Blake Layton (Mississippi State University) and Scott Stewart (University of Tennessee), Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Like the insidious flower bug and the big-eyed bug, damsel bugs belong to the order Hemiptera and are considered “true bugs”. They are predators with piercing sucking mouthparts. Damsel bugs are usually much less numerous than insidious flower bugs and big-eyed bugs, but it is not uncommon to find numbers in the range of 2-6 per 100 sweeps in pre-blooming cotton. They are also important predators in corn and soybeans. They are sometimes mistaken for plant bugs, so it’s important that scouts know the difference. Damsel bugs belong to the family Nabidae and are also referred to as Nabids.
There are several species of damsel bugs that can be found in cotton. Most adults are grey to light brown in color and are about 3/8 – 1/2 inch long. Adult damsel bugs do resemble plant bugs somewhat in general body shape, but they have a more slender and longer body and legs. Also, the wings are flat over the entire length of the abdomen and this distinguishes them from tarnished plant bug in which the wings angle downward at the back third of the abdomen. Nymphs resemble adults, except for the lack of wings.
Both the nymphs and adults are predatory and feed on a variety of prey. Almost any insect that is smaller or slower is subject to attack, including other predators. In addition to aphids and whiteflies, they commonly feed on eggs and larvae of caterpillar pests such as tobacco budworm and bollworm. They will also attack plant bug nymphs. They occasionally bite scouts as well.