Insects, Spiders, Mice and More... Cercopia Moth University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE Email

 

Minute Pirate Bugs: Tiny Biters

by Barb Ogg, Extension Educator

From late summer until cold weather sets in, tiny insects—known as minute pirate bugs—bite people who, until that time, were enjoying spending time outdoors on a nice, warm, sunny day. People who experience these bites are often astonished such a tiny insect can make such a painful bite.

The minute pirate bug is about 1/8 of an inch long, oval to triangular in shape, somewhat flattened and black with whitish markings on the back.

Even though these insects are tiny, they are effective predators, feeding on thrips, mites, aphids, small caterpillars and eggs of insects. In fact, these biological control agent can be purchased from several commercial companies for natural greenhouse and garden pest control.

During the summer, minute pirate bugs are abundant in crop fields, woodlands, gardens and landscapes. In late summer, they begin the disagreeable behavior of biting humans. Their bite is surprisingly painful as they probe their short blunt beak into the skin. They do not feed on blood, inject a venom, or transmit diseases.

People differ in their response to pirate bug bites. Bite reactions range from no reaction to having the area swell up like a mosquito bite.

It is not practical to control minute pirate bugs because this problem is temporary and variable from year to year and—more importantly—they are beneficial predators. Wearing dark clothing on very warm days when pirate bugs are abundant may help.

A friend reported covering exposed skin with baby oil makes it difficult for pirate bugs to "gain a foothold" and noticed the bugs tend to get stuck in the oil. Because pirate bugs are not attracted to carbon dioxide like blood-feeding arthropods, insect repellents are not effective against these tiny biters.

Other Seasonal Fall Pests

 

Updated October 15, 2003

 

Looking for information about a specific insect pest or your local wildlife? Visit here.


USE OF THE EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS: You may reproduce the Educational Resource Guides for educational purposes but not for sales purposes (unless otherwise indicated as a sales item--these items may not be reproduced). Videotapes are copyrighted and may not be reproduced. If you have questions about using any photographs or images, visit Credits for use. You're also welcome to link to "Insects, Spiders, Mice and More" from your website. Please credit: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County (http://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/bug.htm)

About This Site line Weekly Features
Insects and Spider Educational Resources line Wildlife Educational Resources
Head Lice Resources You Can Trust line Identifying Your Pest line Credits

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln Nebraska 68528-1507
Phone: 402-441-7180 | Web Site: http://lancaster.unl.edu

4-H & Youth | Agriculture & Acreage | Environment & Natural Resources | Family Living
Food: Safety, Nutrition & Cooking | Gardening | Home Environment |
Insects, Spiders, Mice & More | Nutrition Education Program | NEBLINE Newsletter

Parents, Teachers and Students: Consider the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County Confidentiality Statement

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension educational programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.
All Rights Reserved 1996-2004