Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Question on Assassin Bugs

Dear Folks,

I was sent a comment on my September, 2008 post regarding aphids click here to read that post.

Since I was going to write another post on the "white flies are coming, the white flies are coming" -- the white files being a form of aphid and a real pain in the gardener psyche, I thought I would simplify and give you the link to the older post and respond to the comment.

Doris “anonymous” commented on aphids and the beneficial predatory insects which can help you manage these pests:

I found your page while trying to find out if the little bugs in broccoli are hazardous to ingest. My concern is regarding the use of assassin bugs. From wikipedia: Some assassin bug groups specialize on certain prey groups, such as ants (feather-legged bugs - Holoptilinae), termites, or diplopods (Ectrichodiinae). Some blood-sucking species, particularly Triatoma spp. and other members of the subfamily Triatominae (e.g., Paratriatoma hirsuta) , are also known as kissing bugs due to their habit of biting humans in their sleep on the soft tissue of the lips and eyes; a number of these haematophagous species, located in Central and South America, are able to transmit a potentially fatal trypanosome disease known as Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis). So, I don't know which brand you are advocating, but surely wouldn't care to encounter the last one!!! Take care, Doris
Doris, first the aphids attacking the broccoli are most likely a type of aphid which is live baring as opposed to the egg baring types, and usually ‘gray’ in color although they can be green or other colors.  The live baring are more prolific in reproducing and can be a serious problem on the cabbage family members like broccoli because they can ‘hide’ in the junctions of the leaves and stems. (See my soap solution remedy below.)
It is unlikely if you ingest aphids that you will become ill unless the plant was sprayed with chemicals recently.  Most people simply do not want to ‘eat’ insects under any circumstances because of the ‘ick’ factor.
As far as the assassin bugs as beneficial insects are concerned, to my knowledge you won’t be able to control which member of that large insect family your pests attract, and, again as far as I know you can’t buy assassin bugs like you can lady bugs or praying mantis egg cases.
Folks, Doris is correct on the subspecies ‘kissing bugs’ being vectors for a serious disease, most of the some 138 species are south of the US border, with 12 of the species ‘native’ to the US.
According to “Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America” the USA species are not potential vectors because of the differing behavior patterns of these “American” bugs.  So Doris if you are in the US, you probably do not have to worry about which assassin bugs show up in your garden.
All gardeners should educate themselves and family members to leave the assassin bugs alone, regardless.  They do a good job on the pests but can give you a hard bite, described as excruciating, if you threaten it.  Most of the beneficial insects are capable of biting, so you should always leave them alone to do their job
Soap solution.  Mix an a small amount of something like dawn dish detergent into a quart of water and once every 5 days during the growing period of plants like broccoli or cauliflower, pour about a 1/4 cup of this solution straight down the center area of the plant.  This is like grandma pouring the dish washing basin onto the plants to keep the bugs away.  It works because even the ‘exhausted’ soap suds are enough to kill the pests without harming the plant or soil.  The 5 days is important because the birth cycle of the pests is about 7 days so you want to keep the cycles broken.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady