pirate bugs attack
Entomologists--scientists who study insects--say the good bugs help by eating bad
bugs. Good insects are Mother Nature's way of controlling insect pests.
Agricultural Research Service scientists in Manhattan, Kansas, are taking a
closer look at helpful insects, because bugs that eat other bugs can help
farmers use less insecticide (chemicals that kill insects).
Cutting down on chemicals is good for the
environment--and besides, many of the bad insects have gotten tough, so the
chemicals don't kill them anymore.
|Scientists at the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in
Manhattan, Kansas, are hoping a good bug with a bad-sounding name--the "larger
pirate bug"--may be able to help.
The scientists have developed
technology called a computer model to study the growth of the larger pirate
bug, Lyctocoris campestris. Although its name is "larger," L.
campestris is only one-eighth of an inch long and dark brown.
Insects cause millions of dollars in damage every year to grain and other
products that are stored for use later on. ARS entomologist James Throne in
Kansas and other researchers at Texas A & M University and Oklahoma State
University worked on the model, which shows how the larger pirate bug
(shown left) and other predators will multiply under different conditions, such
as when it's hot or cold. Because insects are cold-blooded, they grow faster
when it's warm.
Young pirate bugs--which live in grain bins--are
ready to feed on pests right after hatching. They live about 100 days when
feeding. They can survive up to 20 days without food or water. That's important
for a hunter if it has to wait for its food.
Pirate bugs eat immature Indianmeal moths,
Mediterranean flour moths, almond moths, red flour beetles, saw-toothed grain
beetles and warehouse beetles.
Pirate bugs are good guys.
They never become pests. They don't hurt plants,
people, or pets. They don't get inside grain kernels, and they don't eat the
grain. They only eat other insects. They also don't harm the grain by being in
the warehouse and grain bins. The pirate bugs are easily removed from the grain
before it is used.
By Linda McGraw, formerly, Agricultural Research
Service, Information Staff