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Late Summer Biting Bugs
by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator

Minute Pirate Bug

Minute Pirate Bug Biting an Arm

Hackberry Lace Bug

Hackberry Lace Bug. Photo by
Robert J. Bauerenfeind, Kansas State Univ

Minute Pirate Bugs

During the late summer, small insects known as minute pirate bugs cause painful bites that seem out of proportion with their size.

The minute pirate bug is about 1/8-inch long, oval to triangular in shape, flattened and black with whitish markings on the back. Normally, they are predators and feed on insect eggs and small insects. They feed by impaling their prey with their short blunt beak and sucking the juices.

Minute pirate bugs are found throughout the summer in fields, woodlands, gardens and landscapes. In the late summer, they begin the unpleasant behavior of biting humans. They do not feed on blood or inject a venom or saliva.

People differ in their response to pirate bug bites. Some people have no reaction to the bite, but others have bites that swell like a mosquito bite or turn red. Because the bite is noticeable and the pirate bug doesn't fly quickly, the victim is usually able to successfully smash the offending insect.

Control of minute pirate bugs is not practical. Repellents are generally not effective, although some people have found applying baby oil or suntan oil liberally to the skin may prevent some bites by coating the pirate bugs with oil.

Hackberry Lace Bugs

People who have hackberry trees in their neighborhood are familiar with hackberry lace bugs in the late summer. Hackberry lace bug sometimes fall out of trees, land on people and bite, which, although painful, is a minor nuisance. No medical treatment is necessary.

The tops of the lace bug's front wings, head and thorax are membranous, composed of many raised ridges, which give a lace-like appearance, providing its common name. There are many species of lace bugs associated with specific trees.

The hackberry lace bug is about 1/8-inch long. Lace bugs feed by sucking juices from the leaves and cause bleaching of hackberry leaves. Lace bugs are more of an aesthetic problem on trees, rather than causing damage. Control is not practical.

(This resource was added October 2006 and appeared in the October 2005 NEBLINE Newsletter. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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