Spined Soldier Bug Feeding Preferences

Spined soldier bugs are common predators that will feed on a variety of small insects. You can raise them yourself (see article above), or collect them from the garden or field for this demonstration. Which of your pests will this predator eat, and which does it like best?

Place a number of small spined soldier bug nymphs individually in small containers (make sure they've molted once since the newly hatched bugs don't eat). Collect whatever insect pests you can find from your yard. Check cabbage plants and shrubs for caterpillars or sawflies; roses for aphids, roseslugs or Japanese beetles; potatoes for Colorado potato beetle; elm trees for elm leaf beetle. You can pick leaves with the pests on them, or remove larger insects from the plant. Place one pest insect (or leaf) in a container with a spined soldier bug. What does it do? Will it eat the pest, or is it too big or hard? If you put two different pests in together which does it prefer? Depending on how recently the bugs have eaten, they may not immediately attack when you first put potential prey in their container. Try starving the spined soldier bugs for a day or two before the experiment for faster results.

Try the same thing with larger nymphs and adults. Will the larger nymphs or adults accept different prey? What is their choice now if offered two different pests? What insects would spined soldier bugs be best for controlling in your yard or garden?

- Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin - Madison

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