About minute pirate bugs
Also known as flower bugs, these are among the smallest of the “true” bugs and one of the first predators to appear in the spring.
In spite of their tiny size, minute pirate bugs are fierce predators, clasping their victims with their front legs and then inserting their needle-like beaks to drain their victims dry.
They can even deliver a surprisingly unpleasant bite to the unwary gardener who messes with them!
Minute pirate bug nymphs and adults are very active general predators of all life stages of many different types of smaller soft bodied pests.
They are capable of eating 30 or more spider mites a day.
Important species in Maryland: Orius spp. (minute pirate bug, insidious flower bug)
Minute pirate bug nymph. Photo: Adam Sisson, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
Life stage(s) that feed on pests: Nymphs and adults. Adults also feed on pollen and nectar.
Insect(s) fed on: Aphids, spider mites, thrips, psyllids, whiteflies, small caterpillars, and insect eggs.
Minute pirate bug feeding.
Appearance of minute pirate bugs
Eggs: Tiny eggs are inserted into plant tissue with only a tiny white cap showing; easily overlooked.
Nymphs: Pear-shaped, yellowish to reddish-brown in color, wingless, about the size of a small aphid.
Adults: Very small (~1/16-1/5” long), somewhat oval shaped body, black or purplish with white wing patches; wings extend beyond tip of abdomen.
Where to find: Near the insects they eat on plants such as corn, tomatoes, beans, and strawberries. Adults may fly to other plants to find prey, and are especially common near spring- and summer-flowering shrubs and weeds that can provide food when prey is scarce.
How to attract and conserve: Grow flowering plants to provide the preferred habitat as well as the nectar and pollen needed by these tiny bugs. Avoid the use of broad spectrum pesticides, and of soil-applied systemic pesticides, which minute pirate bugs may ingest by sucking plant juices for moisture.
Contributors: Mike Raupp, Jon Traunfeld, and Chris Sargent