Burrower Bug: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Encounter

Burrower bugs, scientifically known as Cydnidae, are a family of insects that dwell in soil and occasionally leave their underground homes to migrate to new locations within a field or nearby area.

These small creatures, which measure around ¼” in size, share similarities with stink bugs in terms of appearance.

White Margined Burrowing Bugs

They are most commonly found in hot and dry climates, where they sometimes cause damage to agricultural crops, particularly affecting peanut quality.

These insects display certain characteristics that make them easily identifiable. For instance, their features can be listed out as follows:

  • Small size (around ¼”)
  • Resemble stink bugs
  • Soil-dwelling habitats
  • Preference for hot and dry climates

While they generally do not cause a significant amount of economic damage to crops, burrower bugs can be a concern for peanut farmers due to the reduction of peanut quality caused by their feeding habits.

Identification and Taxonomy

Order Hemiptera

Burrower bugs belong to the order Hemiptera, which is a large group of insects known as the “true bugs.”

This order includes other well-known bugs like aphids, cicadas, and hoppers. Key features of Hemiptera insects include:

  • Half sets of wings
  • Sucking mouthparts
  • Incomplete metamorphosis

Family Cydnidae

The family Cydnidae is classified under the infraorder Pentatomomorpha and the superfamily Pentatomoidea.

Also known as burrower bugs, these insects have some distinct characteristics:

  • Shield-like body shape
  • Short, strong legs for digging
  • Mostly found in soil or under stones

Subfamily Sehirinae

The subfamily Sehirinae is part of the Cydnidae family and includes the Sehirus cinctus, or white-margined burrower bug.

This insect is an example of the burrower bugs found in this subfamily. Some unique features of Sehirus cinctus are:

  • Black body with white margins
  • Oval body shape
  • Found primarily in North America

Life Cycle and Development

Eggs

Burrower bugs, belonging to the Cydnidae family, start their life cycle as eggs.

They typically lay their eggs in soil during the summer season, as they thrive in hot and dry weather conditions1.

Nymphs

Once the eggs hatch, tiny nymphs emerge and begin feeding on plant roots and organic matter.

These nymphs go through a series of molts as they develop, gradually increasing in size and assuming adult-like features1.

Immature Burrowing Bug

Adults

Adult burrower bugs are small insects, roughly ¼-inch in size1, resembling a miniaturized stink bug.

As they continue to develop, they remain in the soil, only leaving occasionally to migrate to new locations within a field or to nearby fields1.

Comparison Table

Life Stage Features Population Dynamics
Eggs Laid in soil during summer1 Mothers lay eggs in soil
Nymphs Feed on plant roots1 Population increases with molting
Adults Resemble small stink bugs1 Migrate for new feeding locations1

Habitat and Distribution

United States Regions

Burrowing bugs are found across the United States, with a significant presence in Texas. They usually leave the soil only to migrate within or between fields1.

The bugs favor hot and dry weather conditions for their habitat1. Some common plants they can be found near include henbit2.

Worldwide Distribution

In addition to North America, these bugs have been documented in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.

In Europe, they are commonly found in the Mediterranean regions, thriving in the warm and dry conditions.

In Asia, they are distributed across the temperate zones, including countries like China and India.

African countries, with their varied climates, also host several species of burrower bugs, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions.

South America, with its vast agricultural lands, has reported the presence of these bugs in countries like Brazil and Argentina.

They have a wide distribution due to their adaptability and feeding preferences.

Their global distribution can be attributed to their ability to burrow and feed on a wide variety of plants3.

However, the specifics of their worldwide distribution are not well documented in scientific literature.

Comparison of Burrowing Bug and Stink Bug

Feature Burrowing Bug Stink Bug
Order Hemiptera4 Hemiptera4
Family Cydnidae4 Pentatomidae4
Size Small, around ¼ inch1 Larger, up to ¾ inch5
Appearance Resemble small stink bugs1 Shield shape, strong odor5
Distribution Widely distributed, variable regions Widely distributed, variable regions

Ecological Role of Burrower Bugs

Burrower bugs, as their name suggests, are adept at burrowing and living within the soil, playing several vital roles in the ecosystem.

