A common word in everyday life… bed Bug, bug program in a computer or someone bugging you. But did you know that taxonomists (biologists who group organisms into different categories) use BUG to specify a particular group of insects? Of the million-insect species, there are about 80,000 belonging to insect order Hemiptera, also known as true bugs.
How do bugs look?
The bug appears in many different body shapes, colors and sizes. Size varies from 1mm (Ex. Bedbug) to 15 inches (Ex. Giant water bug). Commonly all bugs possess a long slender beak-shaped mouth part that looks like straw (technically called as Proboscis) through which bugs suck the fluid contents from the plants. Exceptions exist for some bugs which feed on animals (Ex. Bedbug).
Bugs also have wings, but the front pair is thicker at the base (half hard) while at the tips they are clear, sometimes looking like half-winged. So, the name Hemiptera which means in Greek half wing (Hemi=half; ptera=wing). We can also easily distinguish bugs by the unpleasant smell/odor that they emit when they are threatened. This order is due to pheromones called alarm pheromones. This protects the insect from predator insects (Ex. Stinkbug, the smelliest species among the plant bugs)
How do they annoy gardeners?
- Bugs inject the poison into the young shoots of plants, flowering buds, and fruits while it sucks the juice from the plant tissues.
- Some bugs will carry disease like blight from one plant/tree to another to another (Ex. Stink bug)
- We can see black spots and holes on the surface of shoots, buds, and
- In case of severe infestation blackened shoots are noticed at the terminal region of the plant.
- Deformed plant roots (=under development) and ruined flowers are also the damage signs.
- In fruit crops like peach, pears, and strawberry, damage appears as a dimple or scab on fruits.
How to manage bugs?
- Collect and destroy them manually, but one must be cautious as some bugs may cause allergies to humans as they produce alarm pheromones.
- Prune out the damaged foliage.
- Once the completion of plant cycle, remove all the plant residues left behind as bugs may emerge once again from the left-out residue.
- Spray pyrethrum (synthetic insecticide extracted from the flowers of one chrysanthemum species) at early morning hours when bugs are least active.
- Grow crop species which are resistant to bug infestation.
- The release of parasites (ex: tachinid fly eggs) and general predatory insects will contribute in keeping the bugs population within a limit.
Sushma completed her B. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Hiriyur and M. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Bengaluru. She is an avid gardener with expertise across soil based and soilless gardening techniques using substrates.