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Minute Pirate Bug Garden Benefits & How to Attract Them

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Minute Pirate Bug Garden Benefits & How to Attract Them

As part of the biological pest control system, Minute pirate bugs are invaluable.

They can bite and be a nuisance to gardeners but their benefits as predatory insects outshine their negative impact. They prey on many small pest insects and you’ll often find them around flowers.

Identification

As with any insects, the minute pirate bug (flower bug) may be difficult to spot until a large number appear. You may also confuse them with harmful garden pests.

These tiny true bugs are characterized by bulging eyes and rather flattened oblong bodies. Adults have brownish wings.

There are also 2 main species – orius insidiosus (flower bugs) and Anthocoris.

Orius types have distinctive black and white markings while Anthocoris pirate bugs are slightly larger and colored brown, black, or even a purple shade.

Nymphs are wingless, usually orange or yellow, developing to brown and pear-shaped.

Eggs have a flattened appearance and are white and clear making them difficult to spot and identify. However, checking under the leaves of plants the species favor should help find and conserve them.

Benefits of Minute Pirate Bugs

Nymphs and adult pirate bugs feed voraciously on other insects and can be an important part of organic gardening. They have a sucking action that destroys their victims.

Adult pirate bugs have powerful front legs that clasp their prey and needle-like beaks that pierce the insects and drain, dehydrate and kill them. Nymphs also feed keenly on insect pests as they develop into adults.

Moreover, pirate bugs, given the right conditions, will multiply rapidly. They are also early-season predators, destroying eggs and larvae before they develop into harmful adults.

They will also continue killing pests even when they no longer need them for food.

What Do They Feed On?

Fortunately, these tiny bugs favor many soft-bodied insect pests at all stages of the life cycle from eggs to nymphs to adults.

They can consume around 30 spider mites per day. They also prey on aphids, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, and caterpillars. Plus, they feed on plant juices and pollen but without causing harm.

How to Attract Minute Pirate Bugs

Creating the right environment for pirate bugs will allow a female to produce up to 100 eggs during her lifetime [1].

She will need warmth and plenty of food. So, careful planting of attractive plants should see a plentiful supply of these predatory creatures.

Additionally, a sunny flower bed and/or vegetable patch free of commercial chemical sprays are ideal conditions.

Attractive Plants for Pirate Bugs

These bugs are often found in field crops such as soybean, corn, alfalfa, cotton, and small grains. However, even small gardens can provide attractive plants including tomatoes, strawberries, and beans.

There are also many vibrant flowers that produce the pollen and nectar that the adult bugs feed on. Marigolds, caraway, and cosmos are particularly appealing to these predators.

Buying Them for Your Garden

Commercial suppliers of predatory beneficial insects provide a quick option to boost the minute pirate bug population.

The Orius species is usually reared for this use. However, creating the right environment and developing home-grown colonies are still the best way to produce long-term natural pest control in the garden.

A more beneficial use of commercially acquired bugs is to release a set number of them into the greenhouse or outdoor garden.

The recommended number is 1-2 per plant or up to 500 in outdoor areas of a serious infestation. The bugs should rapidly multiply and help control many greenhouse pests.

You can buy these bugs at certain garden centers or from trusted online supplies such as this company.

Disadvantages

Plants smothered in bugs and insects of any sort are unsightly. Fortunately, pirate bugs are tiny and will be less noticeable than some of the harmful insects they destroy.

However, a common fallacy about the bugs is that they excrete acidic urine on humans that can burn the skin [2]. This is simply an ‘old wives tale’.

Can Pirate Bugs Bite?

Yes, they can and do! However, although these tiny creatures are sap-sucking they are not bloodsuckers.

Their bite is out of proportion to their size and can be very painful, but some people will not have a reaction at all. Others may have redness on the skin or even symptoms similar to mosquito bites.

The bugs seem reluctant to fly off after biting so at least one offender can be disposed of quickly.

A large infestation of these bugs may not be to everyone’s advantage. But, killing them will waste the good work they do.

The life cycle of pirate bugs is short – about 4 weeks. So, they quickly get to grips with eliminating many other harmful plant pests. As such, attracting the bugs and avoiding the bites is the best course of action.

Avoiding the Bites

Insect repellents seem to have no effect on pirate bugs and a bite on bare skin can be very unpleasant.

However, two conditions the bugs do not favor are darkness and coolness. So, working outdoors on cooler days can help to prevent bug bites.

The other best protection is to wear darker clothes. Cover the arms and legs and work as far as possible in the shade or evening. Wearing gloves is also important.

Thankfully, the arrival of cool weather will naturally control the possibility of being bitten by the pirate bugs. By then they will have eaten up a lot of insect pests.

See also: Benefits of Damsel Bugs to Your Garden

Takeaway

Natural methods of pest control are an essential element in avoiding the spread of harmful chemicals. Little workers like the flower bug go a long way in helping the organic gardener/farmer to eliminate or reduce pests on crops naturally.

Picture via Flickr 

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature -- sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

1 comment

  • Good tips. am already planting some seeds to encourage these bugs in my garden. Am encouraged to look out for these beneficial ones. Thank you Dre.

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