Seed bugs loved to munch on coniferous plants, but a research report set the cat among the pigeons by claiming they bite humans too. So, do seed bugs bite? We explore this in the article below.
No, seed bugs do not bite. But one case was reported in a research journal of a seed bug biting a human, which was the first and probably the last reported case!
Most entomologists believe that it was an accidental biting or that the authors of the journal mistook a wasp for a seed bug.
What Are Seed Bugs?
Seed Bugs (scientifically named Leptoglossus Occidentalis) were first discovered in Michigan in 1987 but have since moved to many other states.
These bugs feed on the seeds of coniferous trees (hence the name) and the tissue of their cone cells.
In the adult form, these bugs measure a little less than an inch in length. They are brown on top, while their abdomen is yellow or orange colored with black patches.
The most distinguishing feature of these bugs is the noise they make while flying, which sounds very similar to that of a bumble bee.
Can Seed Bugs Bite Humans?
As we mentioned in the introduction, seed bugs don’t bite, except for the solitary insect bite report in a single scientific journal.
Entomologists largely concur that these bugs don’t bite. But whatever we have written below is based on that report.
What Does The Bite Look Like?
Seed bugs like feeding on plants and seeds rather than sucking blood which is obvious from their name. Only only one case of accidental biting by a seed bug.
The report said a lesion appeared on the skin, lasting for 48 hours. The skin around the area remained red for about a month.
What To Do if You Get Bitten?
There isn’t any proven method to treat a seed bug bite because it almost never happens. You can follow the general treatment for bug bites.
For instance, you can apply an ice pack to soothe the region or use an anti-itch cream or doodling gel on the lesion.
Are They Poisonous?
No, seed bugs are not poisonous to humans. They feed only on plant seeds and not on animal skin or their blood (technically termed phytophagous).
In the one case of seed bug bite so far, there was no poisonous reaction reported. We can safely assume that these bugs are in no way dangerous to humans.
Are They Harmful In Other Ways?
Yes, they could become a nuisance pest because of their rather bad stink. These bugs have a defense mechanism that yields a foul odor when attacked.
You might startle the bug accidentally, or it might just perceive you as a threat due to your size and release a stink bomb on you.
During cold weather, these seed bugs might move into your home in large numbers, creating a big problem with their stink bombs.
How Can You Prevent Them From Coming Inside Your Home?
Seed Bugs can enter your house through open windows and doors and hide in the cracks and grooves of your house.
So, to prevent them from coming inside your house, you should seal all the gaps in the window panes and fill the cracks with sealing clay or tape.
You can also regularly spray insecticides in your house to check the population of insects growing inside and outside your house.
Chemical insecticides are not suitable for a house with pets and children, so it would be best if you use natural insecticides such as neem oil to keep the seed bugs away.
Alternatively, you can spray pesticides on the perimeter of your house. Make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging to know the frequency at which to spray.
Vacuuming a bunch of seed bugs is another easy way to remove these rather slow-paced bugs. Just suck them up and throw the bag outside near a coniferous tree.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can stink bugs bite?
No, stink bugs do not bite either humans or their pets. Despite the rather foul odor they emit, they cause no harm to you or your surroundings.
They release certain substances which can be potentially dangerous and can cause allergies in some people.
Is there a bug that looks like a seed?
There are a few bugs that can be mistaken for a seed. For example, a flea beetle looks like a 10-inch long black seed from a distance or until you poke it.
Another great example is rice weevils that look like small black seeds in a jar of rice while it’s actually a bug.
What do you do with Western conifer seed bugs?
To get rid of western conifer seed bugs, you can try spraying chemical or natural insecticides along the affected area at regular intervals.
You can also spray pesticides on the outside walls of your house. Seal all the cracks and gaps in between your window panes to prevent their entry inside your house.
Are there western conifer seed bugs in Utah?
Western conifer seed bugs are largely concentrated in North America in the British Columbia region. However, recently they have been spotted in Utah as well. They mostly inhabit rodent nests and electrical outlets and feed on cones of Douglas firs.
Seed bugs are leaf-footed bugs that can become nuisance pests and enter your house through wall vents in the winter.
They won’t harm you or bite you, but they can stink up your home. In the solitary case of accidental biting, it caused lesions that lasted for one to two days.
