Just what are those peskly little bugs, anyway?

Jeff West/Henry-Stark Extension Unit
Pirate bugs, like the one seen here, are tiny ? about the size of a pin head ? but they can be annoying. Area residents have been swatting them with frequency lately.

If you have been outside in the tri-county area in the past week or two with exposed skin, you have most likely seen or been irritated by a small black gnat.

Some have called the Extension office and asked what this bug was, how long it would be around, and why they hadn’t seen it in previous years.

Richard Lampman, a research scientist for the Medical Entomology program at the Illinois Natural History Survey, has answered the first question: they are called pirate bugs.

Pirate bugs are a very small insect about 2mm to 4mm in size that, as many of us know, have quite a bite.

Pirate bugs normally eat small insects, mites, or insect eggs. They usually suck the body fluid out of their prey.

In Illinois and the tri-county area, they tend to gather in cornfields, feasting on ear worm eggs. But for some reason, perhaps the heavy rains this year, the bugs have moved into grassy or landscape-covered areas near people.

While the bugs are harmless and do not carry disease, they do bite and can leave an itching, red bump likened to a mosquito bite.

There is no insecticide control recommended for this insect since, in most cases, they are a beneficial insect and even sold as a predatory insect to control less favorable insect populations.

For now, the only thing to do is to cover up or grin and bear it when you are outside.