Bugs with big eyes

What Are Big Eyed Bugs: How Are Big Eyed Bugs Beneficial In Gardens

Big eyed bugs are beneficial insects found across the United States and Canada. What are big eyed bugs? In addition to their characteristic ocular orbs, these bugs have an important purpose. The insects feed on many varieties of insect pests that cause crop, turf and ornamental damage. Big eyed bug identification is important so you don’t confuse them with a variety of these pest insects.

What are Big Eyed Bugs?

The best time to spot these tiny bugs is in the morning or evening when dew still clings to leaves and blades of grass. The insect only gets about 1/16 to ¼ inch long and has wide, almost triangular, heads and huge eyes that turn slightly backwards.

The big eyed bug life cycle starts with eggs that overwinter. The nymphs go through several instars before becoming adults. These adult insects have an appearance of a wasp mixed with a beetle mixed with a fly.

How are Big Eyed Bugs Beneficial?

So how do these insects benefit the garden? They eat a variety of pests that include:

  • Mites
  • Caterpillars
  • Leafhoppers
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Various insect eggs

For the most part, big eyed bugs in gardens are a benevolent presence and will aid the gardener in combating all the pest insects. Even the young insects eat their share of the bad insects threatening your plants. Unfortunately, when prey is low, the big eyed bug will resort to sucking sap and munching your plant parts. As luck would have it, the average organic garden has plenty of options for the insect’s lunch, dinner and breakfast.

Big Eyed Bug Identification

These insects resemble many of the big trouble-making bugs in some areas. Chinch bugs and false chinch bugs and pamera bugs all look very much like the big eyed bugs. Chinch bugs have a longer body and darker coloration. False chinch bugs are speckled and have brown and tan tones. Pamera bugs are slender with a smaller head and decidedly smaller eyes.

The most obvious feature on the big eyed bugs is the bulging orbs at the top of their heads, which tend to tilt backwards. Big eyed bug identification is important to distinguish between this beneficial insect and the pesky chinch bug. This avoids widespread spraying that might kill one of your best chances at integrated and non-toxic pest management.

Big Eyed Bug Life Cycle

Preserving big eyed bugs in gardens requires knowledge of what the five instar, or nymph stages, look like. The instars last only four to six days and the nymph changes in each phase of its development. Nymphs are predators too, and their appearance mimics the adult, except they are wingless, smaller and have darker spots and coloring. Adult big eyed bugs only live about a month and a female can lay up to 300 eggs.

Big-Eyed Bug

Common Names: Seed Bug, Bigeyed Bug

Scientific Name: Order Heteroptera, Family Lygaeidae, spp.

Size: Adult – 1/8″ – 1/4″

Identification: Adults are light yellowish-green to dark gray with small black dots on the head. Wider body than chinch bugs and have more rapid movements. Eyes are very large, kidney-shaped and reddish brown. Football-shaped eggs are whitish gray with red spots. Nymphs are smaller grayish and wingless with irregular patterns of spots on the top of the body.

Biology/Life Cycle: Incomplete life cycle – eggs, nymphs, adults. Several broods per year in the summer. Adults hibernate in garden debris over the winter. Adults live two to three months after maturity.

Habitat: Cotton, clover, winter grains, weeds and alfalfa.

Feeding Habits: Often appear when chinch bug populations are high and feed on them. Both adults and nymphs feed on aphids, lygus bugs, whiteflies, leaf hoppers, plant bugs, small caterpillars, thrips, corn earworm, tarnished plant bugs and spider mites. All stages of both sexes are predatious from birth until death but they can survive on nectar and honeydew when prey is scarce.

Natural control: None needed.

Organic control: None needed.
Economic Importance: Very beneficial insect that helps control troublesome insects.

Insight: The probosis (modified mouth structure) of the big-eyed bug extends like a hydraulic piston’s ram in stages. This is one of the insects that will naturally reestablish if the toxic sprays are eliminated.

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Eastern-eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus)

The harmless Eastern-eyed Click Beetle’s large eyespots simultaneously distract and mesmerize.

This black and white species of Click Beetle has two large black ‘eyespots’ on its pronotum. Each eyespot is surrounded by a thick, white ring, making the pair very conspicuous. Predators see the eyes and assume the rest of the creature is proportional in size. Attacking anything assumes a risk, and many animals move on when they believe they may be outsized. The rest of the head and pronotum has a chalky appearance. The long, slender, black eyltra (wing coverings) are covered in white speckles.
The Eastern-eyed Click Beetle has a similar-looking relative in the southwestern U.S. called the , as well as cousins on the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest. Their ranges may overlap at the boundaries, but it is unlikely to see species completely cross over and populate the others’ regions. Like all members of the Elateridae family, Click Beetles get their name from the sound they make when they flip themselves upright. The loud noise is made when it snaps a ‘spine’ under its thorax. This propels the beetle into the air and helps turn it right-side-up if it is on its back. It may also aid in fleeing from predators in an attack.
Larvae of the Eastern-eyed Click Beetle are called ‘wireworms’ and live in decaying plants. They eat other insects living in the same soil. Adults do not eat much, though they have been known to eat the larvae of wood-boring beetles. Adults are often found on pruned trees from mid-spring through autumn. It is not uncommon to see them flying from tree to tree in deciduous forests.

Cool Facts about the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle

  • The Eastern Eyed Click Beetle has two large eyespots on their pronotum (fancy way of saying on the top of their head), which look like two supersized eyes
  • This beetle is renowned for the click sounds its makes when it defends from predators or simply wishes to flip upright (yep, their method of clicking will actually help flip over)
  • There are six related species of click beetles in the US, of which the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle can be recognized by its black white and grey colors, as well as large black eyespots
  • The Eastern Eyed Click Beetle is mostly encountered in all the American states east of the Great Plains and up north into Canada.

A Beetle that Knows how to Click

The Eastern Eyed Click Beetle is a quite interesting and eye catching insect both because it is pretty large (longer than an inch) and has those beautiful pair of eyes adorning the back of its head. Don’t get deceived, though, these are not the real eyes of the beetle. Believe it or not, it’s not the eyes of the beetle that really catch people’s attention.

It is their behavior when they feel threatened. It simply drops onto his back and plays dead until the predator gives up and goes on their own way. Once the threat is over, the Click Beetle will produce a loud clicking sound by snapping the first section of its thorax in the second section of the thorax. This way, the beetle manages to jump up and flip into the air and get back on its two feet in no time.

A Crop Friendly Insect

Although it is a larger insect that you can often time encounter in your vegetable garden or lawn, stay assured that this eyed beetle is not a threat to your crop. Apart from most of their close relatives, the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle is actually a friend of your garden, where usually you’ll be able to spot it in pruned trees. Just let it get on with his journey and simply enjoy a beautiful and unique insect making his way through your lovely garden.

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