How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs

How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs

Waterbugs may not be pests in the traditional sense, and they do not spread diseases, but who is comfortable with these things running around their home? We aren’t.

Got a water bug problem? Don’t worry! We have got you covered.

From what they are to how to get rid of them, keep reading to effectively deal with these critters.

Quick Guide

In a hurry? We get you!

Here is a brief summary of eight effective ways to get rid of waterbugs.

Synthetic Pesticides – any generic synthetic pesticide will work on waterbugs
Boric Acid – pesticide alternative that is just as effective
Waterbug Traps – the waterbug will take the poison back to their nest and infect the whole colony
Waterbug Spray – spray the nest and wait for the waterbugs to ingest the poison
Natural Poisons – products you already have in your home can double as pesticides.

a.Prinkling Baking Soda: this will dehydrate the bug and kill it
b.Water And Detergent: dish soap will break down their shells which kills them
c.Alcohol: both dehydrates the bug and dissolves their shells

Essential Oils – the waterbug’s skin will be dried out
Natural Waterbug Repellents – dilute some vinegar and spray to deter waterbugs
Synthetic Repellents – unnatural alternatives which work in the same way as vinegar to deter waterbugs

Waterbug Identification

If you want to get rid of waterbugs, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you do actually have waterbugs to get rid of.

The term waterbug can apply to any of the following species:

  • Backswimmers (Notonectidae)
  • Creeping water bugs (Naucoridae)
  • Giant water bugs (Belostomatidae)
  • True water bugs (Nepomorpha)

All of these species live on or around water and are easily confused.

Waterbug Misuse

Some species of cockroach are commonly misidentified as waterbugs. These species are:

  • American cockroach
  • German cockroach
  • Oriental cockroach

These are cockroaches and not waterbugs. If you have an issue with one of these insects then you must take alternate appropriate action – the methods in this article are for waterbugs alone and may not work on other species.

True Waterbugs – Nepomorpha

The proper name for the true waterbug is Lethocerus americanus. They are part of the Belostomatidae of insects and are of the freshwater hemipteran variety.

Colloquially, they are also called alligator ticks, alligator fleas, toe biters, or even Indian toe biters.

They grow to around 1.5 inches long, but they rarely surpass 2 inches in length (5 cm). Their bodies can be divided into three parts – an abdomen, a head, and a thorax. The whole insect is fairly flat, in the shape of an oval, and boat-like in appearance. 

As adult waterbugs are unable to breathe underwater, they have a breathing tube that sticks out of their abdomen. This tube acts as a snorkel and generally sticks out above the water’s surface when they are swimming.

The waterbug is a good hunter and has evolved accordingly. Its forelegs have hooks that are used to hold onto or seize prey.

These legs need to be strong so that the insect can inject poison to paralyze their victim before they eat them. The hind legs do not directly help with hunting but are used for fast and efficient swimming. The waterbug has six legs, as do all insects.

The waterbug has a large body that is brown. 

Waterbugs are hunters and quite aggressive about it, too. They eat a long list of aquatic insects, small fins, and small amphibians. Most of their prey is considerably bigger than the insect.

Mostly, waterbugs are a type of ambush hunter – they stay motionless until dinner swims past, then they grab hold of it with their forelegs and inject their poison.

They differ from most animals in that the male shares some responsibility for caring for the young. The male will carry them on his back until they hatch whilst the female has often already left in search of a new mate.

As their name would suggest, waterbugs spend most of their life in water. This is typically in a humid and warm climate in areas with freshwater ponds, marshes, or streams. Giant waterbugs are very common in Asia and other temperate regions in the tropics.

Signs Of Waterbug Infestation

Now you know some background information about the waterbug, you could probably identify one if you came across it. But how can you tell if you have an infestation of these critters in your home? There are several fairly obvious signs or clues that you have a serious problem.

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How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs

Keep in mind that getting rid of any pest is all about early intervention. The quicker you find and identify an issue, the quicker you can eradicate the issue and the smaller the colony that you have in your house. 

If you notice any of these things in or around your home you need to act quickly.

Waterbugs In The Home

Droppings are one of the first things that people notice when waterbugs are living in their homes. The insects leave black pellets – their feces – near to where they are living.

You may also notice egg cases or discarded eggshells. This means that waterbugs have laid eggs that have hatched. 

If you do notice eggshells and droppings, you have waterbugs living nearby and need to do some further investigating to find them. They may not be living in your house, but they are certainly close by if they are leaving this kind of evidence.

Look for any dripping pipes or poorly ventilated rooms. Waterbugs do prefer to remain outdoors but can happily live in a room with dampness or poor air circulation.

Leaking pipes are another waterbug favorite as they love stagnant water. Be sure to fix any broken pipes quickly if you live in a warm and humid environment.

