Minute pirate bugs bite

Minute Pirate Bugs are Biting – ARGH!

The nicest, sunniest, warmest days of autumn are when most of us first notice the minute pirate bugs (also called the insidious flower bug). While we’re enjoying the sunshine the pirate bugs are casting about looking for just-one-more meal before winter sets in and shuts them down until next spring. The distinguishing characteristic of oval-shaped, black-and-white minute pirate bugs is that when they land on your bare skin they bite with a pain that is way out of proportion to their minute size (1/5th inch).

It’s easy to dislike something that bites, but in the big picture, minute pirate bugs are beneficial as predators feeding on insect eggs and small insects through the summer. They provide a valuable pest control service by helping to limit the number of pests in fields, gardens and woodlands.

The bite of minute pirate bugs is surprisingly painful. The bite is a probe with their short blunt beak into your skin. They do not feed on blood or inject a venom or saliva. People differ in their response to the bites. Bites on some swell up like a mosquito bite, some turn red and for others there is no reaction at all.

Urination? Of course not.

There is a preposterous urban legend that the pain of a minute pirate bug comes from urine that the bug excretes while biting. Where do these stories come from? Too much late night TV? There is absolutely no truth to the bizarre claims that minute pirate bugs pee on you or excrete acid to burn your skin.

Minute pirate bugs migrate from fields and woodland areas in late summer and early fall and vary from place-to-place, day-to-day and year-to-year. Migration and activity is random and not cyclic or predictable (though you can count on more activity on the warmest, sunniest days).


Minute pirate bugs are beneficial and come from a wide range of sources. Spray or fog treatments are not feasible. Available insect repellents have no effect on them.

Light colors seem to attract minute pirate bugs so long-sleeves and dark clothes while painting the house siding or gardening may help, as will working after dark and on cool, cloudy days.

Ultimately, minute pirate bug activity stops with the arrival of cold temperatures.

A minute pirate bug resting on white house siding.

There have been numerous reports of people being bitten by minute pirate bugs throughout the state. Minute pirate bugs are true bugs, Order Hemiptera, in the Family Anthocoridae. A common species, Orius insidiosus, is known as the insidious plant bug.

Adult minute pirate bugs are black and white, flattened, oval bugs about 1/16 inch long. They have a needlelike beak that originates at the front of the head and is bent back under the head when not in use. They use these piercing–sucking mouthparts to penetrate their prey and suck out their juices. They feed primarily on other small insects and mites, being available commercially for the biological control of small plant pests such as spider mites, thrips, and aphids.

Minute pirate bugs are native to Illinois and are commonly found on foliage, particularly the blossoms of flowering plants. Adult pirate bugs are excellent fliers; the smaller, brownish nymphs look similar to the adults but have no wings. It is common to have nymphs and adults walking on your arms when hand-weeding, pruning, or otherwise working with outdoor plants. While you’re sitting or walking outdoors, it is common for adult minute pirate bugs to fly onto your arms and other areas of your body.
Many insects determine whether something is good to eat by tasting it. It is thought that minute pirate bugs probe whatever they land on to determine whether it is food. People feel this probe as a pinchlike bite, which is considerably more noticeable than the insect delivering the bite. For many people, the pain is short-lived and nothing comes of the bite. In others, swelling and itching can occur at the bite, probably due to the body’s reaction to foreign proteins that entered the body during the bite.
There is very little that can be done to avoid bites while outside, other than keeping most of your body covered with clothing by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Minute pirate bugs tend to be more active during the daytime and seem to be particularly active before it rains.
Insect repellents used for protection from mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks are not effective against these insects. Insect repellents function by confusing the sensory apparatus that insects use to detect us. Mosquitoes and other biting pests are attracted by the lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals that we exude from our bodies. Insect repellents keep the insects from detecting these chemicals and following their gradient to us. Thus, insect repellents would perhaps be better called insect non-attractants.
Because minute pirate bugs do not seek humans but randomly land on them, repellents have no effect against them. Some repellents have perfumes added to them to make them more acceptable by people. It is possible that the perfumes in the repellent might even attract the minute pirate bugs because the bugs tend to be numerous on flowers.
Minute pirate bugs are probably more numerous this year than normal due to long-term weather trends, as well as fluctuations of their natural enemies such as pathogens. In addition, the mild weather extending into the fall is probably allowing the minute pirate bugs to be active longer than normal. It may have allowed an extra generation of bugs to be produced, which would also increase their numbers. Once the weather turns seasonably cooler and the daytime highs remain below 50˚F, the minute pirate bugs enters protected areas to overwinter, not to be noticed again until spring.

Home Wise! Family Smart!

I’m going to take a moment to vent too ….. I happen to be one of the folks who can’t enjoy the outdoors right now around my home because of all of these tiny, black bugs that bite like the dickens! I get welts from them. My colleague Jody Green braved a “probing” just so we could get the great photo below!

If you are one of the folks suffering from the bites of minute pirate bugs (they look like a black dot on your arm – you may not see the markings as you squish it), here’s an article from one of our Nebraska Extension colleagues Jonathan Larson. Bottom line: There’s not much you can do. Cover up. Try a repellent or baby oil on the skin. Wait for a hard freeze…. oh, and they are beneficial, really – they are … read on —- Soni

Minute pirate bug probing Jody Green’s arm with its piercing-sucking mouthpart at the front of its head. Photo by Dr. Jody Green, Extension Educator Urban Entomology.

Minute Pirate Bugs: Tiny Bugs with a Bite!
Dr. Jonathan L. Larson, Nebraska Extension
September 19, 2016

Arrr! It is national talk like a pirate day today and it’s truly fitting as we are also receiving the first reports of problems with minute pirate bugs. These bugs get their minute moniker because as adults they are only about 1/8 inch long. Adults are oval-shaped, have a black body with an off-white/brown bar across their back and white diamond on their wing tips. As nymphs they are an orange hue and lack wings, they actually resemble their cousin the bed bug a little bit. Worldwide, there are over 500 species of minute pirate bug but we mainly deal with only one species in this area, the insidious flower beetle (Orius insidiosus).

Normally, we consider the pirate bugs to be beneficial predators. Their voracious appetite and predatory behavior is actually why we named them pirate bugs. As a Hemipteran (or true bug) they have a piercing-sucking mouthpart on the front of their head. They will stab this into their unlucky quarry and drain them of their juices. You can usually find them living in gardens and fields where they feed readily on plant pests like aphids, thrips, and leafhoppers and will also attack pest eggs when they can find them. When prey is scarce they may feed on pollen and nectar. Because of these positive attributes we often release pirate bugs as bio-control agents and you can usually purchase them from organic gardening magazines and stores.

In late summer though, human-minute pirate bug relations take a turn for the worse. During August and September these bugs will begin to migrate from out of the way areas into places where they come into direct contact with us. This in turn leads to them biting us with their piercing-sucking mouthpart. It isn’t really clear why this happens as they don’t feed on our blood and they don’t inject anything into us. Some argue they are just probing to see what this squishy thing they landed on is. The bite itself is quite painful and some people may react to it by developing a large mosquito like bump on their skin. There are no practical control methods for pirate bugs. If someone is suffering from lots of bites they can try to wear dark, long sleeved clothing when outdoors.


Thanks to Jonathan Larson for sharing this information! And special thanks to Jody Green for the great photo!

