How to Get Rid of Water Bugs (Detailed Guide)

Bugs at home are not a welcoming sight, especially if the bug is big and not very pleasant looking. When seeing a bug our first instinct is to fight or flight. In both cases, you need to understand which bug is it to proceed accordingly. 

Water bugs are one of the most common concerns among people and for good reason. True water bugs are quite rare and people often mistake them for cockroaches. In this article, you will learn how to recognize a water bug and how to get rid of it if necessary. 

What are water bugs? Water bug types

There are a lot of misconceptions about water bugs. For example, often different types of cockroaches are referred to as water bugs. However, true water bug belongs to the order of Hemiptera which unites over 80 000 species of insects. These insects are commonly known as true bugs. 

Waterbugs are aquatic insects and they live around the water, in damp areas.  While people mistake waterbugs with various insects, especially cockroaches, true water bugs are not that common. The most famous of the water bugs are giant water bug, water boatman, and the water scorpion.

Water bug identification (water bug pictures)

Actual water bugs have brown or grey color, they have six legs and are about 2 inches in length on average. A water bug has an oval shape and it is very flat. Additionally, the water bug has an arrow-like piercing mouth and short antennae. Water bugs also have x-shaped wings which let them fly.

The Giant Water Bug

According to National Park Service, Giant water bugs are oval-shaped, with pincer-like front appendages that capture and hold prey. Their rear legs are especially flattened and have tiny hairs (cilia) to help propel them through the water.”

The giant water bug is also known as “toe-biter” and “electric light bug”. In the United States, it is the largest representative of the True Bugs. 

The study “Ecology of giant water bugs (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Belostomatidae)” has reported that there are 150 species of giant water bugs found over the world. The biggest insects can get more than four inch long and they live in South America. Giant water bug feeds on other aquatic insects and even way larger fish and animals.

According to National Geographic, giant water bugs can take down ducklings, snakes, and turtles. Overall, they go after anything that stands in their way.

The Giant Water Bug

Water Boatman

Water boatmans represent the largest group of true bugs. Even though they belong to this group, they do not have predatory nature and do not tend to bite people. As Missouri Department of Conversation reports, water boatmen feed on algae and plants. Only a few species feed on other aquatic insects. 

Water boatmans live near the lakes, in quiet areas. When they are far from water, they get very clumsy and disorganized. This is why you might see aquatic boatmen near the swimming pools. If you do, do not worry water boatmen are not aggressive overall, especially towards humans.

Water Boatman

Water Scorpion

Water scorpion in contrast with its name is not a real scorpion. It is a type of aquatic insect and water bug. 

These insects are found worldwide. They usually live near ditches and ponds where they can hide easily.

Britannica reports that water scorpions can and do bite people. While it is quite painful, it is way less harmful than a real scorpion bite.

Water scorpion

Water bug bite

Pest control is crucial in order to protect ourselves from bug bites. Water bug bite is not something you should be scared of because fortunately, it is not life-threatening for us. 

Water bugs are poisonous and they are used to paralyze their prey. Gladly for us, the toxins are not harmful to human beings. However, the pain from it is unpleasant and can cause swelling as well as other side effects. 

Water bugs vs. Roach – What’s the difference?

There are key differences between water bugs and roaches. The reason why people mistake the two insects is that they resemble each other but water bugs actually do not belong to the roach family. 

The biggest and most visible difference between a cockroach and a water bug is an antenna. While the water bug has an antenna, it is not that noticeable. If you see a big antenna on an insect, then it is a cockroach. 

Unlike water bugs, cockroaches tend to spread bacteria. Cockroaches are more inclined to invade your home and generally, prefer to live inside. A cockroach may grow around 1-3 inches while water bugs can get bigger than 4 inches.

Most common water bug infestation places

Water bugs prefer to leave near water and they do not invade homes as often as cockroaches do. However, in some parts of the US water bug infestation is very common.

Usually, a water bug prefers damp and cold places therefore, it looks for space with a water source. So, you can find water bugs at your home near the water pipes, in the basement, and in the cracks of the walls. Because of dampness, they may live underground: by the sewers and pipes. 

Water bug infestations can be quite serious. These insects tend to bite and while it is not harmful to humans, it is still a very unpleasant experience. If you notice that there is a water bug infestation in your home, start preventative measures immediately or call a pest control professional.

How to get rid of water bugs (+ product suggestions)

There are three main ways to eliminate water bugs:

  • Home remedies and natural repellents
  • Chemical products and baits
  • Kill bugs with hit

The last one is the least effective because you can hit maybe one or several, but you cannot deal with serious infestation with that approach. Home remedies while proven effective have been replaced by modern and more powerful ways. 