Waterbugs In The Pool

Waterbugs seek out stagnant or non-moving water for breeding and hunting. You need to keep an eye on your pool!

Any waterbugs that are in your pool are probably there to feed on the algae in the water. If you do notice waterbugs, you will almost certainly find that your pump fixtures are covered in algae.

This is a source of easy food for the waterbug, so they are likely to hang around for a while. Regular checks will therefore be needed to make sure that they don’t get too settled in.

As with waterbugs in the home, look out for discarded eggshells and droppings. These are both good clues that you have some waterbugs nearby that are taking advantage of the luxury of a swimming pool!

At the smallest suggestion of waterbug activity, you need to clean your pool. This will prevent them from sticking around or coming back again and again.

Waterbug Bites

It is quite rare for waterbugs to bite, and even more rare for it to be a health concern for humans. 

A waterbug bite could cause some burning, itching, and stinging and like any bug bite, getting some treatment early will help the healing process.

Waterbug bite symptoms do not vary all that much from the usual bug bit symptoms – swelling, itching, and redness are all standard bodily responses.

Try out some of these remedies to ease the symptoms:

  • Apply Oil: this will form a film over the area you apply it and will help seal the skin off from any unwanted bacteria. Try some skin-friendly essential oils for some additional healing benefits. We recommend lavender oil for its healing and soothing properties, or peppermint oil to soothe the area.
  • Apply Cold: holding a cold compress to the bite or sting site will help reduce swelling. It will also help get rid of any ‘hot’ feeling that may be caused by the sting and reduce redness. Cold may additionally help get rid of itchiness.
  • Apply Aloe Vera: some aloe vera gel will work similarly to essential oils and a cold compress – it will soothe the area and help with healing. 
  • Apply Insect Bite Cream Or Gel: an anti-histamine cream will help curb the body’s response to the sting, getting rid of some of the most unpleasant symptoms associated with insect bites.
  • Apply Turmeric And Water Paste: turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
  • Take Anti-Inflammatory Medicines: these will counteract any swelling to keep you more comfortable.

Remember that if a reaction is particularly severe or if you are concerned in any way it is always best to seek medical attention. 

Killing Waterbugs

There are lots of ways to kill waterbugs. If, however, you have numerous of them on your property they can be quite difficult to fully eradicate. If this is you, it is best to get help from a professional pest control group.

If you are operating on a small scale, you can try one of these methods to kill waterbugs:

Synthetic Pesticides

Synthetic pesticides are an effective way to kill off waterbugs. They are available in spray or powder form, so you are bound to find a product to suit your needs.

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Boric Acid

Boric acid is an alternative to synthetic pesticides that is equally effective. 

Treat boric acid similarly to powdered synthetic pesticides and sprinkle it around high traffic waterbug areas. Targeting areas will just about guarantee that the waterbugs ingest some poison.

How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs

Waterbug Traps

Looking for a simple solution? Opt for a waterbug trap before you try anything else. These are easy, efficient, and carry a good chance of eliminating the whole colony in one go.

Most traps work by luring a waterbug in with a tasty treat. The insect then eats the treat and carries it back to the nest. Once it is in the nest, the waterbug spreads the poison from the bait to other waterbugs. 

Be aware that many of these traps are advertised for cockroaches. Remember that the cockroach is an entirely separate species from the waterbug, but the traps could still work well.

Using these types of traps comes with some safety implications. You need to be sure that you keep the bait away from all other foods, including pet food. This will help keep you safe by avoiding cross-contamination and also make sure that the pests only eat what you want them to eat – the bait.

Waterbug Spray

Sprays that are dedicated solely to the disposal of waterbugs are one of the most popular options and will often be your first port of call when you want to get rid of an infestation.

They work a little more slowly than other poisons, increasing the likelihood of the infected waterbugs spreading the spray around. Most sprays work by interfering with their neurotransmitters, hence why they die more slowly.

If you choose to use one of these waterbug sprays you need to try to spray the nest. This increases the volume of spray that they ingest meaning that there is more poison for them to spread to other waterbugs.

Natural Poisons

‘Natural poisons’ just mean products that you probably already have around your home that are causing no harm to your health.

These products work well in a pinch or if you want to try something else before going down a more extreme pesticide-laden route.

Baking soda is a good option. It kills the insect by sapping out all the moisture from their bodies when they come into contact with it. It can be very effective and has the added bonus of being widely available and cheap.

Detergents are another popular and cost-effective waterbug control measure. Liquid dishwashing detergents in particular work well at breaking down a waterbug’s protective outer layer which will eventually kill them.

Mix up some warm, soapy water in a spray bottle and heavily spritz their nests and any insects you see waddling around.

