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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
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Spined Soldier Bug

Posted by Kelly Allsup - Bugs

The spined soldier bug (Podisus maculiventris) looks like a stink bug but the shoulders protrude outwards. Stink bugs in your garden can be a bad thing because they eat plants like tomatoes but they can also be a good thing and eat garden insect pests. Identification is key to knowing if you have a good guy or bad guy on your hand. Your local extension office and/or Master Gardner's can help you identify garden pests and beneficials. Collect the insect in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer before you bring it into the office.

Spined soldier bugs are about a 1/2 " in size, shaped like a shield, vary in color from yellowish to brown and have spines on their legs in addition to the spiny shoulders. They have alternate orange and black markings on the edge of their wings and total black where the wings overlap. They are considered a beneficial garden insect because they eat caterpillars, grubs, beetle larvae and moths. They have been shown to have some effective control on Mexican bean beetle, European corn borer, diamondback moth, corn earworm, fall army worm, cabbage looper, cabbage worm, Colorado potato beetle and flea beetle. I found 5th instars on cabbage plants that were infested with imported cabbage worm (Pieris brassicae) and cross-striped cabbage worm (Evergestis rimosalis).

Spined soldier bugs overwinter as adults in leaf litter or wooded areas. They lay eggs (~500 in a 5- 8 week lifetime) on the topside of leaves of infected plants that are barrel shaped and usually metallic. These intricate eggs would appeal to any artist. In 4-7 days they will hatch and go through 5 instars molting before they reach adulthood. The first instars are red, round, wingless and do not eat. The fifth instar is mottled with brown, tan, white and black and eats with its pointed beak. Their pointed beak pierces the prey paralyzing them with toxins. At this time they suck out the internal juices. There beak is twice as thick as their antennae. They feed on plants to obtain moisture but do not cause harm or transmit disease.

University of Illinois Extension suggests avoiding chemical treatments in gardens hosting these valuable predator bugs. If insecticides are needed; choose neem oil, bacillus thuringiensis or Spinosad because they have little residual effects on your garden but can aid in control of most caterpillars. Please read the label to see if the pest you are spraying for is on it. If harsher chemicals are sprayed on crops it may prevent spined soldier bugs and other beneficial insects returning to your garden for an entire season. Pheromone traps to lure adults and quantities of eggs can be ordered off the internet.

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