Here is another instalment of Nicole Keim’s bug of the week.
This week’s Bug of the Week is the Nabid. They are found throughout the United States and commonly frequent gardens. Nabids are sometimes referred to as damsel bugs, a name they earn from the “dainty” way they hold their two front legs off of the ground. Though damsel bugs may look formidable at first, they aren’t pests at all, but are actually beneficial to your garden and fields, eating lots of other bugs that could harm your plants! So next time one of these guys lands on your arm, don’t swat it; take a moment to admire this elegant little garden helper and maybe gently transfer it to your tomato bushes.
Damsel bugs have a very simple life cycle that only lasts for about one year. In summer or late spring, females lay their eggs in or on plants or inside crevices. The eggs hatch quickly into nymphs, which will feed on other bugs like their parents do. The nymph will molt up to five times before it transforms into an adult and will spend the winter as either a large nymph or an adult. When the warms months return, it will emerge; continue feeding on other bugs, and reproduce, continuing the life cycle.
Damsel bugs, or Nabids, are very easy to identify if found on your flowers or vegetable plants. The adults are shaped like long ovals, around ¼ to 3/8 inches long. They have translucent wings, front legs similar to those of a praying mantis for grasping prey, and are always inconspicuously colored, ranging from greens and yellows to browns and grays. Most of our local species are a grey-brown color. Nymphs are the same shape as adults, but smaller, and wingless. Damsel bugs can commonly be found on rosebushes and other plants that attract aphids. This is because aphids are one of their favorite foods, along with caterpillars, plant bugs, and spiders.
Borror, Donald J., Triplehorn, Charles A., Jonson, Norman F. “An Introduction to the Study of Insects.” Sanders College Publishing, 1989, pg 300-301
Metcalf, C. L., Flint W. P. “Destructive and Useful Insects.” Theirs Habits and Control, R. L. Metcalf, McGraw Hill Book Company, 1962, pg 224-225
Borror, Donald J., White, Richard E. “Insects.” Peterson Field Guides, R. T. Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970, pg 120-121