Category Archives: Beneficial of the Month

Beneficial of the Month – Lacewing Order: Neuroptera

There are two families of lacewings: green lacewings (Family Chrysopidae) and brown lacewings (Family Hemerobiidae). In summer, adult green lacewings will come to porch lights, but brown lacewings are much more reclusive and are rarely seen. Both groups lay their eggs on leaves, close to potential prey. Those of green lacewings are ‘stalked’ and are usually found on the undersides of leaves, either singly or in groups, depending on species. In both families, it is the larvae that are the main predatory stage; they have…

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Beneficial of the Month – Assassin Bugs – (Family: Reduviidae)

This is one of the largest families of true bugs and includes the blood-sucking ‘kissing bugs’ (Triatoma species) as well as useful insect predators. Kissing bugs are not normally found in crop orgarden situations, but even the assassin bugs that prey exclusively on other insects can inflict a painful bite if handled roughly. The beneficial members of this family are quite diverse in size, color, and structure; some have enlarged forelegs that help with prey capture, while the so-called ‘ambush bugs hide in flowers (usually…

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Beneficial of the Month – Spined Soldier Bug – (Podisus maculiventris – Order: Hemiptera)

Although many stink bugs are plant-feeding pests, the spined soldier bug is an excellent predator found in a variety  of crop habitats, including orchards, vegetables, and row crops. The adult (approximately 14 mm long) is a  drab brown color, with characteristic pointed ‘shoulders’ that give the species its common name. Newly hatched  nymphs are red and black, superficially resembling an adult ladybird beetle, but with much longer antennae.  As the nymphs develop, they lose their red color and become much paler. This species will attack…

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Beneficial Insect of the Month – Damsel or nabbed bugs – (Family: Nabidae)

The nabids or damsel bugs are a uniform dull brown color (both as adults and nymphs) and are longer and more slender than big-eyed bugs (approximately 9-10 mm long). They are common in both farm and garden habitats, and are good ‘generalist’ predators, tackling a variety of prey. They overwinter in the adult stage in cracks and crevices in the soil or in leaf litter. Beneficial of the Month material courtesy of NMSU ACES: Pocket Guide to the Beneficial Insects of New Mexico Reminder:  Look…

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Beneficial of the Month – Minute Pirate Bugs – (Family: Anthocoridae)

At approximately 2-3 mm long, these are among the smallest of our common predators. In spite of their small size, however, the adults are easily recognized by their black and white ‘checkerboard’ appearance. The immature stages are brown and orange. Both adults and nymphs will tackle a variety of prey, including whiteflies, mites, insect eggs and newly hatched larvae, aphids, and thrips. These insects can sustain themselves on pollen when prey is scarce and hence are often found in flowers. Beneficial of the Month material…

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Beneficial of the Month – Beetles (Order: Coleoptera) – Soft-winged Flower Beetles (Family: Melyridae)

As their name suggests, these beetles are often found on flowers, although they are common and widespread in other habitats, including alfalfa fields. They are often brightly colored, sometimes with a metallic sheen. Some species have enlarged basal antennal segments. Both adults and larvae are predatory, with the latter usually being found in the soil, in leaf litter, or under bark. Two species of soft-winged flower beetle. Source:  Pocket Guide to the Beneficial Insects of New Mexico

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Beneficial of the Month – Big-eyed Bugs – (Order: Hemiptera; Family: Geocoris species)

Small, inconspicuous insects (approximately 5 mm ng) that are very common in both garden and agricultural settings. Both adults and immatures (‘nymphs’) are readily identified by their broad head with large eyes projecting from the sides; nymphs are similar in shape to adults  but are smaller and lack fully functional wings. Adults are usually brown  or reddish in color and the nymphs a paler brown/grey. As true bugs, all stages have piercing mouthparts and feed by sucking the liquid contents from their prey (insect eggs,…

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Beneficial of the Month – Rove Beetles (Order: Coleoptera; Family: Staphylinidae)

These insects are unique among the beetles in having very short wing cases (elytra) that leave most of the abdominal segments exposed. This allows them to flex the abdomen upwards and towards the head in a defensive posture that resembles a scorpion. They cannot sting, however, and instead capture their prey with their mandibles. They vary in size from a few millimeters to 1-2 cm and consume a range of prey, including insect eggs, aphids, and small moth larvae. The larval stages live in the…

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Beneficial of the Month – Ground Beetles – (Order: Coleoptera; Family: Carabidae)

These beetles are fast-moving, relatively large predators that attack a wide range of insect prey; a few species eat seeds and play a role in reducing the weed seed bank in the soil. They are typically black in color, often with a metallic sheen. Since they are nocturnal, they often pass undetected in the farm and garden, even though they may be present in high numbers. At first glance they may be mistaken for the large, black ‘darkling’ beetles (Family: Tenebrionidae) that are active during…

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Beneficial of the Month

In our first inaugural column, we start off with a general discussion of beneficial insects and how to attract them. There is a wide variety of naturally occurring beneficial insects that can help keep pest insects under control if they are given a chance. Sadly, however, these insects are often misidentified and in some cases are mistaken for pests, leading to unnecessary and counter-productive insecticide applications. Attracting and retaining beneficial insects Like all insects, beneficial species have three basic needs – food, water, and shelter.…

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