Harlequin Bugs

The Harlequin Bugs have arrived in my garden. 


Harlequin Bugs suck the life out of your plants.

Although indigenous to Central America, Harlequin bugs (Murgantia histrionica) are found throughout the continental United States and well into Mexico. The adult (pictured here) is bright orange, red, and black and is shaped like a shield. They are about 3/8 inch in length. They have interesting markings and their bright colors make them easy to spot.

Their favorite plants to eat include asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, and kale. They will eat other plants as well if their favorites are not readily available.

As both adults and when in the nymph stage, Harlequin bugs drain the juices from leaves of plants using their needle like mouths. You will often see white spots on the leaves where they have fed. Once infested with Harlequin Bugs, a plant may start to wilt or shrivel, growth may become stunted, and some young or weak plants may die.

So, what can you do about Harlequin Bugs?

Harlequin Bugs overwinter in plant debris, so it is important to clean up your garden each fall. You can also plant "trap plants" in an effort to try to get the Harlequin Bugs to attack the trap plants rather than your principal plants. Good trap plants for Harlequin Bugs are turnips, radishes, and mustard greens. If you plant trap plants, be sure to monitor them carefully and kill any bugs found.

If you already have Harlequin Bugs in your garden, you need to patrol the plants regularly and pick off and kill any bugs you find. You can also hand pick and destroy their eggs (their eggs are very distinctive and look like little white wine barrels with black stripes). Also, be sure to keep the area free of weeds and remove any spent plant debris immediately.

And good luck .... I know I'll be needing some for getting rid of these little plant suckers this year!

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