Posts Tagged ‘stink bugs’

David vs. Goliath

The other day, my co-worker Sheila was standing by the office window and remarked, “Oh my goodness, I wonder how this will turn out. Come over here and look at this!”

Securing the "bonds"!

Securing the “bonds”! I got you now!

I wandered over to the window and there in the corner was a stink bug with one leg stuck in a tangle of spider silk. He was trying his best to free his leg and it seemed likely that he would break away in a matter of moments. Meanwhile, a very small (relative to its prey) spider was desperately assessing the situation, trying to figure out the best tactic to further ensnare this struggling stink bug. At least that’s how I saw it!

“It’s like David and Goliath!” Sheila said. Needless to say, both of us were rooting for David the Spider!

Working on the back legs

Working on the back legs

We watched spellbound for quite a while as this little spider made dashes back and forth from the stink bug to the wall in an effort to further restrain this stinky beast – slow day at the office!

Initially, the spider reinforced the “bonds” on the leg that was already stuck. It then proceeded to work on spinning more strands of silk from the wall back to the bug eventually snaring some other legs and his one remaining antenna. Its hard to tell what happened to his other antenna – perhaps it got pulled off in another struggle.



The spider finally managed to get enough silk wrapped around the other legs and part of the body that it was able to flip the stink bug onto its back. So interesting!

“David” then proceeded to hogtie “Goliath” and eventually hoist him up so he was suspended slightly above the windowsill. That was the end – there was no escape for him after that. Goliath was vanquished!

Cheers to another mighty stink bug predator! Be kind to your spiders!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

Now that he is up off the ground, it's all over!

Now that he is up off the ground, it’s all over!

A final bit of silk just to make sure ...

A final bit of silk just to make sure …

The kiss of death! One less stink bug to ruin our crops!

The kiss of death! One less stink bug to ruin our crops!

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Daddy Longlegs feeds on a stink bug

“Stop the presses,” Nicholas (Copper Hill Images) e-mailed me, “more photos to follow!!!” If you read my last post, Nicholas was the one who sent me all the cool pictures of the praying mantis eating the stink bug. When I received this e-mail, I was really excited to see what else he had found that was so interesting. I was pretty sure it would have something to do with stink bugs and I was right!

A daddy longlegs feeding on a stink bug.

A daddy longlegs feeds on a stink bug.

He proceeded to send me 4 photos of a Daddy Longlegs feasting on a stink bug! Well who would have thought that a daddy longlegs would eat a stink bug, let alone be able to catch one? BUT, did the daddy longlegs actually catch the stink bug he was eating? Good question!

Being a biologist at heart, I began to do some research on these long-legged critters that I used to love watching as a kid. I came up with some interesting trivia!

Did you know?

Apparently, there is a common myth floating around that: “Daddy longlegs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short to bite humans.” True? NO, definitely not!

There are two very different critters that are referred to as “daddy longlegs”; the one that I think of as a “daddy longlegs” (also called harvestmen) which is NOT a spider but a member of the Order Opiliones and the “daddy longlegs spider” (also called a cellar spider) which IS a true spider in the Order Araneae. Here is an example of a common name being attached to two very different critters. This happens all the time in horticulture, too, which is why at Viette’s we refer to all plants by their botanical name. It helps avoid confusion.

A daddy longlegs spider

A daddy longlegs spider or cellar spider on my ceiling at home. Note the longer 2-part body.

Anyway, true daddy longlegs or harvestmen have a small oval body with 8 very long legs. They differ from spiders in that their body is not divided. The body of true spiders is divided into two separate parts, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. In harvestmen, these parts have been fused creating their characteristic pill-shaped body. They also have only 2 eyes (at most) and don’t have silk glands or venom glands.

True spiders have 8 eyes which are found on the cephalothorax and 8 legs which are attached to the cephalothorax. They also have both venom glands and silk glands.

The “daddy longlegs spiders” or cellar spiders make webs of silk and catch small insects which they subdue with venom injected through short fangs. They feed by sucking the fluid from the bodies of their prey. There is no evidence that their venom is harmful to humans.

Daddy longlegs feeds on a stink bug

This Daddy-O is really chowing down! Yum!

True “daddy longlegs” or harvestmen are typically not hunters but they will sometimes wait in ambush for small soft bodied insects which they catch and consume. They do not have venom glands or fangs and are definitely not deadly to humans! Mostly, they are scavengers and the main part of their diet consists of dead organisms, decaying plant material, and fungi. They are commonly found in woodland areas.

Another interesting tidbit is that, unlike true spiders that typically only suck the fluids from their prey, these guys can consume small chunks of food. So it seems that this stink bug was most likely already dead and the daddy longlegs was just cleaning up the aftermath. Question answered.

You learn something new everyday, that’s what makes life interesting!

Okay enough about stinky stink bugs – but these photos from Nicholas were too cool to not share! Next time I’ll talk about something beautiful from the garden – I promise!

Until then – Happy Gardening!

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I was sitting on the sofa the other night minding my own business when all of a sudden I was dive bombed! “What in the world was that?” When it thunked on the lampshade, I knew exactly what it was – a STINK BUG! Then last night we found another one crawling on the back of the sofa behind my daughter.

Ugg – they’re on the move again!

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is large and armored with a thick chitinous exoskeleton

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is large and armored with a thick chitinous exoskeleton.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) has not only become an annoying invader of our homes but their populations have exploded to the point that they have become a major threat to many agricultural crops including both ornamentals and food crops.

Native to Asia, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is a relative newcomer to the US being first reported in Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then their numbers and range have slowly increased and they are now found in 30 different US states and are still on the move.

Heavy stink bug damage on a tomato documented in 2010 by Jerry  Brust, UME IPM Vegetable Specialist

Heavy stink bug damage on a tomato documented in 2010 by Jerry Brust, University of Maryland Extension IPM Vegetable Specialist

The stink bugs have remained mostly inactive over the winter but now that the weather is warming up, they are beginning to creep out of their hiding places in cracks and crevasses in and around your home. March and April is the time when they begin to venture forth into the landscape to find a mate, lay eggs, and begin a new cycle of devastation. Soon these pests will be buzzing around your fruit trees and invading your vegetable garden. Given the masses that were around last year, this year will no doubt be worse. Stink bugs are extremely prolific which is why they have become such an important pest species. Given the right conditions, they can produce up to 3 generations in a single season.

Stink bugs are piercing/sucking insects that damage leaves, stems, and fruits by boring in with their proboscis and sucking out plant juices. This causes wilting of leaves and discoloration and disfiguring of fruits and vegetables. There have been some reports that the damage they inflict to fruits and vegetables can actually alter their taste. Many home gardeners had severe problems with these nasty pests last season; in vegetable gardens and in the landscape. Some commercial growers lost entire crops of corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, apples, peaches, and other fruits and berries. Then in the fall, they added insult to “injury” by invading our homes looking for a nice warm, cozy place to overwinter. These foreigners are bad news!

These guys are probably going to be a real problem this year!

These guys are probably going to be a real problem this year!

Because this particular species of stink bug is having such an impact on fruit and vegetable crops, a lot of research is being directed towards developing control methods. Some of this research is focusing on natural enemies and pheromone traps in addition to chemical controls. For the time being, exclusion is the best preventative measure for controlling populations indoors. One of last fall’s gardening tips focused on indoor controls.

As far as outdoor control in the landscape, orchard, and vegetable garden, the research is still ongoing. They’re investigating many different lines of defense! Stay tuned – as the season progresses, I’m sure I’ll be posting more about these “stinkers”!

In the meantime, put your seat belt on – it’s going to be a rough ride this season and that just “STINKS”!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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