Skip to main content
ARS Home » Office of Communications » Kids » Insects » Story8 » piratebugs2


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.

Scientists who
study insects
are called . . .
(a) parasitologists
(b) insect pathogens
(c) entomologists
(d) pirates

To check out a newsletter for youth interested in entomology:


 Another website for information
about insects in Iowa:

By Linda McGraw, formerly, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

Top/Back to