Minute Pirate Bug
Common Names: Flower Bug, Insidious Flower Bug, Minute Pirate Bug, Pirate Bug
Scientific Name: Order Heteroptera, family Anthocoridae, Orius spp.
Size: Adult 1/4"
Identification: Adults are small, quick-moving, black and white bugs. Nymphs are shiny ovals that change from yellow to orange to mahogany brown. Some have red eyes.
Biology and Life Cycle: Adult females insert tiny white or clear eggs into plant stems or leaves. Eggs hatch in three to five days, nymphs feed on small insects and insect eggs for two or three weeks before molting into the adult stage. Mated females overwinter in bark, weeds, and mulch, but the males die before winter. Two to four generations a year.
Habitat: Pollen and nectar plants like goldenrod, daisies, yarrow, and alfalfa. Prefer mixed plantings. Flowering plants, corn, and other field crops. Also found in the wild.
Feeding Habits: Feed on insect eggs, small caterpillars, thrips, mites, and aphids. Nymphs and adults are predatory. Will attack almost any pest insect. Very good at finding prey deep inside flowers. Adults also feed on pollen.
Economic Importance: Excellent for control of thrips as well as aphids, spider mites, corn borer, corn earworm, and potato leafhopper. Collect minute pirate bugs from goldenrod in fall and move to the garden. Release one adult per plant.
Natural Control: Biodiversity.
Organic Control: None needed.
Insight: There is evidence that populations increase in corn plantings with broadleaf and grassy weeds. Orius tristicolor and Orius insidiosus are available commercially, shipped as nymphs. They are "thrill killers"--they kill more insects than they require for food.