How to Get Rid of Waterbugs? 10 Natural Ways

Initially, I mistook a cockroach problem for a more severe issue, a presence of waterbugs. Although cockroaches and waterbugs share similarities, key differences exist. 

Waterbugs thrive in damp areas like pools or drains, and are capable of travelling to higher floors via water pipes. 

Eliminating waterbugs is challenging without chemical treatments, but there are 10 natural methods to effectively address and prevent this issue. One of which is to maintain your lawn correctly to avoid infestations in the first place.

Keep reading to learn more about how to get rid of waterbugs.

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What are Actual Water Bugs?

Members of the Belostomatidae family, waterbugs are huge insects that are attracted to bright lights after dark, so you’ll often see them loitering around well-lit parking lots, hidden in mats of vegetation, just under the surface of the water as well as near water bodies like swimming pools, backyard ponds, and natural puddles. 

Waterbugs are annoying but relatively harmless when compared to ants crave crickets, and can be hugely beneficial in the right settings. Here’s some more info on the Belostomatidae family of bugs.

What Do Waterbugs Look Like? 

The answer depends on the type on the type of waterbug but these pests are typically tan to dark brown in color, have antennae, and are topped with a hardback

There are over 24 different types of waterbugs such as the saucer bug and the American giant waterbug. Waterbugs measure between 2 and 4 inches, and most types have a flattened body shape similar to that of household cockroaches. 

How to Get Rid of Waterbugs

Difference Between Waterbugs and Cockroaches

Many people refer to waterbugs as cockroaches (often also known as palmetto bugs), and it’s not hard to see why given that both common household pests are similar in appearance and habitat. 

Cockroaches however are much smaller than waterbugs and are light tan to dark brown. Even though waterbugs and cockroaches are considerably similar in appearance, they are much different in biology

The antennae are the main difference between a cockroach and a waterbug, where the former typically has very long antennae.

Some species of cockroaches can survive in water but they prefer to be on land, whereas giant water bugs as you might have guessed prefer to spend their time in water (standing water) and can hold their breath for a pretty long time.

10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Waterbugs 

Pest experts and pest control companies generally use chemical pesticides to exterminate German cockroaches,  Oriental cockroaches, and waterbugs. But if you want to steer clear of chemical pest strategies, here are 10 effective natural ways to kill waterbugs. 

1. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth might seem like a fancy name for a chemical pesticide to kill a wide range of pests but is one of the few natural remedies to kill waterbugs and other pests. 

It is a unique type of sand that contains fossilized algae, and apart from killing insects and pests is also promoted as a dietary supplement and has several health benefits. 

Diatomaceous earth can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings and for controlling several pests like bed bugs, fleas, cockroaches, and carpet beetles. 

It is an abrasive powder that produces the effect on many miniature razor blades on the respiratory systems of waterbugs and dries out their mucous membranes of breathing holes and lungs, causing them to die. 

Diatomaceous earth lasts indefinitely and waterbugs may die within 48 hours after coming in contact with the powder. 

You can buy diatomaceous earth at your local store or online but make sure you buy the right type as several DE products can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. 

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth?

  1. Before using diatomaceous earth, it’s a good idea to make a note of the waterbug-infested areas
  2. Put on a pair of gloves, and wear a respiratory mask.
  3. Next, sprinkle diatomaceous earth directly on the areas where waterbugs have invaded. If you’re dealing with indoor waterbugs, line the waterbug trail and spread diatomaceous earth along floors, window sills, and other areas where waterbugs may have gained entry into your home. 

2. Use Bait 

Another natural way to get rid of entire waterbug colonies is with bug traps or bait.

Once a waterbug is attracted to and comes in contact with the bait, it consumes it and also takes it back to its nest for other waterbugs to munch on, eventually killing all of them. 

There are several household items you can use as bait for waterbugs such as onions and baking soda.

How To Use Bait?

  1. To make a DIY waterbug bait, dice a few onions and sprinkle them with baking soda. 
  2. Place this appetizer in areas where you’ve noticed waterbug activity.
  3. Once the waterbugs consume the baking soda, it creates gasses in their stomachs and causes them to die. 

You can also place this bait in areas of moisture such as under the sink in your kitchen or basement, and/or near garbage cans and it will get the job done.

Even though it’s a natural bait, you should place it in areas out of reach of children and pets.

Further, make sure you check on the bait often and ensure that it hasn’t depleted and that it hasn’t spread to other areas.