If you have other pest and wildlife questions, we have resources on-line at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest or contact your local extension office.

Have a great day!!


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Minute Pirate Bugs (scientific name: Orius insidiosus) are all around us most of the time, and we don’t even notice them. These tiny black bugs are beneficial insects, abundant in yards, gardens, woodlands, pastures, and farmlands.

Pirate bugs are Hemiptera (true bugs) and members of the insect family Anthocoridae.

Like all true bugs, these little critters have very sharp, sucking mouthparts. They use their little needle-like beaks to suck the life out of a wide variety of garden pests sucking plant juices and feeding on agricultural crops.

Minute Pirate Bug feeding on whitefly nymphs

They also suck nectar from flowers and sap from plant tissue.

At certain times of the year, they also explore the possibility of finding a meal on a sweaty human. What’s up with that?

In this article, we discuss the perplexing Minute Pirate Bug and share advice on coexisting successfully with this ubiquitous predatory insect. Read on to learn more.

What Does A Minute Pirate Bug Look Like?

As the name implies, these bugs are very small. Adults are no bigger than about an eighth of an inch long. They are oval-shaped, have black bodies with white wing patches.

Nymphs do not have wing patches and cannot fly. Adults do fly and cover large areas in search of prey insects, plant sap, nectar, and pollen.

What Is The Life Cycle Of The Minute Pirate Bug?

Female Pirate Bugs lay about a hundred eggs in their brief lifetimes. They hide the tiny eggs inside plant tissues where they cannot be seen or consumed by other bugs.

The insect eggs hatch within four or five days, and the tiny nymphs begin their quick transition through five instars (molts) from miniature adult to mature adult. This takes about twenty days.

Where Do You Find Minute Pirate Bugs?

In the autumn, when plants and prey begin to die off, you may not need to look very hard to find Pirate Bugs. You may find yourself swarmed with them as you go about your everyday tasks outdoors.

On the other hand, you may have to look carefully to locate them during the spring and summer, when they usually stay very close to flowering plants.

You’ll probably have good luck finding them during the summer if you search a corn field. They often lurk amongst the corn silk because they are an important predator of corn earworm eggs.

If you need Pirate Bugs for biological control to help reduce insect pests in your yard or garden, you can purchase them from an insectary. When ordered, your beneficial insects will be shipped to you in a container of vermiculite, rice hulls or bran.

The package will contain adult Minute Pirate Bug insects and instructions on releasing them into your yard or garden successfully.

Generally speaking, the release is quite simple. Just shake the container (filler and all) over the area of the garden you wish to treat. Your new residents should get right to work hunting down plant pests as a food source.

How Many Pirate Bug Species Are There?

The Anthocoridae family of bugs is made up of five or six-hundred different species around the world. The family name comes from the Greek words, anthos (flower) and koris (bug).

This is why these “little bugs” are often called “flower bugs” Orius insidiosus is the most common species in North America. This little garden helper is often called the “insidious flower bug.”

How Are Minute Pirate Bugs Beneficial?

Nymphs and adults are excellent biological control agents. Both immature and mature individuals can eat over thirty spider mites in a single day.

Minute Pirate Bugs make short work of corn earworms, European corn borers and their eggs. They are also natural enemies of:

  • Potato leafhopper nymphs
  • Potato aphids
  • Corn leaf aphids
  • Thrips
  • Spider mites
  • Whiteflies
  • Small caterpillars (more on control)

… and a number of other small insect pests and their eggs.

Once their spring and summer work is done, insidious flower bugs may find themselves going begging for a meal. This is when they start exploring the idea of taking a meal from human sweat.

If you are outdoors in the late summer/early autumn and you have exposed, sweaty skin, you may be the recipient of some painful bites.

Why Does The Pirate Bug Bite Hurt So Much?

According to ridiculous urban legend, it’s because the bug has very acidic urine, which it releases on you when it bites you. This is absolutely untrue.

The fact is, it just hurts because you are getting a “big bite” by being poked very hard with a very pointy needle-like beak, wielded by a very hungry bug.

Even though these bugs don’t drink human blood or inject venom or saliva when they bite, their exploratory poking with their sharp, sucking mouthparts hurts like the very devil.

You may or may not experience redness or swelling from their bites. Reactions vary from one person to another.

You may be glad to know that if you feel the need to retaliate, you will probably be able to swat the bug that bit you.

Can The Pirate Bug Bite Harm You?

Not everyone gets bitten by Pirate Bugs. They seem to be more attracted to some people than others.

Those bitten may have no reaction or reactions ranging from a small, red, itchy lump like a mosquito bite to a generalized rash.

Even though the Minute Pirate Bug’s bite is very painful and may cause some redness and swelling, it is not really harmful.

If you do experience irritation and/or pain, wash the area with cool water, pat it dry and apply an ice pack to reduce swelling.

How Do You Repel Minute Pirate Bugs?

You will most likely to encounter these bugs on bright, warm days. If you can work outdoors on cooler, cloudier days or after sunset, you will be less likely to be bitten by Pirate Bugs.

Wear dark colors because these bugs are attracted to lighter colors. Wear long sleeves and long pants.

According to most accounts, standard insect repellents have no effect on these bugs. Your best bet is to cover your bare skin if you are in an area where Pirate Bugs are likely to be encountered.

Can These Minute Little Bugs Be Controlled?

Because there are so many of these “flower bugs” they are everywhere, and because they are really very beneficial insects, attempting to control or eradicate them is not a good idea.

It would also be very difficult to do if you were to try.

These bugs are fast moving and constantly on the move. They migrate from one place to another daily throughout the spring and summer months.

Their migration activity is entirely unpredictable, but you will see them more often on bright, sunny days.

Use of harsh pesticides can definitely reduce their population, and using systemic insecticides may kill them off because they do drink plant sap.

Even so, using harsh chemicals is sure to backfire.

When you rely on chemical control for pest management, you end up killing off all the good bugs and strengthening the pests.

It’s far better to just take steps to repel Minute Pirate Bugs during the short period of time when their behavior becomes problematic. Keep in mind that when cold weather comes, Pirate Bugs will go.

Are Minute Pirate Bugs Good Or Bad?

Most of the time, insidious flower bugs are good. When they aren’t good, they are just hungry and nearing the end of their life cycle.

For this reason, it’s best become a Master Gardener and learn to live with them this includes putting up with their brief bout of bad behavior.

Remember, as generalist predators, they do us a tremendous service helping us fight off all manner of destructive pests in forests, in our home gardens, and in agricultural settings.

Source: 1 | 3

Now that Fall is officially here, the weather is starting to cool down and we can venture outdoors more. Activities such as Hiking, harvesting, hunting, football, and just enjoying the cooler weather on your patio in the evening are all pleasant outdoor activities this time of the year. However, when we venture outdoors, our plan is never to be the menu for all the pesky insects outdoors.


Mosquitoes are out in full force right now. After the rains we have seen over the past couple of weeks, their population has exploded. Mosquitoes can transmit many diseases, so it is best to protect yourself when you are outdoors. Use Insect repellent and wear long sleeves and long pants or permethrin-treated clothing when outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most prevalent.

