Bragada Bug (Painted Bug)

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Hello dear friends.  Today I’d like to introduce you to a fairly recent transplant to the California and Southwest home garden scene.  Everyone, this is the Bragada Bug (a.k.a. Painted Bug).  Bragada Bug… these wonderful folks are my friends.

Let me forewarn you.  I try to stay upbeat and positive in all areas of my life, including my gardening adventures, but to be truthful, this bug has me a bit nervous.  There’s nothing funny about this invasive pest.  It’s very prolific, both adults and nymphs have a ferocious appetite and as individuals and en masse, they can be extremely destructive to your precious home-grown veggie plants.

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Here’s a few highlights that I’ve learned about the Bragada Bug…

  • It looks almost identical to a Harlequin bug, but it’s a fraction of its size ~ and it is not a Harlequin bug, it’s a small stink bug (Pentatomidae: Heteroptera)

  • It originated from Africa and India

  • First discovered in Orange County, California in 2008 its spread throughout California and east to Arizona within two years time ~ yikes!

  • It’s a warm season insect and loves hot and arid climates and adults begin to fly when temps are above 85°F ~ bad news for us folks in the southwest

  • They are most active and on the plants during the hottest part of the day

  • They hide in the soil, base of plants or under leaves during cool parts of the day

  • Females can lay approximately 100 eggs in just 2-3 short weeks ~ and the eggs can hatch within 4-8 days depending on how hot it is (heat hastens the process)

  • There are very few control products available to big ag and even fewer control products for the organic gardener 😦

  • It has an insatiable appetite for cole crops, but wait… it doesn’t end there (see Plant List below)

  • It leaves a telltale light green starburst pattern on the leaves after feeding (see Damage below)

Okay, we’ve had our fair share of bugs to contend with in our gardens over the years, but this one… this one is a formidable garden adversary that could bring some of us to our knees crying and blubbering all over ourselves and our loved ones, especially if this pest is seen in the hundreds huddling together and feasting in unison on our most beloved veggie plants.

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Chin up gardeners… we will get through this together one Bragada Bug at a time.  There is hope.  We will prevail!  So far, I’ve been able to keep this pesky little bug under control in my garden.  I have a strategy based on research, diligence and patience that seems to be working and I’ll be very happy to share that with you later in this post.

A Birds-Eye Perspective

Now that I’ve given you a brief introduction to the Bragada Bug, let’s take a little closer look at our new garden friend (wink, wink).  It’s diminutive size alone can make it challenging to see in the garden and usually goes unnoticed until their numbers begin to increase.  By then, they’ve already begun to get a foot hold in your garden.

In my research, I came across a number of online sites that, in my opinion, did a poor job of describing the actual size of this pest.  Sure they gave measurements and “described their size” with written words, one even had a silhouette of the pest’s actual size and others showed photos that were difficult to discern the size from.  So, here’s my attempt to demonstrate their actual size to you.

061214_Bragada7This photo shows you a number of (dead ~ sorry) adult Bragada Bugs.  I had captured a number of them to help me identify them through research and during their stay in their plastic accommodations, they perished.  About one week later, I was about ready to toss out the plastic baggie when I noticed something moving among the bug debris… a Bragada Bug nymph.  Apparently, one of the adults had babies during their stay and one was still alive.  Look at the size of that little guy (or gal).  Think you can see this nymph in your veggie garden walking along the soil?

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Plant List
Bragada Bugs favs…

According to UC Davis IPM, the following plants are required for optimal reproduction and is under serious threat by the Bragada bug (invasive):

  • Mustard plants (Host plants)
    • Cruciferous weeds such as various wild mustards, shepherd’s purse, London rocket, and pepperweed
  • Brassica genus crops and related cruciferous crops
    • arugula
    • asian greens (i.e., bok choi, tatsoi, etc.)
    • broccoli
    • brussel sprouts
    • cabbage
    • cauliflower
    • chinese cabbage
    • collards
    • kale
    • kohlrabi
    • mustard greens (black, indian, mizuna, etc.)
    • radish
    • rutabaga
    • turnips
  • Ornamental landscape plants
    • Sweet Alyssum
    • Candytuft
    • Nasturtiums
    • Rockcress
    • Stock
    • Wallflower

When Brigada Bug densities are high and crucifers are scarce, they can attack the vegetative and flowering growth of…

  • corn
  • grasses (i.e., bermuda)
  • sudangrass
  • sorghum
  • sunflowers
  • potato
  • cotton
  • thistle
  • wheat
  • and some legumes, including snap beans

And cause feeding damage on the fruit of…

  • bell peppers
  • melons
  • papayas
  • tomatoes
  • capers

Damage

Both the adults and nymphs feed on the leaves, stems (growth points), flowers, and seeds of your garden plants. They have a needle-like mouth part that they insert into the plant tissue in a “sawing-like” motion in which they inject a digestive enzyme (yuck) and suck down juices and usually the life out of whatever they’re feasting on. Their feeding habits leave a telltale sign of their presence… a light green starburst lesion.

From a distance, it may be hard to see the starburst pattern and may look like “scorched” leaves, but upon closer inspection, the evidence is clear.

061214_Bragada10 061214_Bragada11 061214_Bragada12The Bragada Bugs likes to go after young seedling cotelydons and growth points (terminal bud) and are usually successful in either stunting its growth or the more likely outcome, the untimely death of the seedling. And it goes without saying, if you see these pests in your garden, take special care to watch over your seedlings, especially if the plant is one of their favs (see Plant List above).  Keep in mind that a single Bragada Bug can and will suck the life out of small seedling cotelydons within just a few days.  Just think what two or more Bragada Bugs could do.  Frightening.