Thanks for reading!
One of the most often asked questions to us about any bugs is whether it bites or not. When this research report came out that seed bugs can bite, there were a lot of reactions to it.
Over the years, several emails and communications from our readers have convinced us that seed bugs, in fact, do not bite at all. Read on, and let us know what you think!
Letter 1 – Aggregating Seed Bugs: Melacoryphus lateralis
Kissing bugs? And why are they congregating?
Location: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ
July 29, 2010 3:47 pm
Hi folks! We have been noticing in recent weeks (how could we not?!) that these bugs have been congregating in large numbers on the park offices security gate around sunrise.
They somewhat resemble kissing bugs/assassin bugs in appearance but are much smaller than species we are familar with.
Questions: Are they in fact kissing bugs, and if so, do they suck vertebrate blood? There were no birds or other wildlife hanging around for a feast, so are they unpalatable to wildlife? And finally, why would they be attracted to the gate’s electronics and lights? Thanks,
Ed Kuklinski, Sarah Howard
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ
Ed Kuklinski, Sarah Howard
Your documentation of aggregating Seed Bugs is fantastic. They appear to be Melacoryphus lateralis, based on images posted to BugGuide, which notes: “Often comes to lights. Reported in large numbers especially in July/August in Arizona, Nevada, other western states.“ Many insects are attracted to lights, and we have no theory why they are attracted to the electronics. To the best of our knowledge, Seed Bugs are not unpalatable. Your photo of the lamp post is especially fascinating. We just posted a photo of unidentified nymphs from Arizona, and we wonder if they might be immature Seed Bugs.
Letter 2 – Mating Harlequin Bugs from Australia
Subject: What Beetle is this
Location: Cooma NSW Australia
October 11, 2015 5:08 pm
I found these beetles eating on all the buds of a plant in my garden this morning. I live in Cooma NSW (Snowy Mountains region). Hoping you can help.
Signature: Diedre Rees
These are mating Seed Bugs in the family Lygaeidae, but we have not had any luck identifying their species. We did find a matching image on My Australian Insects, but alas, it is unidentified there as well. Perhaps one of our readers can steer us to a link with an identity.
Update: Harlequin Bugs, Dindymus versicolor
Thanks to a comment from Matthew, we are able to provide some links to the Harlequin Bug. According to the Atlas of Living Australia: “Harlequin Bugs usually cluster in large numbers on fences, walls, wood heaps and tree trunks. Mating pairs face opposite directions, joined at the end of the abdomens; the larger female usually dictates the direction of movement. They feed on a variety of weeds and plants, often damaging fruits and vegetables.” According to the blog, A Year in a Gippsland Garden: “For anyone looking at these little bugs in the garden and wondering if they are a potential problem or not the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ The Harlequin bug does not take great big obvious bites out of anything, it hides and sucks the life out tender stems (and fruit). Look for stem damage and wilting flower buds and fruit. In my garden I have observed them in greatest numbers on Callistemon, Australian native hibiscus, nasturtium, tomatoes, and hollyhocks. They have also been in numbers on sweetcorn, sunflowers, sage and roses.”
Letter 3 – Red BAnded Seed Eating Bug from Australia
Orange and black bug with white spots
Location: Perth, Western Australia
November 7, 2010 3:57 am
I’ve been seeing these bugs around for the last several years but neither I nor anybody I know has any idea what they are. I remember back before around 2000 I’d never seen one, then I started seeing them everywhere. Nowadays they’re pretty rare, again.
In any case, the photos are the best description I can give. They’re skittish little things, that act a bit like ants.
I live in Perth, in Western Australia. That’s really all the information I can give on them. Any ideas? And thanks.
Signature: Tom L.
This appears to be a Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae and it bears an uncanny resemblance to insects in the genus Lygaeus that are found in North America and that are pictured on BugGuide. Since the members of the genus Lygaeus are known as Milkweed Bugs, we tried to search the Brisbane Insect Website for matching images of Milkweed Bugs, and though there are several, they are not your insect. We hope we are eventually able to provide you with a definite identification.
