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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Damsel bugs


Scientific Names
The most numerous species found include Nabis alternatus and Nabis americoferus.


  • Deposited in soft plant tissues, rarely seen


  • Resemble adults
  • Develop through 5 nymphal stages over a period of 16-30 days (depending on temperature)


  • Long (0.5–1.0 cm), slender insects
  • Usually light greyish-brown in colour, but may be grey, reddish brown or black
  • Dark stripes on the head and pronotum
  • Piercing-sucking mouthparts
  • Elongated heads
  • 4 long segmented antennae
  • Fast runners with long slender back legs and enlarged forelegs for grasping prey

Often Confused With
Assassin bugs - Damsel bugs lack the curved beak or proboscis, the longitudinal groove underneath the head, the elongate “neck” seen in assassin bugs.

Interaction with Host
Damsel bugs are abundant in gardens, orchards, vineyards and field crops. Nymphs and adults of all species are predaceous and search actively for their prey, which consists mainly of other insects and phytophagous mites. Early stage nymphs may also be plant feeders which may allow them to survive for short periods but the will not continue to develop unless prey is consumed.  Damsel bugs are swift, and catch and hold prey with their forelegs, then rapidly suck the body contents from their prey.

Period of Activity
May through September.

Insects Attacked
Leafhoppers, mites, moth eggs, and small caterpillars.

Monitoring and Management
Damsel bugsoccur primarily on weeds, grasses, various crops and shrubs and are sometimes found on the soil surface. They can be found during regular vineyard monitoring.

Damsel bug adult (D. Epstein, MSU)
Click to enlarge.