As far as chemical control, Mosquito Dunks contain the active ingredient bacterium, Bacillus thurengiensis israelensis (Bti), which is toxic to mosquito larvae when consumed, but non-toxic to humans, pets, pollinators, fish, and other wildlife. They are sold in hardware stores, and will dissolve in standing water such as water troughs, fishponds, rain barrels, and birdbaths. They are effective immediately and can last for a month. For homeowners, it is not recommend to use foggers or adulticide treatments. These treatments are not effective for more than a couple of days and should only be used a few days ahead of a large outdoor get-together if absolutely necessary. At this point, it would be best to just wait for a frost to kill off the majority of our mosquitoes. Our average first frost date is the end of September to the beginning of October, so one should be here soon.

Minute Pirate Bugs

Minute Pirate Bug

Minute pirate bugs are also a nuisance right now as well. Minute pirate bugs are the tiny, black insects that seem to fall out of the trees and bite us during the fall months. The bug, which is a true bug, is 1/8 inch in length black insect with white and black wings. The appearance of this bug is very similar to a chinch bug. The wings have an “X” on them which is typical for insects that are true bugs.

Minute pirate bugs are present throughout the summer but they are out in fields, woodlands, and gardens. During the summer they are feeding on other insects, making them a beneficial insect. But, in the fall, these insects move into the areas where people are more often outside and they begin to bite us. When they bite us, they insert their piercing-sucking mouthpart into our skin, which can be painful. Some people may react differently and swell up from the bite, but most people just have the initial pain with the bite. Minute Pirate bugs do NOT feed on blood, inject a venom or transmit diseases. Control is not practical for them as they will also die with our first frost. Insect repellents do not deter them, so it is best just to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to reduce areas for them to bite us.


Lonestar tick life stages, Photo from Jim Kalisch and Wayne Kramer UNL Department of Entomology

Ticks are also still a problem this late into the season. Ticks are common in wooded areas or in tall grass. If outdoors in areas where ticks are commonly found, wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and closed toe shoes to reduce exposed areas where ticks can attach to your skin. Also, use insect repellents any time you are outdoors, the repellents with DEET have the highest efficacy. One tick I have seen recently is the immature form of the Lonestar Tick. This immature form is very tiny in size and would be easily missed by a quick visual inspection. This tick can spread diseases if left to feed on you long-term, so be sure to protect yourself prior to going outdoors and check yourself when you come indoors.

Minute pirate bugs (aka no-see-ums) on attack after harvest

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Minute pirate bugs are normally a beneficial insect; they eat smaller insects in the fields that are hurting crops of farmers.

Now that the weather is turning colder and they have been displaced by the harvest, these tiny bugs are searching for a new home.

David Fiess, director of vector control in Allen County, explained in the video with this story why bites from these bugs hurt more than others.

“Usually with mosquito bites you don’t know you’ve been bitten or you might know like maybe a few seconds later or you get that itchy welt. But with these ‘no-see-ums,’ the mosquito has what’s called a proboscis, it’s like a needle. So it’s kind of smoothly going into your skin. These ‘no-see-ums’ or sand flies, they have more of a beak. So when they’re kind of biting into your skin, they’re grabbing part of your skin and kind of (a) little bit of tearing it away and then they’re sucking the blood out. Because similar again to mosquitoes, the females need the blood to help form her eggs.”

A mild, moist summer likely led to a thriving bug population, which is there are more pirate bugs this year than in the past. Insect repellents don’t work well on these bugs, so experts suggest long sleeves and dark colors to avoid the “bite” (pirate bugs are attracted to white and light colors).

Oils, like baby oil or essential oils, will work better to repel pirate bugs and keep them off your skin. If you do want to use a repellent, look for one that specifically mentions working on biting insects. The back label should say it protects against sand flies.

These pests are small enough to crawl through the mesh screens covering windows. If you leave a window open, watch for the bugs to crawl through. Since these bugs are so small, they can’t handle much wind. If you want to sit outside, try turning on a fan nearby. The bugs likely can’t tolerate the breeze from the fan and should leave you alone.

Fiess explained this type of fly does not carry diseases, so it’s not dangerous to your family. However, that does not protect you from bites, red marks and itching. A standard anti-itch cream at a nearby drugstore or pharmacy should help alleviate symptoms.

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How to Attract Good Bugs to Your Garden

It happens every spring. First a few aphids appear on the cole crops. I barely notice. A week later the aphids have doubled. I start to get concerned. After another week the number has grown again. Should I panic? Reach for the soap spray? Will my helpers come to my aid again this year? And then, one morning, there they are, lady beetles wandering among the aphids, dining contentedly. In a few days there’s hardly an aphid to be found. I’m always amazed that the lady beetles come in such numbers, and at the right time. And they always do the job.

When nature is in balance, you’ll find a mixture of good and bad insects in your garden. A close look at the underside of a cabbage leaf (above) reveals a whitefly infestation, hover fly eggs, and a hover fly larva, in the center, getting to work on those whiteflies.

Our garden consists of numerous vegetable beds surrounded by a diverse border of annual and perennial flowers, herbs, and fruit trees. Next to the garden are wild areas where some of the less troublesome weeds grow to maturity. And among the vegetable beds are plots of alfalfa, clover, and buckwheat. In these places dwell a militia of beneficial insects, ready to emerge to eat or parasitize other insects that may be harmful to our plants. On a warm summer day, I can see a light haze of tiny parasitic wasps visiting the fennel flowers in search of nectar. The nectar will sustain them while they look for aphids or caterpillars in which to deposit their eggs. It’s a relief to have such formidable allies. I haven’t needed even an organic pesticide in 15 years.

A folding 10-power hand lens (right) will help you tell the good bugs from the bad, and keep tabs on who’s winning.

To create a welcoming habitat for your insect helpers, first you need to know something about them. A good way to start is to grab a hand lens and a picture book of insects and take a rough census of your resident population. If you’ve avoided using pesticides and have a variety of plants growing, you may find many allies already present. The ones you’re most likely to see include lady beetles, ground beetles, lacewings, hover flies, a couple of true bugs, and a few tiny wasps. These can be divided into two groups: those that eat their prey directly (predators) and those that deposit their eggs on or into their host (parasitoids).

Beetles: The two kinds of beetle that are most helpful are lady beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) and ground beetles, both predators.

Lady beetles prey on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. The adults will eat as many as 50 aphids per day. If you have enough aphids, and the beetles stick around long enough to lay eggs, each hatched larva will eat some 400 aphids before entering its pupal stage. There are many species of lady beetle that attack many different prey. The adults are independent, flighty creatures. If you buy some at the garden center and release them into your garden, be prepared to watch most of them fly away to your neighbor’s yard. Those that stay, though, will be a big help.