Waterbug baits also work best when they are placed in areas where there are no other food items accessible to the waterbugs. You will also have to replace baits when they are no longer acceptable to the waterbugs because they can deteriorate when exposed to high temperatures, rain, and sunlight. 

Onions to Get Rid of Waterbugs

3. Boric Acid 

Boric acid occurs naturally in the environment and can be found in soil, water, and plants. It kills waterbugs when they eat it by disrupting their stomach and affecting their nervous system. 

Also known as hydrogen borate, boracic acid, boric acid is a colorless crystal or white powder that easily dissolves in water. You’ll need a few things to make a waterbug boric acid repellant spray: 

  • Safety glasses, protective gloves, and apron
  • Boric acid powder
  • Water 
  • Sugar 
  • Stirring tool 

How To Use Boric Acid?

  1. With safety glasses, gloves, and an apron on, mix 1 teaspoon of boric acid with 10 teaspoons of sugar and 2 cups of water.
  2. Put this mixture on cotton balls or cardboard and let it soak. 
  3. Place them where the waterbugs are present.

Waterbugs are attracted to sugar and other sweet-tasting foods like syrup and what they end up doing is taking the poison (boric acid) to their colony. 

You can also sprinkle boric acid on carpets and rugs to kill waterbugs and let it sit there for at least 3 weeks before vacuuming. 

It is important to note that boric acid is non-toxic and doesn’t harm your skin upon contact but can be corrosive to the eyes. Some people who accidentally ingested boric acid have experienced diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach aches. 

You can also make a boric acid paste and apply it in wall cracks and other crawl spaces where waterbugs are present. 

The Harris Famous boric acid tablets are irresistible to waterbugs and roaches and can treat a minimum of 12 rooms. It is formulated with 40 percent boric acid and can kill entire colonies of waterbugs. 

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4. Borax 

Borax is often confused with boric acid but is a different formulation that’s found in cleaning products. It is harmless to people and pets but is deadly for waterbugs. 

Just like boric acid, borax should be combined with sweeter bait items such as sugar or honey and applied anywhere waterbugs exist. 

Borax typically kills waterbugs within three days of coming in contact with it and works by sticking to the waterbug’s legs via static electricity and poisons its stomach when consumed. You can buy borax in many grocery stores or at online marketplaces

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5. Citrus (Lime)

There’s a wide range of insects that hate the smell of citrus and waterbugs are one of them. Lemon is a common ingredient that’s found in many food items and is also found in some of the world’s most popular household cleaners.

Lemon contains limonene, which destroys the wax layer of the waterbug’s respiratory system and suffocates them to death. 

You can either use lemon juice or lemon peels or both for a waterbug problem. For lemon juice, fill a spray bottle with the extract and spray it in any moist environment or areas where you see waterbugs. 

With regards to lemon peels, you can place the peels directly at the places of waterbug infestations or dry them, make a fine powder, and set it in the infested areas. 

Lemon Peels to Get Rid of Waterbugs

6. Baking Soda 

A 50/50 mix of baking soda and sugar is a great way to kill waterbugs. Waterbugs find the smell of this concoction unpleasant so these pests die when they come in contact with it. 

Similar to boric acid and borax, sugar attracts the waterbugs, and baking soda kills them. Simply sprinkle this mixture in waterbug hideouts and wait for the results. Did you know that baking soda can also get rid of many other pests and diseases in your yard?

7. Peppermint Oil  

Peppermint oil offers twofold benefits – keeps waterbugs at bay and your home smelling fresh. To make the peppermint oil waterbug repellant, mix 7 – 10 drops of the oil with warm water, and spray it in cracks and crevices where waterbugs may stroll in. 

Peppermint oil may not kill waterbugs but its odor is offensive enough to them to drive them away. You can also use other essential oils such as lemongrass and cedarwood to keep waterbugs away. 

8. Coffee Grounds 

Coffee grounds are a waterbug repellant and not a waterbug killer. They will also slow down adult waterbugs from laying eggs. Coffee grounds contain natural acids and can be sprinkled in places around your home and near places of entry to keep waterbugs out. 

9. Cinnamon Powder or Cinnamon Oil 

Cinnamon exudes a strong aroma that’s attractive to humans but not to waterbugs. You can sprinkle fresh cinnamon powder where you notice waterbug activity or spray oil in places where waterbugs may be living and breeding. 

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10. Neem Leaves 

Neem leaves reduce waterbug feeding and act as a repellant. They also interfere with waterbug hormone systems, making it harder for them to grow and lay eggs. 

