Tiny Biting Bugs - Minute Pirate Bugs & Hackberry Lacebugs

Minute Pirate Bug

Hackberry Lace Bugs & Minute Pirate Bugs: Fall Biters

by Barb Ogg, Ph.D., UNL Extension Educator, Emeritus
updated by Soni Cochran, Extension Associate

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 Bug - Photo by Robert J. Bauerenfeind, Kansas State

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 updated August 2015. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.