Warning: this post may not be suitable for readers who are upset by insects eating other insects.
As I wrote recently, our friend Jo ana came over to help with the garden last week. She is a keen observer of the natural world. This applies to insects as well as flying Geranium seeds. So we were inspecting some of the plants when we saw something that looked like a tick. Instead of squishing it, we tried to get a better look and as a result the critter ended up on the sidewalk.
So it turned out that it was not a tick but a Spined Soldier Bug. Not an adult, but the third instar of the nymph. Spined Soldier Bugs are predators that eat many insect pests in the garden. And aren’t those interesting markings on its back?
An adult Spined Soldier Bug looks like this.
Upon realizing that there were Spined Soldier Bugs in the garden, my reaction was: what took you so long? Because for a couple of years I have been grinding my teeth while enduring the damage done by Four-Lined Plant Bugs (FLPBs). The FLPBs have decimated my Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), while inflicting less serious damage on various other plants.
Nevertheless, I have stood by my commitment to keep all insecticides out of our garden. I would squish the occasional FLPB when I could grab one, and clear out the affected plants in the fall. To be honest, these steps were not very effective. But I would rather live with the plant damage than contribute to the decline of bees and other pollinators by using pesticides. And actually, the FLPB is the only pest in the garden that causes serious damage.
So we very carefully got that Spined Soldier Bug onto a leaf and deposited him/her onto a plant afflicted with FLPBs.
The very next day I was inspecting an annual Sunflower plant when I observed a Spined Soldier Bug! And he was eating an FLPB! In case you’re wondering, Spined Soldier Bugs attack their prey with sharp beaks that stay hidden under their abdomens until the moment of truth.
So I was very glad we hadn’t squished that Spined Soldier Bug under the mistaken impression that it was a tick. Of course, there are already lots of insect predators in the garden. But I’m hoping that the Spined Soldier Bug population, combined with other predators, grows to the point where they can minimize the damage from the FLPBs.
For those of you who are not fans of insect mayhem, the next post will have lots of pretty flowers, I promise.