thing to do, is to get tight-fitting lids for your trash cans. Keep out the bugs they feed on and you’ll keep out the water bugs too.
The second thing is to use a pesticide around and on the garbage cans, particularly around the lid and the rim. Once it’s dry, it won’t hurt human beings at all but it will last for up to 90 days killing bugs that are trying to get into the trash.
A third thing you can do is sprinkle diatomaceous earth around and under the garbage cans. As some trash cans get older, they start to develop holes in the bottom and dusting with diatomaceous earth will ensure that any bugs trying to get in will be dehydrated and killed.
Best Product Suggestion for Getting Rid of Water Bugs
Suspend, a professional-strength pesticide with the active ingredient, Deltamethrin, is an ideal method for killing water bugs inside and out. Pest control companies use it on a regular basis and it’s a safe pesticide for DIY enthusiasts to use at home.
Follow the instructions on the label for mixing it, then spray it around the inside of your house the way we told you above, then take it outside to spray it around the foundation of your house, around the windows and doors, and around the eaves and soffits.
If you spray it correctly, it will take just about one gallon of the mixture to spray inside your house and outside, assuming your house is a standard 1800 square foot house. Add or subtract a little if your house varies from that amount.
How to Prevent Water Bugs in the First Place
Removing all standing water on your property is the first and most important step to preventing water bugs. As their name indicates, they need water in order to thrive. No water, no water bugs.
Keep your trash can lids sealed tight to keep out any bugs that the water bugs may feed on. If there’s no water on your property and nothing for them to eat, they will be forced to look somewhere to supply their needs.
However, if your neighbor has a swimming pool or low spots in their yard where rainwater accumulates, they can fly over the fence and into your yard in search of food.
Give the entire length of your fence and a ten-foot width of ground just inside the fence a good spraying with a pesticide such as Suspend. They may fly over and past it, but many of them won’t. They’ll land on it and be killed.
Water bugs are generally harmless. They’re mainly just ugly and nasty to look at. But the good news is, how to get rid of water bugs is fairly easy.
With a little effort to remove their water and food sources, and perhaps some minor treatment with other methods, you’ll be able to get rid of water bugs and keep them from becoming a nuisance.