This blog post provides information on Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug. Beneficial insects are insects that do more good for a garden than harm. They may eat pest insects or they may just pollinate flowers or do both. If you can attract beneficial insects to your garden that predate on pest insects, then you don’t need to use toxic chemicals to produce your fruits and vegetables.
I will pick a few beneficial insects each week for the next couple of weeks and give you some information on them. I will try to stick with insects common to North America that you would want in your garden. Pictures will be included as well for easy identification.
The Assassin Bug (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) is a beneficial insect in gardens. They eat flies, mosquitos, beetles and caterpillars. The Assassin bug has a strong beak called the rostrum that is used to stab its prey and inject it with a saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which is then sucked out. They do not feed on plants – only hunt on them. There are about 7000 species of this bug, with 160 species known to live in the USA. There is one species called kissing bug, that suck blood from humans. Most assassin bug will bite humans if the bug feels threatened, so don’t try to catch them with your hands. The bite on humans is very painful and causes a reaction on some people.
The female lays only one egg at a time in the summer, which hatches the following June. They go through a simple metamorphosis with egg, nymph, and adult stages. Assassin bugs do over winter in the US by finding a sheltered location.
They have 6 jointed legs, two antennae, and an exoskeleton made of chitin. They have 3-segmented beaks (most Hemiptera have 4-segmented beaks). Their three-part body consists of a head, thorax, and the abdomen.
The Lady Bug, lady beetles, ladybird beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) is actually a beetle and not a bug. There are almost 200 species of lady bug in North America. Some ladybugs are beneficial and eat pest insects such as aphids. Others, particularly in the Epilachninae family, eat plants. They have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs.
Some houses get infested with lady bugs in the fall. My farm house is one of them. Starting in early October we get dozens and dozens of them in our kitchen which is south west facing. In doing research for this article I have found that this is normal. My problem is likely lack of insulation or cracks in the wall on the south side. The lady bugs are just looking for a place to overwinter.
Lady bugs lay eggs in masses of 5 to 30 eggs. The larval stage looks very different than the adults. Larvae are active hunters and can move fairly quickly over the plants. The larval stage only lasts for a few weeks.
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