Tiny Bug Could Bring Big Relief
to Grain Producers
By Linda McGraw
March 14, 2000
A tiny bug with a greedy appetite for
other insects could help prevent damage to stored grain products.
Commonly called the larger pirate bug, Lyctocoris campestris is only
about an eighth of an inch long and dark brown. It looks like a small stink bug
or box elder bug. But its potential to control bad bugs in stored grain with
fewer insecticides is as great as its appetite, according to
Agricultural Research Service
entomologist James Throne in Manhattan, Kan. ARS is the chief research agency
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Insects cause millions of dollars in damage to stored grain and other stored
products annually in the United States. ARS researchers at the
Grain Marketing and Production Research
Center--in collaboration with Megha Parajulee at
Texas A & M University and Tom Phillips
at Oklahoma State University, formerly
with ARS--developed and validated a computer model for simulating the growth of
the larger pirate bug in grain bins. The model predicts how predator
populations increase under different environmental conditions.
Young pirate bugs--naturally present in grain bins--are ready to feed on
pests right after hatching. They live about 100 days when feeding on prey and
can survive up to 20 days without food or water. Thats important for a
predator if it has to wait between prey hatchings, according to Throne.
Pirate bugs eat larvae of Indianmeal moths, Mediterranean flour moths,
almond moths, red flour beetles, saw-toothed grain beetles and warehouse
beetles. Pirate bugs are the good guys compared to the pests they devour. They
dont get inside grain kernels, nor do they eat the grain--only other
insects. Their presence in warehouses and storage facilities poses no threat to
the quality of grain, and they are easily removed during processing.
New methods for controlling insect pests in stored grain products are being
studied because insect pests are developing resistance to currently used
insecticides and regulatory restrictions are limiting the use of others.
Scientific contact: James
Throne, ARS Grain Marketing and Production Research Center, 1515 College
Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502, phone (785) 776-2796, fax (785) 776-2792,