Tobacco plants provide a trapped-insect buffet that spined stilt bugs are more than happy to feast upon, which helps protect the plant from pest infestation and damage.
In the study, the abundance of spined stilt bugs grew when researchers added dead fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to the leaves of tobacco plants in greenhouse and field settings.
Plants treated with imidacloprid, a common tobacco insecticide, had fewer spined stilt bugs than untreated plants, but that did not significantly affect pest densities or plant health.
Surprisingly, the study showed that densities of pests like the tobacco budworm on tobacco leaves did not decrease, even though more spined stilt bugs were present.
"We're not completely sure about why this counterintuitive finding occurred, although one hypothesis is that the increased number of predator stilt bugs may trigger a behavioral response in the tobacco budworm and other pests to feed less on tobacco plants," Sorenson said.
Abstract: The Berytidae or stilt bugs are a cosmopolitan family of lygaeoid bugs, which are slender, elongate insects, with generally cylindrical bodies and very long, slender antennae and legs.
Monograph of the stilt bugs, or Berytidae (Heteroptera), of the Western Hemisphere.
Cladistic analysis and revision of the stilt bug genera of the world (Heteroptera: Berytidae).
A diverse group of insects known as stilt bugs are both friend and foe to our agricultural crops.
Worldwide, stilt bugs are a relatively small group of unusual hemipterans, or true bugs, in the family Berytidae.
Stilt bugs range in size from only about 2 millimeters, such as the species Hoplinus scutellaris, to the 16-millimeter Plyapomus longus.
While many stilt bugs are phytophagous, meaning they eat plants, others are predaceous, meaning they feed on other, usually smaller insects.