Their ecological significance extends beyond their interactions with crops and can be understood through the following contributions:

Soil Aeration

As burrower bugs move through the soil, they create tiny tunnels. This activity helps in aerating the soil, ensuring that air reaches deeper layers.

Proper aeration is crucial for the health of plants as it allows roots to access the oxygen they need and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms.

Nutrient Cycling

The feeding habits of burrower bugs, especially the nymphs that feed on plant roots and organic matter, contribute to the breakdown of organic materials.

As these materials decompose, essential nutrients are released back into the soil, aiding in nutrient cycling.

This process ensures that plants have access to the vital minerals and nutrients they require for growth.

Prey for Other Animals

Burrower bugs, due to their small size, serve as a food source for various predators. Birds, amphibians, and even some mammals might feed on these insects.

Their presence in the food chain ensures energy transfer across different trophic levels, supporting biodiversity.

Natural Pest Control

Some species of burrower bugs might feed on other soil pests or their eggs, acting as natural pest controllers.

Their predatory behavior can help in keeping certain harmful pest populations in check.

Supporting Microbial Communities

The tunnels created by burrower bugs can become micro-habitats for various microorganisms.

These microbes play a role in breaking down organic matter, further contributing to soil fertility.

Economic Impact and Management

Agricultural Significance

Burrower bugs are soil-dwelling insects that can cause damage to various crops.

They are mostly active during hot and dry weather conditions. While their presence can be problematic for some crops, they tend to cause significant economic damage in peanut fields.

Peanut Burrower Bug

The peanut burrower bug is a major concern for peanut producers since:

  • It is difficult to detect their presence above ground
  • Damage caused by their piercing mouthparts is only evident after peanuts are harvested and sent for processing

This often leads to unexpected revenue loss for peanut producers.

File:Peanut burrower bug (17946183712).jpg

Peanut Burrower Bug. Source: Brian Gratwicke from DC, USACC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Control Methods

There are several ways to manage burrower bug populations and minimize their impact on agricultural production. Some of them include:

  • Irrigation: Proper irrigation can help manage peanut burrower bug populations by improving soil moisture levels, making the habitat less favorable for the insects.
  • Pesticides: Chemical control options such as chlorpyrifos, bifenthrin, and imidacloprid can reduce pest populations. However, excessive use has potential environmental consequences.
  • Biological control: Entomopathogenic nematodes can be used to target and kill peanut burrower bugs in specific areas of infestation.
Control Method Pros Cons
Irrigation Improved soil conditions May not be effective in severe droughts
Pesticides Effective in reducing pest abundance Potential environmental consequences
Biological control Targeted and environmentally friendly May require specific conditions for success

By implementing these management strategies, peanut producers can effectively reduce the economic damage caused by burrower bugs and protect their crop yields.

Conclusion

Burrower bugs, scientifically classified under the Cydnidae family, are intriguing soil-dwelling insects with a vast global distribution.

While they share similarities with stink bugs, their unique behavior, especially their impact on crops like peanuts, sets them apart.

Understanding their life cycle, habitat preferences, and the challenges they pose to agriculture is crucial.

As we recognize their presence from the United States to continents like Europe and Asia, effective management strategies become paramount in safeguarding our agricultural interests.

Footnotes

  1. Texas A&M University 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
  2. WSU Department of Entomology
  3. The Huck Institutes
  4. BugGuide 2 3 4
  5. EPA 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about borrower bugs. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Burrowing Bug

Stinkbug with hairy legs?
Location: El Paso, TX
May 29, 2011 1:20 am
Hello WTB! It’s nice and hot here in Texas and the bugs are really starting to invite themselves into the house. I’m thinking that this tiny fellow is from the stinkbug family, but I’ve never seen one with hairy legs like that. Can stinkbugs have hairy legs or is this actually a kind of roach? Thanks for any help!
Signature: Jen

Burrowing Bug

Hi Jen,
Though this is not a Stink Bug it is a related True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera.  This is a Burrowing Bug in the family Cydnidae based on some images posted to BugGuide.  We are very excited to be creating a new subcategory for Digger Bugs thanks to your photograph.  We will also search our archives to see if there are any other Burrowing Bugs buried there.

