True Bugs or Hemiptera are an order of insects comprising some 50,000 to 80,000 species of groups. They include such species as cicades, aphids, plant hoppers, leaf hoppers, and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm to around 15 cm and share a common arangement of sucking mouthparts.
Below you will find a description of some true bugs. Also, information about each one and how to control them.
Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus lineolaris)
The tarnished plant bug is part of the Miridae family of insects that attacks a wide variety of crops. It is coppery-brown in color with piercing-sucking mouthparts and is a major pest, especially for commerical growers. Adults are about 1/4-inch long, and they are oval in shape with white marks or lines behind the head and sometimes along the front wing. They can be found throughout most of North America and it feeds on just about any crop you can plant.
Nymphs are typically green or yellowish with black spots that are visible on the older nymphs. They do not have wings at this stage. Also, they are more destructive during this time. This is because as they feed by sucking the plant sap, they inject toxin into the plant tissue that stunts or otherwise deforms growth.
Adults and nymphs overwinter in weedy patches and organic debris. Emerge in late spring to feed on young weeds and grasses before moving to more favorable crops. Eggs are laid inside of plant tissue, in buds, soft stem tissue, or leaf veins. The eggs hatch in 5 to 7 days.
The Tarnished plant bug goes through five nymph instars or stages to maturity. It can take as short as 12 days to as long as 40 days to reach the adult stage.
When looking for the Tarnished plant bug, remember these insects move very quickly, and the adults fly away when disturbed.
They are at their busiest during mid-to-late summer and is most evident during hot, dry weather. They are especially-busy anywhere near alfalfa fields, and recently cut hay.
The Tarnished plant bug has a large appetite for many host plants (it has been recorded they feed on 385 different plants).
Below is a small sample of these plants which include:
- Many flowers
Controlling Tarnished Plant Bugs
- Keep weeds pulled or mowed. This is where the bugs colonize and remain throughout the season. Removing them gives the bugs less places to reside in the garden.
- Pesticides can be used to control these bugs. Chemical controls should be used when the plant begins to set buds. When using a pesticide for the first time you should test a few plants for phytotoxicity. And keep in mind the chemicals will have no effect on the eggs inside the plant tissue.
- Insecticides such as bifenthrin, pyrethrins + rotenone, horticultural oils, or insecticidal soaps.
- Beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps will attack the eggs and nymphs of Tarnished plant bug. Beneficial insects are safe for the environment and they help to reduce the number of bugs, but they will not eliminate them.
Squash Bug (Anasa tristis)
The squash bug, from the family Coreidae is a sap-sucking insect that is part of the Hemipteran suborder Heteroptera. These bugs are found throughout the United States.
The adult Squash bug overwinters in the soil, under garden debris, under rocks, and sometimes in wood piles or buildings. They emerge in the late spring, or early summer and begin feeding. Adult Squash bugs mainly attack squash and pumpkins but can also attack other plants in the cucurbit family including:
- Muskmelon (cantaloupe)
Elliptical shaped, somewhat flat, bronze colored eggs are deposited on the undersides of leaves and sometimes on the top side of the leaf. The female will deposit clusters of about 20 eggs which may be close together or spread a considerable distance apart. The eggs hatch in 7 to 9 days.
The nymph stage has five instars (stages) and takes about 33 days to complete. Nymphs starts out at about 2.5 mm in length and grow to about 9 to 10 mm in length and are at first a light green in color and progresses to a dark brownish-gray.
Adult squash bugs are flat-backed, brownish-gray to black, and about 1.6 mm long. The abdomen is marked with alternating gold and brown spots. The immature nymphs resemble the adults but are pale colored with black legs. The adults can live up to 130 days depending on food sources. The complete lifecycle takes about six to eight weeks.
Squash bugs feed by sucking the sap out of leaves causing them to severely wilt and create yellow spots that later turn brown or black (cucurbit yellow vine disease or CYVD).
Often, if the infestations is bad enough the entire plant will die. Sometimes one plant will die while plants around it will remain healthy.
Plants that repel squash bugs include:
- White radishes
There is one generation per year in the North and two to three generation in other regions where the weather stays warmer, longer.