Identification Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Tom:
It looks like a Red-banded Seed-eating Bug, Melanerythrus mactans (Lygaeidae: Lygaeinae). As far as I can tell there are four other Melanerythrus species in Australia, but M. mactans is the only one that occurs in the Perth area. It ranges throughout Australia, except Tasmania, as well as parts of Indonesia, Fiji and Western Samoa. I suspect that at least some of the distribution outside of Australia can be attributed to accidental introductions. According to the Australian Faunal Directory the species is arboreal, gregarious and partial to pecans. Regards.
Letter 4 – Seed Bug
Subject: Neacoryphus lateralis?
Location: Santa Fe, NM
May 3, 2014 1:08 pm
I was walking around Santa Fe, NM yesterday and somehow ended up with this guy tangled in my hair! My sister extricated it and identified it as some sort of benign seed bug, so we released it nearby after taking some pictures. It looks to me like the Neacoryphus lateralis specimens in your site’s seed bug files. I don’t remember seeing any other individuals in the area, though–just this one!
We are in total agreement with your identification, but in the interest of modern taxonomy, we need to make a correction. The genus for this Seed Bug is now listed on BugGuide as being Melacoryphus lateralis, and there is a note: “Orig. Comb: Neacoryphus lateralis Dallas, 1852″ which implies genus lumping.
Letter 5 – Possibly Seed Bug from Australia
Possible Mirid bug
Location: Sydney, Australia
December 1, 2010 3:12 am
About 10mm long. On, I think, an hibiscus leaf in downtown Sydney, Australia.
What do you think?
Signature: Mike Gordon
We are more inclined toward a tentative identification of your insect being an immature Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae. We looked through the family page on the Brisbane Insect Website and did not locate any matches, but several of the nymphs pictures look similar to your specimen, though without the distinctive coloration.
Letter 6 – Red Seed Bug with Rasputin's Face
Found this in my Morison’s "washed and ready" salad!
May well have eaten one of his relatives with my pizza… As it’s early spring in the UK, I suspect this is not native to us. Possibly Iberian? Look forward to a response.
We believe this is a Seed Bug in the Family Lygaeidae. We want to post it before we get a positive identification as we are amused the bug looks like it has an image of Rasputin’s face on its back.
Thanks for the prompt response. Hadn’t noticed the image. Not sure whether to claim it’s Rasputin or notify our church! Off to Morrisons supermarket today for an explanation. Thanks again.
Letter 7 – Seed Bug
bug on the mountain dalea bush in Tucson, Arizona
I found lots of these bugs on my mountain dalea bush. Very prominent in early mornings and late afternoons. They hide during the hottest times of day. Can you help me identify this bug? At first I thought it was a boxelder but its orange pattern doesn’t look exactly the same. And I do know now that it isn’t a blister beetle either. Thanks in advance,
Interestingly, despite the superficial resemblance, Boxelder Bugs and your Seed Bug are not even in the same family. Your Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae is Neacoryphus lateralis, and you can substantiate this on BugGuide.
Letter 8 – Seed Bug
I live in Scottsdale next to mountainous desert, and our house has been invaded by thousands, if not millions of these little beetles. My pest control guy either couldn’t ID them, or mis-ID’d them (I believe) as a carpet beetle. They are 1⁄4 inch in length and can fly. They have come out in the rainy monsoon season this summer. Any info you could provide would be much appreciated.
This is a benign Seed Bug with no common name, Neacoryphus lateralis. While we are certain there are many reputable exterminators out there, others will probably try to convince you that every crawling creature on your property is detrimental to the health and welfare of your family, or damaging to your home or garden. Remember, spraying pesticides on your property is a paycheck for the exterminator, and pesticides are not species specific.
Letter 9 – Seed Bug from India
Subject: Bug identification
Geographic location of the bug: Lonavala, Pune District, Maharashtra, India
Time: 12:35 AM EDT
I found this bug on 16th september, 2017. Looks similar to Indian Milkweed Bug. But I am not sure about the ID. YOur help is appreciated.
How you want your letter signed: Girish Ketkar
This is definitely a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, but it does not look like a Milkweed Bug to us. We found this stock photo image on Shutterstock that really looks like your bug, and it is identified as the Indian Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus confusus, but when we looked up that species on Insects in Indian Agroecosystems, it appears to identify a different species than the one on Shutterstock, so we are presuming Shutterstock is wrong. In our opinion, it looks more (but not exactly) like Thunbergia sanguinarius in the Seed Bug family Lygaeidae which is also pictured on Insects in Indian Agroecosystems.
Letter 10 – Seed Bugs from Spain
Found clusters of these tiny flies on our citrus trees in Spain. Can you identify them please. Thanks
All we can tell you at the moment is that these are not flies. They are True Bugs in the suborder Heteroptera. The last time we needed assistance on a Heteropteran from the Canary Islands, we turned to Jordi Ribes. We will try to contact him again. He wrote back with the following species identification in the family Lygaeidae, the Seed Bugs.
Dear Mr Marlos,
Picture: = Oxycarenus lavaterae (Fabricius) Lygaeidae. Best wishes
Letter 11 – Seed Bugs in Pool
Subject: pool invaders
Location: San Diego California 92117
April 27, 2016 4:03 pm
These abundant lil bugs showed up in our pool yesterday. What are they?
Signature: swarmed swimmer
Dear swarmed swimmer,
We are not able to provide a definitive species identification at this time, but in our opinion these are either Seed Bugs in the family Lygaeidae (see BugGuide) or Dirt Colored Seed Bugs in the family Rhyparochromidae (also see BugGuide). There are species in both families that periodically have tremendous population explosions when conditions are right. They look very much like the Seed Bugs that infested Burning Man that are profiled on Gizmodo.
Letter 12 – Unidentified Immature Seed Bugs infest Lake Elsinore
Subject: what’s this bug-we have millions all over!
Location: Lake Elsinore, CA
August 13, 2017 8:32 am
Morning, was looking at your site and see alot about the red shoulder bugs, just want to make sure that is what we are dealing with. 2 days ago we had an infestation of millions of these bugs marching through our yard, on walls, fences, and all over the house! Have washed down the house but they just go right back on the walls, I have also gone through a fair amount of bug spray, but that is costly and may be harmful to my pets and family. I will definitely try the soap trick, because now they are moving into the house a few at a time, but do want to know if you think it is the red shoulder bugs I am battling, or we had found milk weed bugs/beetles as a possiblity, too, but nothing about the hoarding numbers that we have. Thank you, Doreen
Signature: Doreen Blake
These are immature Seed Bugs, and nymphs can be very difficult to correctly identify. They look exactly like this unidentified submission from our archives that might be immature Whitecrossed Seed Bugs. A different species of Seed Bug, Melacoryphus lateralis, is discussed in this US News article on infestations in Lone Pine. We are sorry, but the best we can do at this time is a family identification of Lygaeidae.
Letter 13 – Unknown Seed Bug from Australia
Subject: Milkweed bug?
Location: New South Wales, Australia
July 21, 2015 1:19 pm
Hello! Came across this bug last week while in New South Wales, Australia, but am unable to find its species online. All I’m certain about is that it’s in the true bug (Hemiptera) category, and highly likely from the family Lygaeidae. (Photo has been scaled down for upload purposes)
Any help will be appreciated.
Thanks and regards
Our “go to” site for Australian identifications, the Brisbane Insect Site, has wonderful images of this species, but they are only identified to the family level and they are being unofficially called the 4 Coloured Bug. They were feeding on a milk vine plant in the genus Marsdenia. An image on FlickR is also listed as unknown and identified to the family level. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide additional information.
Letter 14 – Unknown True Bug, Possibly Seed Bug, from Israel
Red and Black bug – Israel
December 22, 2009
I remember I used to see this bug all the time usually in large groups. I saw one while eating lunch, just one alone and took this picture.
I took this in downtown Jerusalem. I know I have seen it in other parts of the county, but mainly in the Jerusalem area and in pine forests. I would say that it is about 1.5-2 cm long
Seraphya Berrin – Israel
The best we can provide at the moment is that this is a True Bug in the order Hemiptera. We believe it may be a Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae. It closely resembles Lygaeus equestris, a European species. It is pictured on the Fauna of Israel website. Unless there is variability in the coloration of individuals, your specimen differs from the images online in that it has fewer black spots on the wings and lacks the red mark on the head. Hopefully, we will get some family or species identification assistance from our readership.