Bugs in Bad Moods
Tim Gibb, Insect Diagnostician,
Entomology Department, Purdue University
During the late summer, small insects that are
otherwise innocuous can become troublesome. These insects just seem to be in a
foul mood and are intent on sharing a bit of their misery with humans
before the first freeze of the season takes them out. I can think
of no other plausible reason for them to be biting or more accurately
pinching people. They do not take blood, inject toxins or venom,
or seldom even break skin but their painful pinch sure seems out
of proportion with their size.
The culprits come from several different families
of insects, including lady beetles, insidious flower bugs, and
hackberry lace bugs.
These insects are well mannered throughout most
of the summer. They
occur in fields, woodlands, gardens and landscapes where two of the
three are beneficial because they feed on other small insects such
as aphids that are potential pests of plants. In the late summer,
these insects tend to congregate around residential areas and when
temperatures are really warm, they begin the unpleasant behavior
of biting humans.
People differ in their response to these bites. Some people have
no reaction to the bite, but others have bites that swell like a
mosquito bite or turn red.
Control of these fall time biting bugs is not
practical. Repellents are generally not effective, although some
people swear that applying baby oil or suntan oil protect them. Certainly, wearing long
sleeves and pants keeps them from biting otherwise exposed arms and
legs. Our best advice, If you do not have an electronic ‘biting
bug mood sensor’, is to simply be aware of where and when they
are active and avoiding those times and places.
Click image to enlarge
Lace bug on sycamore leaf
Asian lady beetle
Insidious flower bug (Minute pirate beetle)
Hackberry lace bugs