Ground beetles don’t fly much, preferring to run away when disturbed. You probably won’t see them unless you uncover their hiding places. If I see them at all, it’s when I’m picking up old piles of weeds. They’re relatively large (about 3/4 inch), and dark, with long, jointed legs. They’re nocturnal hunters, rooting among leaf litter for insect eggs and larvae. Our garden is also home to hoards of soldier beetles, which show up for the late spring aphid feast. And I sometimes encounter mite-and-snail-destroying rove beetles that inhabit piles of decaying organic matter. Lacewings: When the fairylike green lacewing flutters silently by in search of pollen or nectar, I find it hard to imagine it in its fiercely predacious larval stage (see beneficial insects), during which it devours aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, leafhoppers, insect eggs, and whiteflies. It even eats other lacewings. Up close, the larva looks like a tiny (1/2 inch) alligator. If you keep a supply of flowering plants, adult lacewings may take up residence. If you decide to introduce beneficials to your garden, lacewings are the most effective predators you can buy. Hover flies: With their striped abdomens, hover flies look like small bees, but they move through the air more like flies, zipping from plant to plant, hovering briefly before landing. The hover, or syrphid, fly is one of many predatory flies and the most conspicuous beneficial in our garden. I can find them just about anytime anywhere in the garden. They visit a variety of flowers in search of pollen and nectar, and they lay their eggs near aphids or other soft-bodied insects. The eggs hatch into hungry larvae that eat up to 60 aphids per day. True bugs: There are bugs and then there are true bugs. True bugs, like the minute pirate bug and the big-eyed bug, belong to the insect order Hemiptera. Many are plant feeders but many are predacious, with tubular mouthparts they insert like a straw to suck the juices out of their prey. The minute pirate bug is a tiny (1/12 inch) predator with a wide-ranging appetite; it eats aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and insect eggs. It lays its eggs on the leaf surface near its prey; nymphs hatch and begin feeding. The cycle from egg to adult takes only three weeks.

The other important true bug is the big-eyed bug. It’s a little bigger than the minute pirate bug and has a similar diet. It also eats nectar and seeds, so it may stay even if it can’t find an insect to eat.

You might come across some other common predatory true bugs, including assassin bugs, damsel bugs, thread-legged bugs, and a couple of species of stinkbug.

Parasitic wasps: These very helpful creatures, ranging in size from small to minuscule, will defend your garden against caterpillars like corn earworm, tomato fruitworm, cabbageworm, and tent caterpillars. The smallest and perhaps most popular parasitic wasp is the trichogramma, a dust-size creature that lays up to 300 eggs in moth or butterfly eggs. You can buy them through the mail if you’re expecting an infestation of caterpillars. They don’t live very long so timing their release to coincide with the presence of pest eggs is pretty important.

Braconid, chalcid, and ichneumid wasps are much larger than trichogramma, and parasitize caterpillars directly, laying eggs in or on the caterpillar. The hatching eggs eventually either kill the host or disrupt its activities. Braconids parasitize aphids as well. If you’re scouting with a hand lens and notice some mummified aphids with neat circular holes in them, you’ll know a braconid was there. A young wasp developed inside the aphid and ate its way out.

If You Build It, They Will Come

We’re living in a bug-eat-bug world. And I want to keep it that way. To do so, I’ve transformed my garden into an insectary, a habitat where my beneficial insect friends will feel at home. I provide them with food, water, and shelter. I keep the soil covered with organic matter. And I avoid putting any harmful chemicals into their habitat.

The menu for beneficials changes constantly as the pest population shrinks and swells, and as different flowers come into bloom. Many of the predators and most of the parasites will use pollen and nectar for food. I try to sustain them throughout the year by growing a variety of flowers that bloom at different times. Since many of the beneficials are tiny or have short mouthparts, I offer them tiny flowers with short nectaries. Many plants in the carrot and aster families offer just that.

I water my garden with overhead sprinklers, so insects always have puddles and wet leaves to drink from. If I were using drip irrigation, I’d offer them water in a saucer filled with pebbles, so they don’t drown.

Just like the rest of us, beneficials need protection from heat and rain. They need to hide from birds and insects who would make a meal of them. Again, a variety of leafy plants offers protection. Ground beetles hide in low-growing ground covers and in mulch or leaf litter. Flying insects hide in shrubs, on the undersides of leaves, even among the petals of marigolds.

Beneficials also need a reason to stay on when they’ve finished cleaning up the crops or at the end of the season when you’ve cleaned up the garden. Consider trying to recreate in a corner of the yard or on the edge of your garden the thick, wild diversity of a hedgerow by using a variety of early-flowering shrubs, perennials, and grasses to provide year-round shelter and a place for alternative prey to dwell. Keep this beneficial insect reservoir as close to your garden as you dare. If the insects get too comfortable in the hedgerow, they might not be inclined to travel very far for a meal. As long as there is a place for pests, the beneficials may stay to eat in your weedy refuge rather than head for the neighbor’s yard.

Gardening Strategies That Attract Beneficials

Insect allies hate dust. Keeping the soil covered at all times, either with mulch or with growing plants, conserves moisture, moderates temperatures, and eliminates dust. It also provides habitat for ground and rove beetles. Try not to eliminate every weed. Leave some for the insects.

If you use selective insecticides to rid yourself of pests, you run a very strong risk of ridding your beneficials of prey, as well, even if you’re using relatively benign products, like Bt or other biologicals. Nonselective pesticides could rid you of beneficials altogether. I believe there’s no place in an insect habitat for these chemicals. When you abandon chemical control for biocontrol, you may experience a sudden increase in pests. It may take a while for the beneficial insect population to expand to the point that you can relax your guard. In the meantime, I’d rely on less-harmful botanical and natural controls to slow down the bad guys until the good guys show up.

Creating a habitat for wild insects is a very imprecise activity. With experimentation and observation you may hit on the right combination of insectary plants that encourages the right combination of insects for your garden. Your success will probably vary from year to year as the climate and vegetation change and new pests arrive. You should expect the development of a habitat where pests and beneficials exist in a rough balance to be an effort of several years rather than a season or two. Despite the presence of so many beneficials in our garden, I still find myself from time to time having to hand-pick squash bugs or rub scale from the branches of the fruit trees.

There Are a Lot of Plants to Choose From

Creating your habitat can be a colorful affair. Start luring beneficials quickly with annuals like alyssum, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds. At the same time, set out perennial flowers and herbs, including golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria), yarrow, lavender, mint, fennel, angelica, and tansy. Beneficials are also fond of dill, parsley, and cilantro flowers. When you’ve finished harvesting these herbs, leave the plants in the garden to flower. I like to let a small patch of carrots run to flower. Their blossoms are sweetly fragrant; beneficials love them.


A mix of annual and perennial flowers provides alternative food sources for beneficials when prey insects are scarce.

1. In addition to hover flies (shown in photo), the yellow button flowers of tansy attract lady beetles, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, and parasitic wasps.

2. Grow nectar-bearing plants near your edible crops. Here, white yarrow grows beside arugula.

3. Statice is a good annual source of nectar; come fall, bring cut stems indoors for everlasting winter color.

4. The tiny flowers of umbelliferous plants like fennel are especially attractive to lacewings, but also to hover flies, parasitic wasps, and lady beetles.

5. A big planting of sweet alyssum is a season-long nectar factory, and a perfect haven for lots of beneficials.

6 & 7. The flat blossoms of zinnias and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) make a good insect landing pad, and the shallow nectar-bearing flowers are easy for beneficials to drink from.

8. Don’t be in a hurry to pull parsley at season’s end. Allow it to stay over the winter, and the next year it will provide food for good insects.

I try to intersperse insectary plants with my vegetables. I figure if the target pests are close by the pollen and nectar source, there’s a greater likelihood the beneficials will find them. If you add to all this a patch here and there of alfalfa, buckwheat, or clover (all quite attractive to beneficials), you’ll be well on your way to establishing an arsenal of insect allies. Your garden will be healthier and safer because of it.

