Iowa Insect Information Notes

Minute Pirate Bugs

Minute Pirate Bugs

During the late summer, small, obscure insects known as insidious flower bugs and their rarer cousins, the minute pirate bugs, make their presence known in a very convincing manner by biting with an impact that is out of proportion with their size. Their name describes their small size and their habits.

They are about 1/5 of an inch long, oval to triangular in shape, somewhat flattened and black with whitish markings on the back. They are beneficial as predators, feeding on small insects and the eggs of other insects. For example, these bugs are animportant predator of corn earworm eggs in corn fields.

They are present all summer in fields, woodlands, gardens and landscapes. They quietly go about their business without anyone taking notice until late in the summer when they migrate from fields and woodlands and begin the disagreeable behavior of biting humans. Their bite is surprisingly painful for such a small insect as they probe their short blunt beak into the skin. They do not feed on blood or inject a venom or saliva.

People differ in their response to the bites. Bites on some swell up like a mosquito bite, some turn red and for others there is no reaction at all. One consolation - the bugs are not quick to fly following biting, so the victim usually has the satisfaction of removing the offender from the ranks of the living.

Control of insidous flower bugs and minute pirate bugs is not practical, in part, because their presence and abundance is temporary and variable from year to year. Further, widespread control is not desirable because of the beneficial role they have in the environment. Wearing dark clothing on very warm days when pirate bugs are abundant may help. Repellents are generally not effective though you may want to try them to see for yourself if they work or not for you.

Minute pirate bug
 Insidious flower bug

 

 

Updated 10/04/2007 - 3:02pm