minute pirate bug feeding on thrips

Minute pirate bug (Orius sp.) feeding on thrips. Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Updated: April 8, 2021

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 MarylandOrius spp. (minute pirate bug, insidious flower bug)

minute pirate 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

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

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