Letter 2 – Immature Burrowing Bug

Subject: Bug we found on our tile floor
Location: Columbus, Ohio
July 22, 2017 2:56 pm
Hello,
We have discovered a few of these over the last couple days on our tile floor. I had carpet beetles in a previous home, it doesn’t look like that. Any advice would be great, thank you!
Signature: Mark

Immature Burrowing Bug

Dear Mark,
At first we thought this was a Cockroach nymph, but upon lightening your image, we realized we were looking at a True Bug nymph.  We are relatively confident we have identified it as an immature Burrowing Bug in the family Cydnidae thanks to this BugGuide image. 

According to BugGuide:  “body usually ovoid, heavily sclerotized, dark, legs often spiny” and  “take liquid from the phloem vessels, unlike other heteropterans and often feed on roots.”  The real mystery for us concerns why the are in you home.  Is your tile floor in a basement? 

Was there any recent excavation nearby?  We are confident they will not harm your home and that they are accidental intruders rather than infesting species.

Letter 3 – Black Ground Bug

Subject:  Is this a bed bug? Kinda looks like one.
Geographic location of the bug:  Clinton township, Michigan
Date: 09/30/2017
Time: 02:15 PM EDT
Been getting bug bites once in awhile not sure if they are mosquito bites, because it’s only one at a time. Thinking the worst bed bugs. I haven’t been sleeping in the bed, my husband never gets bit.  But I found out mosquitos only go for my type of blood, maybe bed bugs do to?

Anyways found this bug on my bed today he’s a 1/4 inch big, thought bed bugs were smaller? And the legs don’t look like they are all in the front like a bed bug. Can you help me?
How you want your letter signed:  Sue

Black Ground Bug

Dear Sue,
This is NOT a Bed Bug, but it is a True Bug in the same suborder, Heteroptera, as Bed Bugs.  We believe this is a Black Ground Bug,
Microporus nigrita, which we found on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “native to, and widespread all across the temperate and southern Palaearctic, adventive in NA.”

Letter 4 – Burrower Bug

Daniel;
Here are some close ups of that bug I was mentioning: What kind of bug is this?
chris

Hi Chris,
We seem to have lost your original letter concerning this bug. It also had us stumped for quite some time. It is a Burrower Bug, Family Cydnidae. According to Borror and Delong: “They are usually found burrowing beneath stones or boards, in sand, or in the mold about the roots of grass tufts; sometimes they are found in ant nests.”

Letter 5 – Burrower Bugs

what is it?
Hi,
Sorry, I am new at photographing bugs – this is the best I could do. I collected these bugs from our house and then dumped them on a tile – so some are on their back and two are stuck together on the 19 – Can you identify them? Unfortunately they are all over the neighborhood.

Our neighborhood is under heavy construction since many homes were burned to the ground during the So. Cal wildfires in Oct. 2003. We are back in a newly rebuilt home and have had our share of ants to deal with. But this is a new one – we ’ re hoping these are not Powder Post Beetle s . Some of our neighbors are sure these are ticks.

They have been sited in neighboring towns too – that are not under heavy construction. We have a newly built two-story house and they continue to appear upstairs and downstairs by the dozens. OK, we had fire, we had terrible rains last year, but hopefully there are no locusts on th e way.

All kidding aside, we are so happy to be home and hope that you can tell us that this bug isn ’ t something that can destroy our home or carpet or hurt our animals. Thanks!
Lynda Felder

Hi Lynda,
These are neither ticks nor powderpost beetles, but Burrower Bugs, Family Cydnidae. According to Borror and Delong: “They are usually found burrowing beneath stones or boards, in sand, or in the mold about the roots of grass tufts; sometimes they are found in ant nests.” This might be Cyrtomenus mirabilis, a species found in the South and Southwest.