Best sprays for water bugs

A bug spray is a very common remedy to get rid of water bugs. A bug spray usually contains deadly chemicals for pests. While a spray has become safer for pets if you decide to use it make sure it is not harmful to you or your pets. 

Kill water bugs in your house with these sprays

All these products are efficient against most waterbugs and outdoor roaches. You can spray them on doors and windows which are the entry points for water bugs. 

Trap and bait products to kill waterbugs

All these products can be used to kill water bugs. Make sure to put bait inside the places where you suspect the pests are. Remember that most products are marketed for cockroaches because they are more common home invaders. However, these products can be efficiently used against water bugs as well. 

How to get rid of water bugs naturally

Water bug infestation is a challenge you have to overcome. There are several ways to approach this issue. You can create homemade bug spray as well as set up bait. 

Baking Soda

How to get rid of water bugs naturallyThe most common and effective way of removing water bugs is to use baking soda. You can put a thin layer of the solution near the nests of these insects. Baking soda sucks the water out of bugs, dehydrates them, and helps you get rid of waterbugs.

Unfortunately, baking soda is not nearly as effective as the chemical solutions mentioned above. But if the pest infestation is not large it could be the first step you take against water bugs. Try this method first and if it does not work move on to the others.

Boric Acid

Another effective remedy for getting rid of water bugs is by using boric acid. This ingredient has been used against insects for quite some time and has proven its efficiency. To use boric acid against water bugs you need to make a homemade mix.

Boric acid works as a bait so you must mix it with something that water bugs consider desirable. You can use powdered sugar for the mix. Put the solution in a spray bottle and drizzle the surfaces where water bugs walk and wait for the outcome. 

Liquid detergent

You might not know but liquid detergent is a very effective antibacterial remedy. You can easily create a spray or thicker solution with liquid detergent for under 2 minutes. 

Simply mix the detergent with water and spray/pour it on the spots where waterbugs move around. 


Vinegar is an effective remedy for various issues and killing waterbugs is one of them. You can spray the vinegar directly on waterbugs if you manage to do so, or sprinkle it in the areas where they move around. This includes entry points like doors, windows as well as their favorite places such as cracks and even garbage. After a few hours, the solution should kill the pests. 

Additionally, you can use essential oils because they have a strong smell and act as a repellent for large insects. All these methods are very important in domestic pest control and they should help you get rid of waterbugs as well as roaches and palmetto bugs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes water bugs in your house?

Water bugs live outside near areas full of water. If they decide to invade the house that means that they find something attractive there. There are several things that contribute to water bugs entering the garden and indoor area:

  • Standing water
  • Garbage
  • Leaky pipes
  • Moisture
  • Spoiled food

What causes water bugs in your houseThe best method is to eliminate all these factors as much as possible. Make sure there are no leaking pipes, old food, or standing water. Clean your house, remove the debris,  eliminate damp areas and throw away the garbage regularly. 

Additionally, inspect windows, doors, and cracks in your home. If there are any damages, repair them immediately because they are the gateway for bugs and roaches. 

Where do waterbugs nest?

As mentioned, waterbugs like to live outside however, occasionally they might build a nest in your home. These insects prefer cool and dark areas for nesting and your house provides a lot of nesting options for them. Most popular nesting locations include ducts, inner walls, and cupboards.

Water bugs have no issue moving along the walls, they can chew their way through the walls. Additionally, they can survive with a little amount of food and water for some time. This makes it easier for them to nest in your house. 

Do water bugs come out at night?

You can see water bugs mainly at night. This happens because they spend the daytime in their nest and go out when it gets dark. They search for food and water during the night.

Do water bugs crawl on beds?

It would be an extremely rare case if a water bug crawled in your bed. Generally, water bugs do not approach humans willingly. Often, they are “lured” into houses during the search for food and water. If your house is close to damp and moist places there is a bigger chance that you will come across water bugs. However, you should not worry about them going crawling on your bed. 

How to prevent water bugs from coming back?

First of all, make sure to eliminate all the “attractions” for water bugs that we mentioned above.

Secondly, make use of repellents and baits. Additionally, if you live in a humid area that naturally attracts more insects, improves ventilation in your home. This will not only remove water bugs but help you with cockroaches as well. 

Conclusion – Can you get rid of water bugs permanently?

Yes, you can get rid of waterbugs permanently. However, it is tricky, especially if you live in an area full of these insects. 

To get rid of waterbugs, you need to kill them. Repelling them and making them run away is not an option once they invade your house. Whether it is a cockroach or waterbug, first you need to kill the ones that are in your home and then apply measures to repel potential invaders. 

If the infestation is very serious, it is highly recommended to contact pest control service providers instead of dealing with it on your own. 

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