It’s mid-October and the walking stick cabbage is covered with whiteflies. If I shake a plant, a fluttering cloud rises from the waxy leaves. A few hover flies move among the plants, depositing eggs on the leaves. With lens in hand, I turn over each leaf and look closely at the mass of whitefly eggs, nymphs, and adults. A few hover fly larvae are feeding on the whiteflies. I notice that a couple of larvae have already pupated. New hover flies will emerge in a few days and begin looking for pollen and nectar. A large Asian lady beetle is grazing through the crowd. I guess I can relax. It looks like the insects have this outbreak under control.

—Contributing editor Joe Queirolo manages Crow Canyon Gardens, which belongs to the city of San Ramon, California. ❦

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by Fred Hoffman

Nature wants to make your job as a gardener as easy as possible; but you have to help. So, let’s talk about putting in plants that attract the “good bugs”, the crawling and flying creatures whose diet includes pests that are ravaging your garden plants. These beneficial predatory insects do not live on aphid steaks alone. They need other natural sources of food and shelter for their entire life cycle before they call your backyard a permanent home.

What are these “Welcome Mat” plants and the beneficial insects they attract?

Here is a list of those good bugs and the plants that they like to visit for shelter and as another source of food for their diet, the sugar from flowers. For some beneficials, especially syrphid flies, this nectar is necessary in order to mature their eggs. Intersperse these plants among the “problem pest areas” in your yard to attract the garden good guys.

Lacewings (Chrysopa spp.)

Individual white eggs are found laid on the
ends of inch-long stiff threads.
Beautiful, little (3/4”) green or brown insects
with large lacy wings.

It is the larvae (which look like little alligators) that destroy most of the pests. They are sometimes called aphid lions for their habit of dining on aphids. They also feed on mites, other small insects and insect eggs. On spring and summer evenings, lacewings can sometimes be seen clinging to porch lights and screens or windows.

Green lacewing larva

Plants that attract lacewings:

  • Achillea filipendulina — Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Anethum graveolens — Dill
  • Angelica gigas — Angelica
  • Anthemis tinctoria — Golden marguerite
  • Atriplex canescens — Four-wing saltbush
  • Callirhoe involucrata — Purple poppy mallow
  • Carum carvi — Caraway
  • Coriandrum sativum — Coriander
  • Cosmos bipinnatus — Cosmos white sensation
  • Daucus carota — Queen Anne’s lace
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Helianthus maximilianii — Prairie sunflower
  • Tanacetum vulgare — Tansy
  • Taraxacum officinale — Dandelion


Easily recognized when they are adults by most gardeners. However, the young larvae, black with orange markings, eat more pests than the adults, and they can’t fly. Yellowish eggs are laid in clusters usually on the undersides of leaves.

Plants that attract ladybugs:

  • Achillea filipendulina — Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Achillea millefolium — Common yarrow
  • Ajuga reptans — Carpet bugleweed
  • Alyssum saxatilis — Basket of Gold
  • Ladybug larva

    Anethum graveolens — Dill

  • Anthemis tinctoria — Golden marguerite
  • Asclepias tuberosa — Butterfly weed
  • Atriplex canescens — Four-wing saltbush
  • Coriandrum sativum — Coriander
  • Daucus carota — Queen Anne’s lace
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum — CA Buckwheat
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Helianthus maximilianii — Prairie sunflower
  • Penstemon strictus — Rocky Mt. penstemon
  • Potentilla recta ‘warrenii’ — Sulfur cinquefoil
  • Potentilla villosa — Alpine cinquefoil
  • Tagetes tenuifolia — Marigold “lemon gem”
  • Tanacetum vulgare — Tansy
  • Taraxacum officinale — Dandelion
  • Veronica spicata — Spike speedwell
  • Vicia villosa — Hairy vetch


Also known as syrphid fly, predatory aphid fly or flower fly. Adults look like little bees that hover and dart quickly away. They don’t sting! They lay eggs (white, oval, laid singly or in groups on leaves) which hatch into green, yellow, brown, orange, or white half-inch maggots that look like caterpillars.

They raise up on their hind legs to catch and feed on aphids, mealybugs and others.

Plants that attract hoverflies:

  • Achillea filipendulina — Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Achillea millefolium — Common yarrow
  • Ajuga reptans — Carpet bugleweed
  • Allium tanguticum — Lavender globe lily
  • Alyssum saxatilis — Basket of Gold
  • Anethum graveolens — Dill
  • Hoverfly larva

    Anthemis tinctoria — Golden marguerite

  • Aster alpinus — Dwarf alpine aster
  • Astrantia major — Masterwort
  • Atriplex canescens — Four-wing saltbush
  • Callirhoe involucrata — Purple poppy mallow
  • Carum carvi — Caraway
  • Chrysanthemum parthenium — Feverfew
  • Coriandrum sativum — Coriander
  • Cosmos bipinnatus — Cosmos white sensation
  • Daucus carota — Queen Anne’s lace
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum CA — Buckwheat
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Lavandula angustifolia — English lavender
  • Limnanthes douglasii — Poached egg plant
  • Limonium latifolium — Statice
  • Linaria vulgaris — Butter and eggs
  • Lobelia erinus — Edging lobelia
  • Lobularia maritima — Sweet alyssum white
  • Melissa officinalis — Lemon balm
  • Mentha pulegium — Pennyroyal
  • Mentha spicata — Spearmint
  • Monarda fistulosa — Wild bergamot
  • Penstemon strictus — Rocky Mt. penstemon
  • Petroselinum crispum — Parsley
  • Rudbeckia

    Potentilla recta ‘warrenii’ — Sulfur cinquefoil

  • Potentilla villosa — Alpine cinquefoil
  • Rudbeckia fulgida — Gloriosa daisy
  • Sedum kamtschaticum — Orange stonecrop
  • Sedum spurium — Stonecrops
  • Solidago virgaurea — Peter Pan goldenrod
  • Stachys officinalis — Wood betony
  • Tagetes tenuifolia — Marigold “lemon gem”
  • Thymus serpylum coccineus — Crimson thyme
  • Veronica spicata — Spike speedwell
  • Zinnia elegans — Zinnia “liliput”

Parasitic mini-wasps

Parasites of a variety of insects. They do not sting! The stingers have been adapted to allow the females to lay their eggs in the bodies of insect pests. The eggs then hatch, and the young feed on the pests from the inside, killing them. After they have killed the pests, they leave hollow “mummies.”

Braconid wasps (right)

These feed on moth, beetle and fly larvae, moth eggs, various insect pupae and adults.

If you see lots of white capsules on the backs of a caterpillar (below), these are the braconid cocoons. Leave the dying caterpillar alone!

Ichneumonid wasps

These control moth, butterfly, beetle and fly larvae and pupae.

Trichogramma wasps

These lay their eggs in the eggs of moths (hungry caterpillars-to-be), killing them and turning them black.