Azadirachtin is the active ingredient in neem leaves and oil, and when ingested leads to abnormal molts, growth reduction, and increased mortalities.

Place the dried neem leaves where you see waterbugs such as near drain pipes, and air ducts, or spray the surfaces to keep the creepy insects away. 

How to Get Rid of Water Bugs and Water Bug Infestations with Chemicals?

If you’d like to take the chemical route, there are myriad different options available, but the following 3 are tried and tested formulas including a bug spray. You can also call a pest control professional to tackle these aquatic insects.

1. Raid Multi Insect Killer

The Raid Multi Insect Killer kills waterbugs and many other types of insects on contact. Unlike other waterbug chemical treatments, it does not leave any foul odor and can be used on porous and non-porous surfaces. 

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2. Black Flag Roach Motel Insect Trap

The Black Flag Roach Motel is a great way to tackle waterbug and roach infestations and is a sticky trap that can be placed near broken pipes, leaky pipes, and any other areas of waterbug infestations. 

One of the noteworthy features of the Black Flag Roach Motel insect trap is it conceals the dead waterbugs and other insects so you simply have to throw the trap away when full. 

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3. Spectracide Bug Stop

Spectracide is a leading name in the pest control space and Bug Stop is another hit product in the company’s portfolio.

Bug Stop kills many types of insects on contact and is a fast-acting formula that can be used indoors and outdoors. Plus, the Spectracide Bug stop is non-staining and leaves no oily residue. It is ready to use with no mixing required. 

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How to Prevent Waterbugs? 

They say “prevention is better than cure”, therefore it is best to take the necessary steps to make sure waterbugs don’t call your property home rather than deal with a much bigger problem. 

1. Maintain Your Lawn 

I can’t stress this enough but it’s highly important to mow your lawn short to prevent waterbugs and a ton of other insects from taking over your lawn. 

Allowing your grass to grow too tall can make your turf a better home for water bugs and other pests. The best height to cut grass depends on the type of grass and ranges from 0.5 to 3 inches to 2.5 to 4 inches. 

Man mowing the lawn

2. Fix Sanitation Issues

Leaky pipes and damp areas are a threat to waterbugs so address these issues ASAP. Waterbugs stick to three main food groups – drain scum, garbage, and other grimy things. 

The best approach is to clean up any possible food and water sources and this task includes scrubbing drains, cleaning out garbage chutes, and even raking up leaves from your lawn. If it’s anything that provides waterbugs with moisture, it needs to go!

3. Seal them Out

Make note of the ways waterbugs are entering your home and seal these entry points with caulk. Also, look for holes, cracks, and crevices that may be letting the waterbugs into your home and seal them as well. 

4. Maintain Plants and Shrubs 

We often overlook maintaining plants and shrubs in the garden, but non-maintenance can be a gateway to waterbugs and other pests.

Plants and shrubs that are allowed to grow too close to the house can block vents and restrict airflow resulting in moisture issues inside and under your home. 


5. Clean the Dishes and Change Garbage Bags Frequently

Dirty dishes and full garbage bags are full-course meals for waterbugs, so avoid leaving dirty dishes and loaded garbage bins overnight. 

Here’s an informative video on how to get rid of waterbugs fast:

How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs In House (Fast Natural Home Remedies) - Top Repellents


Are Waterbugs Dangerous to Humans?

Waterbugs aren’t considered true pests because they feed on other insects, not humans. There are however several cases of humans bitten by waterbugs, leading to excruciating pain in their bodies – a good reason to kill bugs.

Water bugs bite when they feel threatened, and even though their bites are painful, they aren’t dangerous to humans but you still should kill water bugs before a serious infestation.

Why Do I Need to Get Rid of Waterbugs? 

The biggest reason to eliminate water bugs is that they can contaminate your food and cause health issues unless of course your food is stored in airtight containers. 

Adding to this, waterbugs carry diseases such as gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of your stomach and intestines, and their droppings and cast skins cause allergic and asthmatic reactions in certain individuals. 

Signs of Waterbugs in Your Home 

There are several tell-tale signs you’ve got waterbugs in your home, starting with the sighting of black insects. A wet, musty odor is another sign of waterbugs and/or egg casings left around your house, especially in moist areas.

Final Thoughts 

Waterbugs are pesky insects that can wreak havoc in your home. The good news is that there are several natural ways to eliminate waterbugs including baits, baking soda, and neem leaves. 

You can also resort to chemical treatments but using any type of chemical is risky business when you have pets and kids around. 

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