Damsel bugs have a graceful look and a feminine name that’s in stark contrast to their fierce natures.
True bugs in the Nabidae family are considered “beneficial predators,” on par with lacewings and lady bugs for naturally taking care of pest insects on crops. They use their enlarged and serrated front legs to grasp their prey, like a praying mantis. Then they wield the piercing rostrum, common to all insects in this order, to spear and drink up the liquids inside.
Damsel bugs are predators of aphids, moth eggs, small caterpillars including armyworms and corn earworms, and the young of insects like Colorado potato bugs.
These are hungry little critters: The adults consume one to two dozen eggs daily. While they can live for quite some time without eating, after two weeks, they’ve been known to resort to cannibalism. That’s not very ladylike behavior for an insect that’s thought to have been named for its resemblance to a woman delicately lifting up her skirts.
These bug-eyed bugs live across the entire U.S. They’re clad in shades of brown and brownish orange in the Pacific Northwest; other places have species that are black with orange legs. Nabidae spend the winter as adults, and have several generations per year. BugGuide has photos of them from Oregon in every month except April, so see if you can spot one at Mount Pisgah.
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University of Wisconsin info page: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/damsel-bugs-family-nabidae/. Accessed 1/17/23.
The “Bug Lady’s” column: https://uwm.edu/field-station/damsel-bugs/. Accessed 1/17/23.