Plants that attract parasitic mini-wasps:

  • Achillea filipendulina — Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Achillea millefolium — Common yarrow
  • Allium tanguticum — Lavender globe lily
  • Anethum graveolens — Dill
  • Anthemis tinctoria— Golden marguerite
  • Astrantia major — Masterwort
  • Callirhoe involucrata — Purple poppy mallow
  • Carum carvi — Caraway
  • Coriandrum sativum — Coriander
  • Cosmos bipinnatus — Cosmos white sensation
  • Daucus carota — Queen Anne’s lace
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Limonium latifolium — Statice
  • Linaria vulgaris — Butter and eggs
  • Lobelia erinus — Edging lobelia
  • Lobularia maritima — Sweet alyssum – white
  • Melissa officinalis — Lemon balm
  • Mentha pulegium — Pennyroyal
  • Petroselinum crispum — Parsley
  • Potentilla recta ‘warrenii’ — Sulfur cinquefoil
  • Potentilla villosa — Alpine cinquefoil
  • Sedum kamtschaticum — Orange stonecrop
  • Tagetes tenuifolia — Marigold – lemon gem
  • Tanacetum vulgare — Tansy
  • Thymus serpylum coccineus — Crimson thyme
  • Zinnia elegans — Zinnia – ‘liliput’

Tachinid flies

Parasites of caterpillars (corn earworm, imported cabbage worm, cabbage loopers, cutworms, army worms), stink bugs, squash bug nymphs, beetle and fly larvae, some true bugs, and beetles. Adults are 1/3 to 1/2 inch long. White eggs are deposited on foliage or on the body of the host. Larvae are internal parasites, feeding within the body of the host, sucking its body fluids to the point that the pest dies.

Plants that attract tachinid flies:

  • Anthemis tinctoria — Golden marguerite
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum CA — Buckwheat
  • Melissa officinalis — Lemon balm
  • Mentha pulegium — Pennyroyal
  • Petroselinum crispum — Parsley
  • Phacelia tanacetifolia — Phacelia
  • Tanacetum vulgare — Tansy
  • Thymus serpyllum coccineus — Crimson thyme

Minute pirate bugs (Orius spp.)

Tiny (1/20 inch long) bugs that feed on almost any small insect or mite, including thrips, aphids, mites, scales, whiteflies and soft-bodied arthropods, but are particularly attracted to thrips in spring.

Damsel bugs (Nabis spp.)

Feed on aphids, leafhoppers, plant bugs, and small caterpillars. They are usually dull brown and resemble other plant bugs that are pests. Their heads are usually longer and narrower then most plant feeding species (the better to eat with!).

Big eyed bugs (Geocoris spp.)

Small (1/4 inch long), grayish-beige, oval shaped) bugs with large eyes that feed on many small insects (e.g., leaf hoppers, spider mites), insect eggs, and mites, as both nymphs and adults. Eggs are football shaped, whitish-gray with red spots.

Plants that attract minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs and big eyed bugs:

  • Carum carvi — Caraway
  • Cosmos bipinnatus — Cosmos “white sensation”
  • Foeniculum vulgare — Fennel
  • Medicago sativa — Alfalfa
  • Mentha spicata — Spearmint
  • Solidago virgaurea — Peter Pan goldenrod
  • Tagetes tenuifolia — Marigold “lemon gem”

More tips to Keep beneficial insects working in your yard

  • Use a wide variety of attractive plants. Plants that flower at different times of the year can provide beneficials with nectar and pollen when they need it.
  • Plantings that are at least 4′ by 4′ (1.2m x 1.2m) of each variety work best at attracting beneficials.
  • A bird bath or backyard water feature not only attracts birds (another predator of insects), but also attracts beneficials.
  • Tolerate minor pest infestations. The beneficial insects will get the memo before you do. This will provide another food source for the beneficials and help keep them in your yard.
  • More information about beneficial predatory insects: “The Natural Enemies Handbook“, from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Editor’s addition:

  • Don’t use pesticides — these kills beneficials too, which usually have a slower reproductive cycle than your pests, so the pests will quickly bounce back into a beneficial-insect-free environment….

When I was designing my garden I wanted to attract beneficial insects. I wondered what I could plant (in Florida) that would bring good bugs into my garden. So I did a little research and found some flowers and things that thrive here in the sunshine state but also benefit the bees, wasps, dragonflies, ladybugs and other helpful insects.

What can I do to attract beneficial insects to my garden? The best way to attract good bugs into your garden is to have lots of plant diversity. A large majority of bugs are actually beneficial to us, less than 1% of all bugs can be considered a pest. By having lots of diversity in your garden you are giving bugs a home and a food source. If you have a pest problem that requires immediate attention you can always buy predator bugs and release them in the garden. however, this is a temporary fix.

When I think of beneficial insects I instantly think of pollinators, like bees. But there are plenty of other fantastic bugs for the garden. Some bugs eat other bugs and some bugs help you build rich, dark garden soil.

Beneficial insects pollinate your garden and prey on pests. Plant diversity is the key to attracting bugs. You can buy them. Beneficials need nectar, pollen and habitat.

Attract Beneficial Insects To Your Florida Garden

The best way to attract helpful bugs, is to plant all sorts of plants. The more diversity you have in your garden the better off you are.

This doesn’t mean leave weeds to grow.

This means that you should maximize your space with purposefully chosen beneficial plants. Bugs, like us need homes and food. The more we provide the more there will be.

Each plant has made the list as benficial plants because they attract bugs and work well with other plants that may be in the garden.

  • Basil
  • Blanket flower
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Marigolds
  • Milkweed
  • Nasturtium

All of these plants are beneficial to us in Florida especially because they love our climate so they need little care. In other words, they provide the least input with huge output. Some of these plants not only bring beneficial insects but they can act as food for you as well.


I’ve found basil super easy to grow, I started some from seed two years ago and I haven’t planted again. It keeps popping up without me even trying. I let my plants go to seed the first year and then I just gave them a good shake as I cut them out of the garden. I hardly care for my basil, I would say this is one of the easiest beneficial plants to grow in the garden. It attracts dragonflies, wasps and plenty of other flying predators.

Florida friendly varieties: Greek Column-Lesbos, Dwarf Greek Basil. Spicy Globe, Marseillaise Dwarf.

Blanket Flower

Also known as Gaillardia, it has bright bright flowers that are usually red and yellow. They are fantastic at attracting pollinators. It’s a native to Florida and can withstand just about any soil type. You can use it as a ground cover to also help retain moisture in the garden.


Cilantro is actually related to carrots, they are in the same family. Cilantro attracts wasps and hover flies. Two great beneficial insects in the garden. It tolerates light frost and can be grown in warmer weather. however the longer and hotter the days the quicker the plant will bolt. This makes the plant bitter. This is no big deal to the bugs, but you probably won’t like the taste of it anymore.

Florida friendly varieties: Slow Bolt, Leisure, Costa Rica, California,Lemon, Delfino, Moroccan.


Dill is a very strong aromatic plant, it repels aphids and mites. It attracts swallowtail butterflies, wasps and honeybees. The best time to plant is our “fall time”. In Florida thats between September and December. Dill doesn’t transplant well, it’s best to buy seeds. Like basil dill is quick to ressed itself.


You probably see these guys everywhere. It’s because they are easy to grow. They are constantly flowering and attract pollinators and other beneficial flying insects. Marigolds can be used as a border to your garden or packed tight and used as a ground cover. You can find them in almost any garden center. There is a debate about if marigolds are helpful or harmful to your garden. While I have read that they attract slugs and other pests to your garden, I haven’t really had a major issue wheneever I plant them. Florida soil usually has nematodes in it and marigolds repel them, making this plant especially helpful for Florida gardening.