Letter 6 – Burrowing Bug and Rash

Subject:  A beetle fell out of my shirt. I was sitting on my couch.  Afterwards went to garage. Looked in my car.  Began cooking.  It was eating me alive.
Geographic location of the bug:  Harbison Canyon, San Diego County. CA
Date: 06/22/2019
Time: 06:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I’m still reacting terribly with welts and hives after 11 days??  No one knows what it is.  I’m on prescription meds and miserable. Doc appt yesterday. I was bit 5 or 6 times at base of my spine.

Recovering from shingles after 3 months. Now this.  I’m miserable. Hives all over. Hives on upper legs-front and back, back, chest, behind knees,hips. It’s terrible.  Thank you.  Resting now.
How you want your letter signe:  Debbie Kelley

Burrowing Bug

Dear Debbie,
We empathize with your health crisis.  We are confident that this is a Burrowing Bug in the family Cydnidae, possibly from the genus
Dallasiellus like this Southern California individual pictured on BugGuide

We cannot locate any information on BugGuide regarding their tendency to bite, nor can we find information elsewhere in our quick search.  Hopefully, now that you have an identification, you might be able to locate helpful information on your reaction.

Rash

Letter 7 – Burrowing Bugs from Botswana

Unidentified Bug.
Dear Bugman,
I have attached a picture of a bug that has been, well, bugging us for the past couple of weeks, during our rainy season. They only seem to come out at night, very much attracted to lights and have a rather distinctive smell.

They seem quite persistent as well as they have a knack of getting in everywhere. The locals up here in Orapa, Botswana have a name for it – Podile – but that doesn’t help my search at all. Also, great site – really informative. (and creepy.)
Regards,
Shaun Nel.
Snr C&I Software Technician
Debswana Diamond Company
Orapa & Letlhakane Mines
Botswana

Hi Shaun,
Nice photo of Burrowing Bugs or Burrower Bugs in the Family Cydnidae. We found a British Website with this information: “Salient features of adults. Terrestrial. Phytophagous (including one root-sucking burrower). Tiny to small; 3

Letter 8 – Immature Burrowing Bug, we believe

Subject: what is it?
Location: Jersey City, NJ 07306
July 28, 2012 6:03 pm
I FOUND THIS BUG CRAWLING ON THE WALL ON THE SIDE OF MY HOUSE. WHAT IS IT? IS IT HARMFUL? HOW DO I SEARCH TO SEE IF IT HAS FRIENDS? How do protect against it?
Signature: Hector

Ebony Bug

Hi Hector,
Formerly known as a Negro Bug, the more politically correct Ebony Bug has become the more accepted common name for insects in the family Thyreocoridae.  They are also sometimes simply called Black Bugs. 

According to BugGuide, they are:  “Shiny black, broad oval, convex shape. Tibiae have no spines or slender ones. Large scutellum covers most of abdomen and wings. Look like beetles but have 5-segmented antennae and 4-segmented beak.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Common on flowers and other vegetation” and they will not harmful to your home.

Correction:  July 24, 2017
Upon posting a new image of what we believe to be an immature Burrowing Bug, we are rethinking this old posting and we now believe, based on this BugGuide image, that this too is an immature Burrowing Bug.  The BugGuide  description is “body usually ovoid, heavily sclerotized, dark, legs often spiny.” 

Letter 9 – Probably Aggregation of White Margined Burrowing Bugs from Canada

Subject: beetle in New Brunswick
Location: Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
July 11, 2014 5:41 am
HI. We saw this yesterday. They are mostly black but there are a few with red markings underneath. I couldn’t tell if they were preying on the red marked ones or if they were all feeding on the same thing.
I don’t often see such large groups of beetles, except on my cucumber plants!
Signature: Jess

Aggregation of White Margined Burrowing Bugs
Aggregation of White Margined Burrowing Bugs

Hi Jess,
Based on this image we located on BugGuide, we believe this is an aggregation of White Margined Burrowing Bugs,
Sehirus cinctus, but interestingly, there are only images of individuals on BugGuide.