Alcohol is a more expensive way to ‘naturally’ get rid of waterbugs. It combines the effects of baking soda and dishwashing detergent – it dries them out and dissolves their outer shells. Dilute your alcohol of choice before spraying it over the nest and the waterbugs.

Essential Oils

Not afraid of unleashing your inner hippie? Break out those essential oils.

Cedarwood, lemongrass, and peppermint essential oils are effective ways to keep waterbugs at bay. 

Essential oils will dehydrate the waterbugs without dissolving their shell-like baking soda and alcohol does. The oils dry out the wax on their skin when it comes into contact.

Waterbugs are very sensitive to water loss so will die if they get into contact with the smallest amount of essential oil.

How To Get Rid Of Waterbugs

Whatever oil you go for, we recommend that you dilute them enough so that they are safe for contact with your skin. This will be concentrated enough to dispatch the waterbugs without irritating yourself.

Humane Waterbug Methods

You don’t have to kill waterbugs. We understand if you want to, but there are some humane approaches that you can take. Keep in mind that these may take a little longer to have an impact.

Natural Waterbug Repellents

Vinegar is an excellent pest deterrent and is popular all over the world. 

Pour some highly concentrated vinegar into a spray bottle and then spritz the waterbug-ridden area. Be sure to get any high-traffic waterbug areas as well as their nest.

This will not kill the bugs, but they will not like it. Because it is an effective deterrent they will scuttle off to find a new home. Congratulations! You have dealt with your waterbug problem without killing anything!

We recommend that you use white vinegar for this. White vinegar contains no coloring agents and will not stain anything that you spray. It is also more refined than brown malt or any other type of vinegar meaning that it has better cleaning properties without the strong, vinegar smell.

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Synthetic Repellents

You can purchase repellent that is designed for waterbugs. These products are good alternatives if you have already tried and failed to get rid of an infestation. 

They work by limiting the strength of the waterbug’s sense of smell. This makes the area you have sprayed less interesting and unattractive as potential habitat. An unrewarding environment will make the waterbugs leave in search of a new, nicer, more appealing home.

Waterbug Prevention

Prevention is better than cure! So if you have recently dealt with an infestation and don’t want another one, or you are just feeling proactive, follow these tips to make your home as unappealing as possible to those little critters.

Stagnant Water

The most important thing that you can do is to get rid of any stagnant or standing water. Waterbugs seek out water to breed and hunt, so no water often means no waterbugs. 

Seek advice to get rid of any damp areas and fix any pipe leaks as soon as you spot them. A damp, moist area of your house is where you are most likely to find these bugs, so it may be a good idea to take some preventative measures in the form of repellents.

Seal Off Food

Any exposed food is a siren’s call to all insects in the vicinity. Waterbugs are no different – who would say no to an easy dinner?

Make sure food is sealed in airtight containers as much as possible. Do not leave heavily soiled dishes and cutlery out for days on end and make sure that the garbage bins are changed regularly.

Leaving food out overnight is one of the worst things you can do as it will be more than half a dozen hours before it is moved. You can try eating in just one room to prevent leftovers from being scattered all over the house if you want.


Poor air circulation or bad ventilation is a surefire way to get waterbugs. No air circulation means that humidity will increase and eventually reach optimum waterbug levels. 

Waterbugs do not stray indoors unless the environment is very appetizing. Something as simple as opening a window regularly will be enough to deter potential waterbug houseguests.

Stop Them Coming In

You can easily seal up any waterbug doorways in your home. Look for holes, cracks, or crevices that could let the outside in. Windows and doors are particularly susceptible to letting in waterbugs.

Any gaps that you find can be sealed up using cement, steel wool, or something similar. The object here is to make the gap too small to let the waterbugs in.

Bait and Traps

If you are particularly concerned about waterbug infestation, you could lay out some preliminary traps. These are the easiest way to get rid of a colony.

Set up the traps in areas that you are unable to waterbug-proof, just in case they do decide to try their luck.

Final Thoughts 

While waterbugs do not carry any diseases, they are not necessarily pleasant to have to scurry around your home. Fortunately, there are lots of ways that you can either put them off coming into your home in the first place or kill them, so they can’t do it again.

If you want to kill your unwanted waterbug visitors, most of the methods we have mentioned poison the bug. Some will even carry the poison back to the nest to infect the whole colony.

If you want to try something more humane, you can try spritzing them with vinegar or a repellent spray designed for waterbugs. This will force the colony to move along to a new home without actually killing them or causing them harm.

However, the best way to deal with a waterbug colony is to prevent them from settling in your home in the first place. 

Make sure that rooms are well ventilated and not too humid. High humidity is very appealing to waterbugs, as is stagnant water. Make sure that there are no dipping pipes to prevent them from settling.

Uncovered food is another great incentive for waterbugs to set up a home in your house. Keep food in airtight containers to stop this from happening.