Another plant that loves Florida’s weather and is hard to kill. They famous for attracting monarch butterflies but their orange flowers are also a great nectar plant for bees and other flying insects. You can find them in most nurseries and they are a great addition to your garden. The whole plant is full of a milky sap which is how it gets it’s name. There are actually a lot of kinds of milkweed but there are two that are commonly grown in Florida.

Florida friendly varieties: Butterfly weed, Tropical weed


Are great because they not only attract bugs with their nice flowers but they also grow big green leaves that are edible. The plant also produces seed pods and flowers that we can eat too. Native to South America, they die back during a freeze but they They can be grown year round in most parts of Florida. They do well against pests not having many natural predators. There are vining types and dwarf bush types. These are great for growing up a chain link fence for privacy or using as a ground cover in the garden. both can be found commonly called garden nasturtiums but the vining type’s scientific name is T. majus and the dwarf bush type is T. minus.

What Insects Are Beneficial In The Garden?

Beneficial insects pollinate your garden and eat your garden pests for dinner.

Most people think bugs are “icky” Ew.

Bugs are wild.

Alien like even. Antenna, legs, weird eyeballs. When you think about them they are pretty weird but a large majority of them are really helpful to us in the garden. only 1% of bugs are actually pests,. Just playing the odds game, the more bugs that you have in your garden the better.

  • Bees
  • Butterfly
  • Dragonfly
  • Hoverflies
  • Lady bugs
  • Lacewings
  • Beetles
  • Spiders
  • Centipedes
  • Wasps


Bees are a pollinator. They fly around your garden spreading plant pollen all over the place. Pollinators help your garden produce more fruit. Bees are probably the most popular pollinator but there are many others.


Another pollinator that will help you boost your food production.


Dragonflies are predator bugs. They like to hang out in taller growing plants and watch for other flying bugs that they can chase and devour while flying. They aren’t picky eaters and will eat just about anything. Some of them are even cannibals. Dragonflies eating dragonflies. however,dragonflies are also preyed upon by frogs and birds, which also benefit your garden.


They look like little bees that are really fast. They won’t harm you though. They benefit your garden by laying eggs, usually on the undersides of your plants leaves. When those eggs hatch, out come little caterpillars which eat aphids and other soft bodied bugs.

Lady Bugs

Another predator that looks super cute to us. Ask any aphid, thrip or white fly if lady bugs are cute and they will look at you like you’re crazy. To them lady bugs are monsters. Lady bugs are a fantastic predator to have in the garden. Ladybugs will prey on a number of other soft bodied insects.


The adult form of a lacewing is green and slender. It has veined clear wings and golden eyes. The adult flie form doesn’t really eat any bugs on your plant but as larvae they are great. Like the lady bug they will eat almost any soft bodeid insect. Things like aphids, mites, and thrips.


There are all sorts of beetles that can be living in your garden, some on your plants and others in the dirt.

Ground beetles are nocturnal beetles that live in your soil. They are helpful by not only eating other bugs in the garden but they are also helping you build soill. They help with aeration by crawling through your dirt. Ground beetles also have to use the bathroom, so all of their waste becomes great fertilizer for your garden.

Soldier beetles hang out on your plants eating caterpillars and soft bodied insects like aphids.


There are a lot of different kinds of spiders. They are mostly all predators. These thigns give me the creeps, I don’t really like spiders but I respect them in the garden. If it wasn’t for my girlfriend being a capturing the random spiders in the house to release them there would be a lot more dead spiders in this world. Most spiders are not harmful to humans but there are definitely some that can be significantly harmful to you.


Are another predator of many harmful insects in the garden. They also can be found living in your soil but coming out to prey. Like the ground beetle they benefit your soil by aeration and fertilization.


Wasps are a double whammy. They not only land on your flowers to help you pollinate but they prey on lots of things. Parasitic wasps will actually lay eggs in caterpillars like the tomato horn worm. It looks like something out of a movie. As the eggs grow, they use the host caterpillar to feed on, eventually killing it.

what plants attract what bugs

  • Basil : Wasps, Bees, and Dragonflies
  • Blanket flower: Wasps, Bees, Beetles and Butterflies
  • Cilantro : Wasps and hoverflies. Also repels aphids and spider mites.
  • Dill : Wasps and hoverflies. Also repels aphids and spider mites.
  • Marigolds : Bees and butterflies. Also repels nematodes.
  • Milkweed : Butterflies,
  • Nasturtium : Bees, Wasps. Also repels aphids, whiteflies, cabbage loopers and stink bugs.

Some plants not only attract beneficial insects but they also repel harmful ones.

Nasturtium is a particularly helpful one in the garden. It attracts lots of pollinators with it’s beautiful (and edible) flowers but it also repels lots of bugs we consider pestss from not only itself, but other plant surrounding plants too.

Out of all of these plants I have found milkweed and basil to be the easiest to grow. I haven’t even planted basil in 2 years and it just keeps popping back up.

Can I Spray These Plants With Pesticides?

Sure you can.


You wouldn’t want to.

Pesticides damage both harmful and helpful insects in the garden. There are certain sprays that only target a select creature.

For instance, B.t. only kills caterpillars. But some caterpillars are good for the garden.

Even organic and “all-natural” sprays harm beneficial insects too. The whole point of planting these plants is to bring in bugs. More good bugs than bad bugs in hopes of having the good guys help you out by killing the bad guys. By spraying you are eliminating both, the good and the bad.

By planting beneficial plants your goal is to make a healthy ecosystem. One that doesn’t need poisonous intervention.

Related Questions

What Insects Harm The Garden?

Aphids, Caterpillars, Mealy bugs, white flies, leaf miners and thrips are some of the common ones. They all harm your plant differently. Some have a pointy mouth that pierces your plant to suck it’s juices out. Others spread disease and some eat the leaves just like you and I do.

Best Soil To plant

I’ve always had good luck with a soil mixture like this:

  • ½ peat moss
  • ½ compost
  • Worm castings
  • Fungi additive to create an internet of nutrients, making them easily available to your plants.

I think this mix will work if you are planning on using it in a raised bed or adding it to your Florida dirt. I’ve always had pretty good luck with it.

Your best bet is to continue to build your soil overtime. Just keep adding organic material. Leaves, small branches, compost, etc…

First of all, let me be clear that I am not a doctor. (Well, okay, I have a Ph.D. But I’m not a medical doctor.) One should never take my medical advice too seriously.
Second, let me add that I’m generally very suspicious of “home remedies” for bodily ills, especially when they’re found on the Internet. There is no end to the nonsense out there.
But, I have found on the Internet what I’m beginning to think is a miraculous cure for bug bite itching. (Okay, okay. It’s not miraculous in the strict sense. Just surprising and wonderful.)