White Margined Burrowing Bugs
White Margined Burrowing Bugs

Letter 10 – Ebony Bug or Burrowing Bug Aggregation from Italy

Subject: Different species of bugs aggregated?
Location: Rome, Italy
October 23, 2015 11:56 am
Hello,
my dad found this aggregation of bugs in Rome and took a picture. He then sent it to me since I am studying zoology and I started doing some researches about it. By reading your website, I found out that the situation we are looking at is immature bugs, forming aggregation.

However that post was about Harlequine bugs, individually coloured of both colours black and red. While in my picture some bugs are red with black stains, while other, in the same aggregation, are entirely black.

Therefore I was wondering, are they different species? Or maybe black ones are younger and still did not develop the red colouration?
Hope you can give me some answer 🙂
Thank you very much!
Signature: Costanza

Ebony Bug Aggregation
Ebony Bug Aggregation

Dear Costanza,
We believe this is an aggregation of Ebony Bugs in the family Thyreocoridae, and that the red individuals are the immature ones.  British Bugs has images of one species.  Also pictured on British Bugs is the Burrowing Bug,
Canthophorus impressus, in the family Cydnidae.  Alas, there is not enough detail in your image to be certain.

Letter 11 – Ebony Bugs

Beetles
Location: Levant, Maine
February 11, 2012 6:48 pm
I have asked all around and no one seems to know. When I blew on them the scattered really fast.
Signature: Tammy Costain

Ebony Bugs

Dear Tammy,
You have an aggregation of Ebony Bugs in the family Thyreocoridae.  This grouping contains both red and black, wingless nymphs and black, winged adults. 

We learned on BugGuide that the common family name has been changed from the politically incorrect Negro Bugs to Ebony Bugs, and that Eric Eaton and Kenn Kaufman in the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America were among the first authors who noted the change.

Close Up of Ebony Bugs

Letter 12 – Ebony Bugs

Subject: Tree bug
Location: Austin
March 29, 2017 7:51 pm
Found these today in austin, tx. It is spring time.
Signature: Alytown

Ebony Bugs

Dear Alytown,
We believe these are black, adult Ebony Bugs from the family Thyreocoridae as well as immature, wingless, red nymphs.  See BugGuide for additional information, where it states:  “Shiny black, broad oval, convex shape. Tibiae have no spines or slender ones. Large scutellum covers most of abdomen and wings. Look like beetles but have 5-segmented antennae and 4-segmented beak” and “feed on flowers and developing seeds.”

Ebony Bugs

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

14 thoughts on “Burrower Bug: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Encounter”

    • Burrowing Bugs are not harmful to humans. We do not give extermination advice. We believe that it is highly unlikely that you had Burrowing Bugs in your apartment. It is more likely that you had some species of Cockroach like the Oriental Cockroach (see BugGuide), or perhaps a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, though BugGuide does not report them from Arizona.

      Reply
  1. The bug I found is IDENTICAL to the one in the picture. Reports from BugGuide state that they are common in AZ March – August. I will try to get a Picture Sent to you …

    Reply
  2. I live in Chicago, IL and had one of them show up in my bedroom the last 2 nights…crazy. I have no idea how they got here. They look IDENTICAL to the ones in the photo. I had thought I had bed bugs, but then I stumbled over this…and bingo!

    Reply
  3. A bug that looks a lot like this one flew into my eye in Hawaii and it immediately felt like pepper was in my eye. I flushed it for about 5 minutes but it is very irritated and sore. I don’t know if it bit me or squirted something but I want to know if I should get medical attention or wait to see what happens.

    Reply
  4. Hi I have been up all nite online trying to be certain what kind of bug this could be, I have a picture, I want to know if it is harmful to my 4yr old & myself. We live in michigan.

    Reply
  5. A few years ago I found one of these and thought he looked like a diving beetle, so I briefly put him in water (like a max of thirty seconds) to see if he was. Obviously he wasn’t and he got his revenge by stinking up my hands when I fished him out haha but I deserved it and now every time I see one I think of that poor little beetle that I unintentionally terrorized and laugh at myself

    Reply
  6. I’m finding these in my backyard. I’m located in Antelope Valley, California.

    I have some plants that have yellowing leaves and some of the young branches on my apricot tree are drying out and dying.

    Could this insect be responsible for my garden’s problems?

    Reply

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