One way of controlling pests is to use beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Damsel bugs are beneficial and you should encourage them in your organic garden.
Natural means of pest control are part of the organic response to defend a garden from pests. The Damsel Bug (or nabid bug) helps keep bad insects under control.
The word ‘bug’ is often used for a variety of insects but DBs are friendly bugs in the order Hemiptera, from the family Nabidae . There are hundreds of different species in this order, but most are great predators, feeding off a variety of pests.
These small bugs are tan or yellow-brown in color, with long front legs that they use to grip their prey. When they fold their wings, they make an X pattern on their backs.
Their most significant feature is the ‘beak’ (rostrum) — a piercing needle-like protuberance from the mouth, tucked under the chin when not in use. They also exhibit bulbous eyes on slim heads and long noticeable antennae.
The Usefulness of DBs
Nabids have voracious appetites and are indiscriminate eaters, quickly devouring any insects in range.
They prey on many garden pests and, in particular, devour vast numbers of ‘herbivores’ like aphids, leafhoppers, and cabbage worm caterpillars. They also get through eggs, larvae, thrips, and spider mites on their daily hunts.
Farmers also find them useful in controlling the population of Colorado potato beetles, feeding on the eggs and nymphs.
Unfortunately, they also eat other beneficial insects, but on balance, keep the harmful types down in sufficient numbers to be valuable pest eliminators.
Differences From Other Bugs
The main difference is in the use of their beaks. Bugs can damage plants by piercing them with the beak and sucking out the sap.
DBs use this appendage instead to pierce prey, inject digestive enzymes to kill them. They then suck out the body contents, thus being harmless to plants.
Their long and strong front legs enable them to move quickly. Therefore, they can eliminate vast numbers of pests before being devoured by other predators.
Female DBs lay large numbers of eggs in plant tissue where they hatch about a week later. The nymphs that emerge are similar to the adults but without wings, and start to feed immediately on anything in the vicinity.
How to Attract Damsel Bugs
Adult DBs will overwinter in vegetation in sheltered conditions particularly favoring grain plants. You can find them in cotton fields, soybean, and other legume crops.
Alfalfa and certain grasses also provide a winter home and spring/summer egg-laying environment for the bugs. As a result, growing these plants will help attract the DBs.
1. Flowers and Herbs That Attract DBs
In keeping with other beneficial insects, marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) are some of the best ornamentals to plant to attract DBs.
They have the added benefit of being bright, attractive, and easy-to-grow plants for the garden. Cosmos, goldenrod, and lavender are other flowers a variety of beneficial insects including DBs favor.
Herbs include fennel and spearmint, dill, coriander, and chamomile. Also, certain clovers can attract these beneficial bugs as well.
On the flip side, planting attractive flowers and herbs will also attract birds, spiders, and other predators of DBs.
Again, it is a balancing act between attracting these helpful bugs and bringing their killers. Some beneficial insects will eat each other, and DBs can even eat their own family!
2. Limit Pesticide Use
They are also known to be more susceptible to organic pesticides than other insect predators, so these products should be used with caution.
3. Commercial Products
Other beneficial insects like the wonderful ladybug and the green lacewing have been successfully bred for sale to increase natural garden supplies.
This has not been so with DBs to date. However, this may change in the future as breeders continue to experiment in achieving this.
In the meantime, producers of organic products have carefully cultivated and selected seeds of plants for attracting beneficial insects, including DBs. This remains the best way of encouraging these beneficial bugs to the garden.
4. Other Pests
Planting flowers and herbs that are attractive to Damsel Bugs will also bring harmful insects. Thus, providing a source of food for egg-laying females, nymphs, and adults.
This is a matter of balance where the organic gardener has to keep some pests and spoilers of plants to attract and keep beneficial insects in the garden.
The speed of DBs and the numbers of insects consumed by both nymphs and adults should control the pest problem with only minimal plant damage.
Integrated Pest Management is a means of biological pest control using natural products and employing the encouragement and use of natural predatory insects.
The facts are clear. If you are looking for bugs that eat aphids and other pests, DBs are your best bet. They are important in this system with their speed of movement and will attack almost any pests.
Both nymphs and adults feed voraciously and help the organic gardener to protect crops against a variety of harmful insects.
With the careful selection and use of organic farming methods and the right plants to attract them, these useful bugs can thrive and be of great benefit in the garden.