Janice Boekhoff
 

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The beautiful Fall weather and the only time of low humidity and mild temps in Iowa has brought with it a terrible pest—the minute pirate bug (and maybe also the closely related species of insidious flower bug—no, I’m not making these names up). I’ve lived in Iowa for 18 years and have never heard of a pirate bug, although I must say it is aptly named as it terrorizes every creature around.

This bug is so small it looks like a flea (To see a minute pirate bug picture, click here), but its bite is more painful than a mosquito. On a recent bike ride, we literally couldn’t stop biking without being swarmed by the little pests. I am usually a let-the-bug-live kind of girl, but I found myself grateful these guys didn’t fly away after biting so I could smack them. Only thing is, they smear when you smash them. Blech!

The reason these bugs come out to bother us in the Fall is because they feed on the larval stages of other insects which are maturing by the Fall, so their food source is diminishing. Add to that, the fact that most of the crops are harvested at the same time, leaving the bugs without a home, and you get a swarm of pin-head-sized black monsters heading into suburbia (which admittedly is only yards away from farmland in Iowa).

Thankfully, these little guys aren’t dangerous. Their bite does not exchange fluid or draw blood. The painful part, when they poke their sharp, needle-like beak into our skin, is really them searching for either nectar or the fluid inside a larval-stage bug.

I’m told these are beneficial to the ecosystem because they eat other bugs. Well, God created the ecosystems, so I’m not going to argue with that, but they seem to me to be getting a little out of control here. And their behavior is just not good for their survival rates. I know I assassinated at least 20 of them on my bike ride home.

What about you? Have you ever run into these six-legged villains?

References: http://www.entomology.wisc.edu/mbcn/kyf101.html, http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/iiin/minutep.html

Photo Credit: ID 27281708 © Vyacheslav Biryukov | Dreamstime.com

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