Controlling Squash Bugs
- Beneficial insects and bugs such as the parasitic wasp. Also, a natural predator of the squash bug, the brightly colored, parasitic adult Tachinid fly recognized by its’ gold and black thorax and an orange abdomen with feather-like hairs on the outside of the hind legs. Both lay eggs in the adult squash bug then the eggs develop inside and kill the bug when the fly emerges.
- Insecticides can be used but it is recommended using insecticides with little residual activity to avoid killing pollinators such as honeybees. And apply late in the day when honeybees are less active.
- Clean and clear garden debris. This is essential to reduce overwintering populations.
- Crop rotation can help reduce their numbers.
- Hand picking true bugs is one of the best defenses when it comes to getting rid of them. Place the true bugs in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Best done in the morning or evening when bugs are more active. Also, scratch off to kill any eggs found on the undersides of leaves.
- Companion planting can help control squash bugs by planting crops that repel the squash bug (see list of plants that repel squash bugs above).
- Diatomaceous Earth is a powder made up of diatoms (ground-up fossils) that dehydrate the squash bug.
Stink Bugs (Halyomorpha halys)
The Stink bug is an (true bug) insect in the family Pentatomidae and from the order Hemiptera and the suborder Heteroptera.
Since 1998 various species of stinkbugs have been found throughout the United States with them being more common in the Southern States.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are agricultural pests because they cause widespread damage to fruits and vegetable crops.
Stink bugs vary in size, depending on the species with some U.S. species as long as 2 cm. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is brown in color while the Acrosternum hilare Stink Bug is green in color. They share common characteristics such as piercing mouthparts as well as wings, which are hardened at the base and membranous at the tips.
These true bugs have a broad body that is either triangular or semi-elliptical shape, making them almost as wide as they are long, and an antenna which is divided into five segments. There body serves as protection providing a shield against predators. This is why they are sometimes referred to as “shield bugs”
Immature brown stink bug nymph is yellow and red with red eyes: when reaching adulthood, they turn brown or bluish-gray. And the green stink bug nymphs are black in color with underdeveloped wings, upon reaching adulthood, they turn green. As the nymphs grow, they become shell-shaped and may be green, brown, or bluish-gray.
Stink bugs when crushed or are threatened give off an unpleasant odor. They excrete offensive smelling liquid from their thorax glands that are placed between the first and second set of legs. When attacked they produce this liquid defensively in order to ward off potential threats.
Stink Bugs feed on many plants and trees including:
- Apple tree
- Butterfly bush
- Dogwood tree
- Pecan tree
- Maple tree
- A number of other plants
Green stink bugs have their own preference and are attracted to host plants including:
- Apple trees
- Cherry trees
- Orange trees
They damage plants by sucking sap juices, causing new shoots to wilt and fruits to become distorted with hard dimpled areas.
Adults overwinter in garden debris and in nearby weedy areas.
In early summer they emerge and lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs hatch 4 to 5 days later and the nymphs begin feeding, undergoing a series of molts or changes until they become adults in the fall.
There can be several generations of these true bugs per year.
Controlling Stink Bugs
- Grow herbs like mint, basil, borage, coriander, and nasturtium. These plants attract other predatory insects that prey on stink bugs.
- Synthetic chemicals kill stink bugs but at the same time kill the beneficial insects as well.
- Clean and clear any debris such as leaves, weeds, or wood piles from the garden area, and from around the house.
- Hand pick the stink bugs and drop them in a bucket of soapy water to drown them.
- Vacuum them off your plants outside, or if you have plants inside the house you can vacuum, but remember the pungent smell they create. You may not want that odor in your home or your vacuum.
- Diatomaceous Earth, a powder made from diatoms (ground fossils) that dehydrates the stink bugs and kills it.
Or you could try using one of these two types of Stink Bug traps:
- Electric trap. Square or lantern-shaped boxes consisting of an illumination light bulb that attracts bugs. This device uses an electrical current to exterminate the stink bugs. They fly into the trap and are killed instantly.
- Natural sticking traps. Cardboard can be used to make a sticking trap. Cut a square of cardboard or use an old paper bag. Make a paste from water, corn syrup, and sugar. Boil ingredients to thicken and create a paste. Coat the cardboard or bag with the paste and place the trap away from your house and garden area. Stink bugs will be attracted away from the garden and house an become stuck in the paste.
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True bugs come in all spaces and sizes, and have one thing in common. They destroy your plants. Use the steps above to learn how to spot, control, and destroy these bugs.