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Big-eyed bug

By: Garden Gate staff
These insects may not be pretty, but they’re good to have around.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bradley Higbee,
Paramount Farming, Bugwood.org

from the wild side

Big-eyed bug Geocoris spp.

IDENTIFICATION — These insects may not be pretty, but they’re good to have around. The appropriately named big-eyed bug is a predator other bugs steer clear of. There are 19 different species of big-eyed bug in North America, all with similar habits and life cycles. One of the most common, Geocoris punctipes, is shown above. Adults are about 3?16 in. long with transparent wings and a broad head as wide as the oval-shaped body. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that they use to stab prey.

Big-eyed bugs usually eat whiteflies, aphids, mites, small caterpillars and even insect eggs. A single nymph can eat 150 tobacco budworm eggs while in this stage and an adult, up to 80 mites per day! They’ll occasionally feed on plants when prey is scarce, but damage is minimal.

LIFE CYCLE — Big-eyed bugs only live about 30 days. They emerge in spring to feed and lay eggs. These eggs hatch in about a week into tiny juveniles that look just like the mature bugs. What makes this insect so helpful is that males, females and all stages of juveniles eat insects — mostly those you don’t want around. Late-season adults spend the winter in leaf litter, turf thatch, under loose bark or any place they can find. Insects like big-eyed bugs that overwinter as adults have a chemical in their system to prevent ice from forming, almost like anti-freeze. Once the body temperature reaches 55 degrees F in spring, they start waking up.

Big-eyed bugs are so abundant you don’t have to do anything to attract them to the garden — they’re probably already there. But to encourage more of these hungry predators, avoid spraying insecticides.

Published: April 6, 2010
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