As you are out in your hopyard, doing your weekly scouting, you may have run across these helpful little fellows:
A spider mite destroyer lady beetle, or Stethorus picipes (Figure 1, click on the image to enlarge it), is a very useful beneficial insect and can eat up to 6 spider mites a day. Both the larvae and adults feed primarily on spider mites, and are commonly found on the underside of the leaf. The adult, shown in the photo to the left, looks like a shiny little black tank. The larvae are small, gray and covered with fine hairs. The University of California has some great photos of the spider mite destroyer as an egg, larva, pupa, and adult on their website (click on each image to enlarge it.) These guys are our friends, don’t squish ’em!
We have also come across these beautiful creatures (Figures 2 & 3), called spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris). The spined soldier bug is a predatory stink bug. The eggs are metallic bronze with a spiny crown around the top, and are usually laid in clusters of 15-70 on the upper side of a leaf. The eggs are usually found on the top side of the leaf, and when the nymphs hatch, they have a black head and a brick red thorax, and cluster around the eggs. With each molt, the spined soldier bug changes in appearance. The University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology has a website with photos of each stage. These beneficial insects feed on caterpillars (like the Eastern Comma Butterfly/Hop Merchant!!), grubs, and Colorado potato beetles, as well as loopers, flea beatles, army worms, and European corn borers.