Predatory Stink Bugs

Stink bugs are generally not thought of as a beneficial insect. However, two species of stinkbug, the spined soldier bug and the two spotted stink bug are predatory and very beneficial in the garden.

Spined Soldier Bug

Both the spined soldier bug and the two spotted stink bug are members of the order Hemiptera and like other stinkbugs in the order they are distinguished by their shape. Stink bugs are often called pentatoids because of their distinctive five-sided bodies that resemble a shield. Most stink bugs are herbivores and feed voraciously on plants, killing them by sucking out the juices in the leaves and stems. However, the spined soldier bug and two spotted stink bug are almost exclusively carnivore.

Stinkbugs get their name from the foul smell that exudes from their pores. This smell warns off predators such as birds and spiders, and keeps some human threats at bay, as well.

Spined soldier bugs feed on other insects in both the nymph and adult stages. The nymph is between 1/8 and -inch long, creamy brown in color with bands of red, yellow, and black on its back. The adult spined soldier bug is about -inch long, and light brown to gray in color. It can be distinguished from pest stink bugs by the spurs that stick out from its shoulders.

The spined soldier bug female lays her eggs in clusters on the underside of leaves and stems. The nymphs emerge within a few days and undergo several instars (stages) before reaching adulthood. Both as nymphs and adults, spined soldier bugs feed on Mexican bean beetles, Colorado potato beetles, cabbage worms, corn borers, corn earworms, caterpillars, and even other stink bugs.

Two spotted stink bugs come in a light and dark phase. The light phase is black with multiple white oval shapes on its back, while the dark form is black with a single red oval shape on its back. The nymphs resemble the adults except that they are more round than shield shaped. Nymphs are about 1/8 of an inch long and adults are about an inch long. Nymphs undergo up to 5 instars (stages), and during the later stages and into adulthood a single two spotted stink bug can eat between 50 to 85 Colorado potato beetles each day. The first instar nymph does feed on the juices of the plant it hatches on, usually potato, though does little damage compared to true pest insects.

Both spined soldier bugs and two spotted stink bugs are commercially available and commonly used to protect potato crops. Spined soldier bugs are more available to home gardeners, and both of these stinkbugs are common in crop fields, weed patches, and lawns. Care should be taken to correctly identify these two stink bugs to differentiate them from their pest cousins.

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Resources:

U.S. Pest: Two Spotted Stink Bug
University of Nebraska Crop Watch: Stink Bugs
University of Nebraska Extension: Beneficial Insects
University of Kentucky Entomology: Stink Bugs
Planet Natural: Spined Soldier Bug

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