Damsel Bugs and How To Attract Them


Damsel Bug There are over five hundred species of damsel bugs worldwide, forty of which are found in North America. They belong to the insect family Nabidae and the most common ones are in the genus Nabis. Damsel bugs are generalist predators and are found in many crops and gardens where they stalk and ambush their prey.

Damsel bugs are generalist predators, meaning that they will feed on almost any other insect. However, they are considered beneficial because their habitat is generally low vegetation and crop fields where leaf eating bugs are considered pests.

Description

Damsel Bugs are 1/4 to 1/3 inch long and usually yellow to tan-colored although there are also black ones. Their legs are stilt-like and the front legs are slightly larger than the other legs to facilitate grasping their prey. Their narrow heads have large bulbous eyes, long antennae and a flexible, needle-like mouth part that is tucked under the head and body when not feeding. They have two pairs f functional wings and some species are excellent fliers.

Life Cycle

Damsel Bug Adult damsel bugs overwinter and emerge in the late spring. Their favorite overwintering spots are winter grain and alfalfa fields. When temperatures warm the female damsel bug lays eggs in the plant tissue of host plants. Nymph damsel bugs resemble their adult counterparts but lack wings and go through five stages of growth in about two months before attaining adulthood. There are usually several generations spread throughout the summer months.

The nymph stages of damsel bugs feed on smaller prey including mites, aphids, and eggs. Adult damsel bugs feed on both large and small prey including spider mites, caterpillars, potato beetles, cabbage worms, corn earworms, and leafhoppers.

Damsel bugs can live up to two weeks without feeding on prey, but if left longer without food they will start eating each other. They tend to eat pest insects, but will also eat other beneficial insects, including big-eyed bugs and minute pirate bugs.

How To Attract Damsel Bugs

While damsel bugs play a substantial role in eliminating pests in crops and home gardens, they are not commercially available. Damsel bugs need cover for resting and over-wintering, plants for egg-laying, and plenty of other insects for food. They can be found in field crops such as alfalfa, soybeans, and other legumes, grassy fields, and gardens.

To encourage damsel bugs in a garden, select a large variety of plants that will attract many kinds of insects for their food supply. Especially good choices include caraway, Cosmos bipinnatus, fennel, spearmint, golden rod and marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia). Incorporating ground covers, grasses and low shrubs into the planting scheme provides shelter and is especially beneficial.