A little background: I am quite allergic to bug bits and stings. I have to be especially careful with bee and wasp stings, to which my body overreacts big time. But even less major bits, like mosquitoes, often lead to an unusually strong response. Where most folks get little bumbs that itch for a few hours, I can get large welts that itch terrible for days. It’s much worse with spider bites and the like.
The bad news for me is that I now live in Texas, in the country, no less. My love to the outskirts of Boerne must have brought cheers to the insect kingdom, because bugs love to bite me, and there are tons of them where we live. We’ve got the usual bees and wasps, plus mosquitoes, biting ants, fire ants, chiggers, spiders, noseeums, etc. etc. The mosquitoes haven’t been too bad. But I’ve had my share of chigger and ant bites, mostly because I haven’t been careful.
In my itching agony a few weeks ago, I decided to do some Web surfing to see if I could find some relief. I’d been using the typical treatments – hydrocortisone cream, Benadry cream, etc. – with modest success. But I wondered if I could find something better. As I surfed around, I started running into lots of people who found heat to be helpful in reliving itches. Here are some examples: Poison Ivy; People’s Pharmacy; Home Remedies.
This is ironic, of course, because heat often causes itches (heat rash, etc.) or can make them worse. But many people testified the applying significant heat to an itch for a short amount of time made the itch disappear for several hours, maybe even longer. I was skeptical, but figured it would be worth a try. I had been gardening in sandals, and had been foolish enough not to apply insect repellent to my feet. I got about a dozen ant bites, which soon became swollen centerpoints of major itching. My lotions were not helping. So I decided to try heat.
Some of the proponents of heat therapy for itches recommend using very hot water, not so hot as to burn the skin, but just a little cooler than this. Others swear by hair dryers. They recommending pointing a hair dryer at an itchy spot for several seconds or minutes. The skin should become uncomfortably hot, but not anywhere near being burned. After this heating of the skin happens, the itch is supposed to go away.
I got out my wife’s hair dryer and followed the instructions I had found online. I heated up one of my worst bites for about a minute. My skin felt hot and began to hurt. But I was careful not to burn myself. When it seemed like I had done enough, I removed the hair dryer and waited to see what would happen. In a few more seconds, it seemed like the itch had completely disappeared. But I thought I might be doing a mind over matter trick, so I decided to treat my other bites and see what happened. In about five minutes I had blown dry all of my bites. And it felt as if I had no more itching, just some residual warmth. About ten minutes later the feeling of warmth had vanished, and so had my itching. Completely. I felt amazing relief. And it continued for probably six hours. Then I did a second treatment, and that was pretty much the end of itching. The bites were still there as nasty little welts. But I had no discomfort. Now, about three weeks later, they are healing up much as they would ordinarily.
Since that first experiment, I’ve treated a few more bites with the same results. I’m quite sure I’m not fooling myself with wishful thinking. Heating up a bite and the area right around it with a hair dryer really does seem to take away the itch.

I’m sharing my findings with you because it’s summertime, and the bugs are hungry. If you try the blow-drying method and it brings relief, then I’m glad. I do realize there’s some risk in putting this up online. If you do something stupid and burn yourself with your hair dryer or get electrocuted, you or your heirs will probably want to sue me. So let me say, once again, that I am not a medical doctor. I don’t know if there are any long-term disadvantages to this method of itch relief (other than that it uses electricity which adds to global warming). And whatever you do, don’t burn yourself. Be sure to read and follow all the warnings that come with your hair dryer. Don’t do what I’m recommending while sitting in a bathtub. Don’t do it in a rainstorm. Don’t do it while standing up high on an aluminum ladder. Don’t do it while driving in a car or talking on a cell phone. Don’t do it while filling your car with gasoline. Don’t do it while using mind-altering prescription drugs. Etc. etc. etc. Fill in your own legal boilerplate.
If you try this and it works for you, please add a comment to this post. If you try it and it doesn’t work, ditto. And if you have some other sure fire method itch relief, let us know. Good luck!

Orius insidiosus K (Minute Pirate Bug) [1000]


5P375K – Orius Minute Pirate Bug (Orius insidiosus) Orius can be distinguished by their large red eyes. The adults are about 1/8th inch long (3cm) and brown to black in color. All stages can catch and kill small insects. They hold their prey with the forelegs and suck them empty. Orius are cannibalistic and should be released immediately upon receipt. They fly fairly well and thus are very mobile. Many growers have reported that Orius not only gets rid of their Thrips problem, but also reduces their problems with Whiteflies, spider mites and other pest insects. Orius is a welcome addition to our Thrips control.

Application Rate = 1 per 20 – 40Sq/Ft every four to eight weeks.

Can NOT be sent by US Mail!

This item MUST be sent by Next Day Air ONLY direct from the insectary. If you select a lesser shipping method, we will upgrade it to the minimum level and your shipping charges will be adjusted.

Shipping will be determined by each order.
The freight that shows on this shopping cart is just an estimate. Actual shipping charges will be adjusted.

From late summer until cold weather sets in, tiny insects known as minute pirate bugs bite people who spend time outdoors on warm days. People who experience these bites often are amazed a tiny insect can make such a painful bite.

The scientific name of this bug is Orius insidiosus, also known as the insidious flower bug. It is a predatory insect in the order Hemiptera.

The minute pirate bug is tiny – about 1/8 of an inch long – somewhat flattened and black with distinctive whitish markings on the back.The photo by Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology, shows how small this insect is.

Both immature and adults of these tiny insects are effective predators and feed on thrips, mites, aphids, tiny caterpillars, and eggs of insects. In fact, these biological control agents 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 they inadvertently land on. The bite of a minute pirate bug is surprisingly painful as it probe its short blunt beak into the skin. They do not feed on blood, inject a venom, or transmit diseases. They cannot live indoors.

People differ in their response to pirate bug bites. Bite reactions range from no reaction to swelling similar to that from a mosquito bite.

There is no practical method of controlling minute pirate bugs.

A friend reported she applied baby oil to her skin when she was working outdoors. She noticed the bugs were getting stuck in the oil and less able to bite. Because pirate bugs are not attracted to carbon dioxide like mosquitoes, insect repellents are not effective against these tiny biting bugs.

Predators – Minute Pirate Bugs

Feeding minute pirate bug

Minute pirate bug stages

Also known as flower bugs, these are among the smallest of the “true” bugs and one of the first predators to appear in the spring. In spite of their tiny size, minute pirate bugs are fierce predators, clasping their victims with their front legs and then inserting their needle-like beaks to drain their victims dry. They can even deliver a surprisingly unpleasant bite to the unwary gardener who messes with them! Minute pirate bug nymphs and adults are very active general predators of all life stages of many different types of smaller soft bodied pests. They are capable of eating 30 or more spider mites a day.
Important species in Maryland: Orius spp. (minute pirate bug, insidious flower bug)
Life stage(s) that feed on pests: Nymphs and adults. Adults also feed on pollen and nectar.
Insect(s) fed on: Aphids, spider mites, thrips, psyllids, whiteflies, small caterpillars, and insect eggs.


Eggs: Tiny eggs are inserted into plant tissue with only a tiny white cap showing; easily overlooked.
Nymphs: Pear-shaped, yellowish to reddish-brown in color, wingless, about the size of a small aphid.
Adults: Very small (~1/16-1/5” long), somewhat oval shaped body, black or purplish with white wing patches; wings extend beyond tip of abdomen.
Where to find: Near the insects they eat on plants such as corn, tomatoes, beans, and strawberries. Adults may fly to other plants to find prey, and are especially common near spring- and summer-flowering shrubs and weeds that can provide food when prey is scarce.
How to attract and conserve: Grow flowering plants to provide the preferred habitat as well as the nectar and pollen needed by these tiny bugs. Avoid the use of broad spectrum pesticides, and of soil-applied systemic pesticides, which minute pirate bugs may ingest by sucking plant juices for moisture.

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