Tiny Bugs with a BIG Bite!

I’m going to take a moment to vent too ….. I happen to be one of the folks who can’t enjoy the outdoors right now around my home because of all of these tiny, black bugs that bite like the dickens! I get welts from them. My colleague Jody Green braved a “probing” just so we could get the great photo below!

If you are one of the folks suffering from the bites of minute pirate bugs (they look like a black dot on your arm – you may not see the markings as you squish it), here’s an article from one of our Nebraska Extension colleagues Jonathan Larson. Bottom line: There’s not much you can do. Cover up. Try a repellent or baby oil on the skin. Wait for a hard freeze…. oh, and they are beneficial, really – they are … read on —- Soni

Minute pirate bug probing Jody Green's arm

Minute pirate bug probing Jody Green’s arm with its piercing-sucking mouthpart at the front of its head. Photo by Dr. Jody Green, Extension Educator Urban Entomology.

Minute Pirate Bugs: Tiny Bugs with a Bite!
Dr. Jonathan L. Larson, Nebraska Extension
September 19, 2016

Arrr! It is national talk like a pirate day today and it’s truly fitting as we are also receiving the first reports of problems with minute pirate bugs. These bugs get their minute moniker because as adults they are only about 1/8 inch long. Adults are oval-shaped, have a black body with an off-white/brown bar across their back and white diamond on their wing tips. As nymphs they are an orange hue and lack wings, they actually resemble their cousin the bed bug a little bit. Worldwide, there are over 500 species of minute pirate bug but we mainly deal with only one species in this area, the insidious flower beetle (Orius insidiosus).

Normally, we consider the pirate bugs to be beneficial predators. Their voracious appetite and predatory behavior is actually why we named them pirate bugs. As a Hemipteran (or true bug) they have a piercing-sucking mouthpart on the front of their head. They will stab this into their unlucky quarry and drain them of their juices. You can usually find them living in gardens and fields where they feed readily on plant pests like aphids, thrips, and leafhoppers and will also attack pest eggs when they can find them. When prey is scarce they may feed on pollen and nectar. Because of these positive attributes we often release pirate bugs as bio-control agents and you can usually purchase them from organic gardening magazines and stores.

In late summer though, human-minute pirate bug relations take a turn for the worse. During August and September these bugs will begin to migrate from out of the way areas into places where they come into direct contact with us. This in turn leads to them biting us with their piercing-sucking mouthpart. It isn’t really clear why this happens as they don’t feed on our blood and they don’t inject anything into us. Some argue they are just probing to see what this squishy thing they landed on is. The bite itself is quite painful and some people may react to it by developing a large mosquito like bump on their skin. There are no practical control methods for pirate bugs. If someone is suffering from lots of bites they can try to wear dark, long sleeved clothing when outdoors.


Thanks to Jonathan Larson for sharing this information! And special thanks to Jody Green for the great photo!

If you have other pest and wildlife questions, we have resources on-line at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest or contact your local extension office.

Have a great day!!


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