Tarnished plant bug Lygus lineolaris
IDENTIFICATION – Medium brown and about ¼ in. long, tarnished plant bugs don’t look like garden menaces, but they are. Their favorite meals are vegetable plants, strawberries and other soft fruits. But both adults and nymphs feed on nearly anything, including trees, shrubs and perennials.
Tarnished plant bugs suck the sap from tender, young foliage and flower buds, causing distorted leaves and buds that never open. When they feed on strawberries, the berries are malformed, with tight clusters of seeds at the tips. Because these insects are omnivores, they’ll feed on aphids and other soft-bodies insects, as well as your plants.
LIFE CYCLE – Adults overwinter in leaf litter and weedy areas, and they start to feed and lay eggs in early spring. There are usually two to five generations of tarnished plant bugs per year.
CONTROL – Spotting tarnished plant bugs can be difficult. They hide under leaves, and the adults fly away if you get too close. You can set out white sticky traps (available from garden centers) to see if they’re in your garden, although you won’t be able to trap them all. The best control is to clear away plant litter and weeds in the fall. Spraying your plants with insecticidal soap every couple of weeks will get rid of any immature tarnished plant bugs, since they can’t fly until they’re adults.