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Award of Merit Article

Minute Pirate Bug

MORE GOOD GUYS - MINUTE PIRATE BUGS
by Nanette Londeree, Consulting Rosarian

Have you noticed that the common descriptive names of many beneficial insects donít sound all that friendly - like assassin bugs and soldier beetles? It must have to do with their predatory nature. This month, weíll add another to that list with minute pirate bugs (Orius tristicolor). These creatures are from the family Anthorcoridae, and are true bugs - ones that feed by sucking juices from their prey through a sharp, needlelike beak (the rostrum) and have their wings folded flat over the abdomen, instead of being held in a roof like position like leafhoppers and aphids.

They are tiny, usually less than 1/8 inch in length. The adults are black with white wing patches. The nymph stage resembles the adults though donít have wings, and are fast moving. They are yellow-orange in color and turn brown as they mature. Females lay more than 100 eggs during their lifetime, and an adult lifespan is about 35 days. Several generations may be produced during one growing season. Goldenrod, yarrow and daisies are major attractants for these bugs, and can be found on flowers or under loose bark, in leaf litter or in decaying fungi.

They are often the first predators to appear in the spring, and feed on aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, thrips and other tiny insects and their eggs. These are great to have in the garden, but do be careful, because like assassin bugs, they can inflect a painful bite if threatened.


Photo courtesy of: Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University


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Last Modified: 08/06/2013