Usually when I mention the term ‘stink bug’ to producers, I can see that they get uncomfortable with this difficult-to-manage group of insect pests. We have several common stink bug pest, including the green (Figure 1) and brown stink bugs (Figure 2). A number of counties east of I-65 are also beginning to experience the new invasive brown marmorated stink bug (Figure 3).
Beneficial Stink Bugs
But there are also beneficial stink bugs that are commonly found while monitoring fields for pests, including the spined soldier bug and the two-spotted stink bug. These are predaceous stink bugs that assist by feeding on a number of pest insects.
The spined soldier bug (Figure 4) is our most common predatory stink bug in vegetable systems; it will feed on a wide range of insect larvae and some adults. It is commonly mistaken for a brown stink bug but has one very distinctive feature: a dark mark at the end of the transparent part of the front wings, giving it the appearance of a tail. In the absence of prey, spined soldier bug will feed on plants to a small extent, but it has never been associated economic injury.
The other common predatory stink bug in vegetable systems is the two-spotted stink bug (Figure 5). This stink bug is black with either red or orange markings. There are two prominent black spots behind the head. This stink bug primarily attacks the eggs and larvae of the Colorado potato beetle.
Importance of Proper Identification
When scouting for pests, producers need to be able to distinguish these two beneficial stink bugs from those that cause damage. Otherwise, producers may use an insecticide needlessly to control the enemies of their vegetable pests.
Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist