Stilt Bug: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Stilt bugs are delicate, slender insects with long legs and antennae, making them easy to recognize. Their antennae have a characteristic apical club, and the spined stilt bug is a common species found in the eastern United States. These bugs can cause damage to crops such as corn, peach, and tomato, making them a potential concern for farmers source.

To learn more about stilt bugs, it’s essential to understand their defining features and the environments where they thrive. This article will provide you with all the necessary information, helping you to identify and possibly manage stilt bugs in your area. Stay tuned as we delve into the fascinating world of stilt bugs and their impact on agriculture.

What is a Stilt Bug?

A stilt bug is a fascinating insect that belongs to the order Hemiptera, also known as the true bugs, within the class Insecta and phylum Arthropoda. These delicate and elongate creatures are easily recognizable by their long, slender legs and antennae with a characteristic apical club. They are commonly found in the eastern United States and their range extends west to the Great Plains.

The spined stilt bug is one of the most prevalent species and can be problematic for some crops. They are known to damage corn, peach, and tomato plants. However, they also serve as natural predators, feeding on harmful pests such as caterpillar eggs, aphids, and other soft-bodied insects. This dual characteristic makes them both a pest and a beneficial insect in certain contexts.

To give you an idea of their classification, here is a brief overview:

  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hemiptera (true bugs)
  • Suborder: Heteroptera
  • Family: Berytidae (stilt bugs)

Some key features of stilt bugs include:

  • Long, slender legs and antennae
  • Elongate and delicate body
  • Apical club on antennae
  • Predator of soft-bodied insects and pests
  • Can cause damage to certain crops

To summarize, stilt bugs are fascinating members of the insect world with their unique appearance and dual role in the ecosystem. As you encounter them, remember that they can be both beneficial and harmful depending on the context. Keep an open mind and respect these incredible creatures for their adaptability and resilience.

Characteristics of Stilt Bugs

Physical Description

Stilt bugs are delicate and elongate insects with slender bodies. Their most noticeable feature is their long legs, which give them a graceful appearance. These creatures also possess long antennae, with a characteristic apical club. Belonging to the family Lygaeoidea, stilt bugs vary in size but are generally slender in appearance.

The spined stilt bug is a common species in the eastern United States and can be found damaging crops such as corn, peach, and tomato.

Behavior and Habits

Stilt bugs are quite fascinating when it comes to their behaviors and habits. Since they have long legs, their movements are quite interesting to observe. These bugs move gracefully, which is why they’re often called “stilt” bugs.

In the natural environment, stilt bugs are known to feed on other small insects. Some species are also found causing damage to crops, as mentioned earlier.

Overall, stilt bugs are an intriguing group of insects with unique physical features and behaviors. When encountering them, be sure to take the time to appreciate their delicate appearance and interesting habits.

Stilt Bug Varieties

As you explore the world of stilt bugs, you will come across several fascinating species. Some common ones include Jalysus, J. wickhami, Jalysus spinosus, Jalysus wickhami, Berytinus minor, and Metacanthus. These unique insects belong to the family Berytidae, also known as Berytidae Fieber 1851 or Neididae.

Let’s discuss some outstanding features that characterize these varieties:

  • Jalysus spinosus: One of the most common species in the eastern United States, this stilt bug damages crops such as corn, peach, and tomato. With its long, slender legs and antennae, it has a distinctive appearance (source).

  • Jalysus wickhami: A less common stilt bug, yet still important to be aware of. Like other stilt bugs, it also has long legs and antennae.

  • Berytinus minor: A smaller stilt bug variety, it is known for being harmless to plants and humans.

Here is a comparison table to better understand the unique features of these stilt bug varieties:

Species Location Impact on Crops Size
Jalysus spinosus Eastern US Damages corn, peach, and tomato Medium
Jalysus wickhami Less common Unknown Medium
Berytinus minor Not specified Harmless to plants Small

It’s essential to remember that these stilt bugs are part of the vast Berytidae family, which boasts a variety of specimens. Keep your eyes open for these interesting creatures as you navigate the enthralling world of insects.

Predatory and Beneficial Aspects

Stilt bugs are predatory insects that can be beneficial in your garden or farming landscape. These insects, which belong to the family Berytidae, can help control populations of common plant pests like aphids and mites, thanks to their predatory nature.

As you manage your garden or crops, it’s important to understand the advantages of having stilt bugs on your side. Here are some key aspects of their predatory and beneficial nature:

  • Stilt bugs are voracious predators of soft-bodied insects such as aphids and mites.
  • They can be considered a form of biological control that reduces the need for chemical interventions, promoting a healthier environment.
  • The presence of stilt bugs can enhance the overall balance of your garden’s ecosystem, as they regulate common pests.

For example, in addition to aphids and mites, stilt bugs also prey on other small insects, contributing to the maintenance of a balanced ecosystem. However, it’s worth mentioning that their presence can become an issue in some cases, especially when it comes to growing tomatoes in greenhouses, where they might feed on the stems and cause damage.

In conclusion, stilt bugs can be a beneficial addition to your garden or farming landscape, controlling populations of pests like aphids and mites due to their predaceous nature. Recognizing and appreciating their presence can help you maintain a healthier and more sustainable environment for your plants.

Stilt Bugs and Plants

Stilt Bugs and Crops

Stilt bugs can cause damage to various crops, particularly tomato, corn, and peach plants. They are occasional pests of greenhouse tomatoes, and their presence has been reported in several states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Nebraska.

These bugs can harm crops by feeding on the stems and fruits. It’s essential to keep an eye on your plants and monitor for any stilt bug infestations. If detected early, you can take measures to protect the crops from further damage.

Stilt Bugs and Wild Plants

Stilt bugs are not only found on cultivated crops but also on various wild plants. Some common wild plants they can inhabit include evening primrose, grasses, and Panicum species. These insects can often be seen feeding on the leaves and stems of these plants.

As a gardener or plant enthusiast, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the types of plants that may attract stilt bugs, so you can take preventive action:

  • Evening primrose
  • Grasses
  • Panicum species

By staying informed and vigilant, you can protect your crops and wild plants from the damaging effects of stilt bugs.

Feeding Habits and Damage

Feeding on Plant Sap

Stilt bugs primarily feed on plant sap. They are phytophagous insects, which means that they have a diet that mainly consists of plant-based materials. To feed, they use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce plant tissues and suck out the sap. Here’s an example of a plant they commonly feed on:

  • Sunflowers: Stilt bugs are often found on sunflower plants, feeding on the plant sap.

Effects on Plants

When stilt bugs feed on the sap of plants, they can cause some damage. This damage could result in:

  1. Flower and fruit abortion: The feeding damage can affect the growth and development of flowers and fruits, which may lead to abortion of these plant parts.

  2. Fruit abortion: In some cases, the stilt bugs’ feeding can cause the entire fruit to abort, severely affecting the plant’s reproduction and yield.

In comparison to other pests, stilt bugs may not cause as significant damage. However, it’s essential to be aware of their feeding habits and the potential harm they can pose to plants in their range.

Stilt Bugs in Different Locations

Stilt bugs are delicate, slender insects with long legs and antennae. One of the most common species in the eastern United States is the spined stilt bug, which can be found in various locations, including gardens and agricultural crops.

In your garden, stilt bugs can be both helpful and harmful. They feed on small insects such as aphids, which can be beneficial, but they can also damage your plants. For example, spined stilt bugs are known to harm corn, peach, and tomato crops in the eastern United States.

When dealing with stilt bugs, consider these simple tips:

  • Monitor your garden regularly for signs of damage or infestation.
  • Use eco-friendly pest control methods, such as introducing natural predators or using insecticidal soaps.

In different locations, the impact of stilt bugs may vary. Be cautious when planting the crops mentioned above, as they might attract stilt bugs, causing damage to your garden or farm. By understanding their habits and staying vigilant, you can prevent their proliferation and keep your plants healthy and thriving.

Interesting Facts and Other Information

You might find it fascinating that stilt bugs have glandular-hairy legs, which gives them their unique appearance. With more than 25 known genera, stilt bugs come in various shapes and sizes.

Their subfamilies mainly include two groups – the Berytinae and Metacanthinae. Here are some features of stilt bugs:

  • Delicate, slender body
  • Long, slender legs
  • Elongate antennae with apical clubs

One common species found mostly in the eastern United States is the spined stilt bug. This particular bug has been known to damage corn, peach, and tomato crops.

To compare the numbers of stilt bugs with other insects, a table is provided below:

Insect Approximate Number of Species
Stilt Bugs 25+ genera, 150+ species
Beetles 400,000
Butterflies 17,500

These bugs can also have different synonyms or common names, such as the spined stilt bug sometimes being referred to as the “tomato stilt bug.”

So, when you encounter these unique insects, remember that their long legs and antennae, variety of subfamilies and species, and diverse range make them an interesting group to learn about in the world of bugs.

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Mating Stilt Bugs


Not sure about this bug
I thought it was some kind of walking stick, but someone said to me it was more of a true bug. I am perplexed now as I haven’t found anything like it in various books for insects in our area. I thought it might be a North American walking stick but I realize it is way too small for that. I caught those two lovebirds in my backyard in Beloeil, Qc, Canada. The berries will give you an idea of their size. If you can give me a pointer in some direction on this one? Thank you for your lovely site!

Hi Frederic,
These are mating Stilt Bugs, not the Thread Legged Bugs we originally thought when we wrote back to you. Stilt Bugs are True Bugs in the family Berytidae. Some species are predators and others feed on plants according to BugGuide. We are very happy to post your images since this is a new family for our site.

Letter 2 – Mating Stilt Bugs


found it
Location:  Northern Indiana
August 18, 2010 9:25 am
I recently sent a few pics of insects I’ve found in Northern Indiana. I have been able to ID it with Peterson’s Field Guide, and then confirmed it with pics on BugGuide. They are stilt bugs (the Berytidae Family). Just thought I’d let you know so you don’t spend a lot of time searching for it.

Mating Stilt Bugs

Hi Vince,
Thanks so much for resending your photograph and identification.  We apologize, but your first attempt slipped under our radar and we never saw the letter.  We are very excited to have this image of mating Stilt Bugs because the family Berytidae was not represented on our site until your letter.  According to BugGuide members of the family can be identified because:  “Antennae have four segments, the fourth enlarged.

Letter 3 – Metamorphosis of a Stilt Bug


Subject: Mystery activity?
Location: Fannie, Ark.
August 26, 2014 8:03 pm
Who are these actors and what activity are they engaged in? Is one a male and one a female? Is one giving birth to the other? What is that gray worm-like thing coming out of the face of the larger? Why are the antennae of the winged smaller curving back to the thorax of the larger? Etc. Is this a unique photo? Can’t find anything like it on line!
Signature: Bill Burton

Metamorphosis of a Stilt Bug

Dear Bill,
The activity depicted in your image is metamorphosis.  The green nymph is emerging from the exoskeleton of an earlier instar so that the insect can grow.  Because of the proboscis, this insect looks like it might be a Hemipteran, possibly an Assassin Bug, but we are not certain.  We have requested assistance from Eric Eaton in the identification and classification.  It is a lovely image.

Eric Eaton Provides Identification
Wow, what an amazing image!  That is a stilt bug, family Berytidae.

Many thanks! I can now put it up on Capture Arkansas.

Letter 4 – Stilt Bugs


Subject: Insect on gourds
Location: Norman, OK
July 12, 2014 11:45 am
I am having difficulty identifying a particular insect dwelling on my lagenaria gourds. The attached images show an adult and a pair of immature insects. They can fly, at least short distances, but they keep the wings against these body when at rest and the wings are inconspicuous at that time. They seem to be reproducing quickly. I would rather not remove a beneficial insect from my garden but I suspect they are sucking insects–they have a thin probe-type extension that they seem to be using to feed, much like a mosquito.
Signature: Lizzie Boger

Stilt Bug
Stilt Bug

Hi Lizzie,
At first we thought this might be a predatory Thread Legged Bug, but we quickly realized the antennae and front legs are very different.  We quickly matched your adult to a Stilt Bug on BugGuide and we learned on the BugGuide information page that:  “Hosts include Oenothera biennis, Gaura, Panicum, tomatoes, sometimes ornamental gourds.
J. spinosus is in part predatory (survival much higher when animal food is available).”  So it appears to be a partially predatory species that also feeds on ornamental gourds.

Stilt Bug Nymphs
Stilt Bug Nymphs

Thank you! I appreciate the identification. I adore your website and its lovely insect photos.


  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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.

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