Currently these pests seem to flock to following plants in my veggie garden:

  • Tatsoi
  • Bok Choi
  • Mizuna (mustard)
  • Nasturtiums

After discovering them in my garden and doing some intensive research on these little stinkbugs, I decided to pull out my Bok Choi and Nasturtiums and leave the Tatsoi and Mizuna (which are planted right next to each other) as “trap” plants.  To date, I’ve been able to use these two “trap” plants successfully to unleash my feverish assaults on these guys.  I have officially declared war. There will be no yield reductions, misshapen or premature plant loss to these guys in my garden. Not on my watch.  F-R-E-E-D-O-M!  Yeah, too many movies.

 

So What Can An Organic Home Gardening Health-Conscious Beneficial Lovin’ Chem-Phobe Person Do?

Here’s my recommendation based on the success I’ve had to date in keeping this buggar’s numbers low in my garden…

  1. Build the health of your soil and plants ~ this is an important one. Healthy soil is chock full of nutrition, minerals and microbes that help to fortify your veggie plants. It’s a well-known fact that unhealthy plants attract and harbor pests and healthy plants are able to withstand their attacks and are typically left alone. FYI: the plants that are being attacked in my garden are cool weather plants under 30% shade cloth and were struggling just a bit to begin with.
  2. Early detection ~ Bragada bug populations can grow in size very quickly if left unchecked in the home garden.  I’ve seen photos (online) of these guys clustered together by the thousands in a small area, something no home gardener wants to see in their garden.When I first saw this pest in my garden, it took me a couple of weeks to find out its true identity. Normally, when I discover a new pest in my garden, I quickly research my subject at hand with a goal of seeking out answers within a couple of days. I have to admit I was a little slack this time and a bit over-confident in the fact that I have had very few pests this year.  Credit to the improvements we’ve made to our raised bed soil (microbes, minerals, etc.) and to our weekly holistic sprays in our veggie garden.  Knowing what I know now about these guys, I’m thankful that I was smart enough to continue my daily “squishing” of these pests when I found them.I also began to notice a pattern… they really liked my Tatsoi plant and nasturtiums.
  3. Daily Search and Destroy ~ Unfortunately, you have to keep a constant look out for these guys.  As soon as you turn your back or get comfortable with their reduced numbers, they’ll breed like rabbits on too much caffeine and out number you 100+ to 1.  Just be sure to add this task to your daily gardening routine.  1x a day is good. 2x a day is better. 3x a day is best!  Remember, these guys like to get busy during the hottest part of the day, so if you’re used to going out first thing in the morning to tend to your garden, they may still be in the soil or tucked in at the base of your plants to stay warm.  A visit to the garden around 2PM or 3PM is in order and then a final check in the early evening while the sun is still out.  If you do this every day, it will only take a few minutes each time.
    Most days we find about 20 or so of these guys (usually as attached couples), but on cooler days we’ll find significantly less.
  4. Now the Destroy part ~ harsh words for an insect, I know, but seriously… these guys can make a quick mess of your beautiful hard-earned veggie garden.  Though I do not believe in total annihilation, these pests do need to be kept in check or their numbers will grow to uncontrollable proportions in no time. The secret weapon?
    1. A 32 ounce spray bottle (set to a strong stream) and 2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap or Seventh Generation Unscented Liquid Dish Soap.  That’s it?  Yes, that’s it.  Trust me, I’ve tested this recipe about a hundred times now and it works.Simply keep your spray bottle/soapy solution with you at all times in the garden and when you see a Bragada Bug, give em’ a good squirt. Make sure the soapy water makes contact with them. Spraying it just on the leaves or ground for some unsuspecting Bragada Bug to stumble upon simply won’t work.  The soapy water takes about 10 seconds to do its magic. First they’ll pull themselves up and out of the soapy water and slowly walk away.  In just a second or two, they’ll look like they’re picking up their skirt to tip toe carefully through a mud puddle, then begin to wobble as they walk and finally flip over and die.
    2. Squish them ~ in my opinion, the soapy water is the best solution, but if you’d like to take out a little aggression or do not have your soapy water handy, go for it. Most stinkbugs emit an offensive odor when squished, but I have not noticed any odor coming from these guys, and trust me, I’ve squished my fair share em’ this past month.  Another thing to keep in mind is that these guys are fast, so when you see them, you need to act quickly.  Also, if you’re trying to sneak up on them, try not to cast a shadow over the plant they’re on.  I’ve noticed that when this happens, the Bragadas on the plant take the warning very seriously and are on alert or begin to scatter. Note:  Diatomaceous earth does not work!  DE does not affect these guys.  Using my hand puffer device, I thoroughly “puffed” em until they looked like little walking powder puffs but to my utter dismay, I found them carrying on normal business in my garden several hours later, powder-do and all.  I was even able to flip a few on their back (three to be exact) and puffed em’.  Nothing. Nada.  Energizer bunnies I tell you.
  5. Grow a Trap Plant ~ Now this one I’m still on the fence about and am hesitant in recommending it to you.  I happen to have two trap plants that are planted next to each other not because I was being all smart and planning for these pests, but rather it was dumb luck that I had planted the Bragada Bug favs just before their appearance.  Who knows… it could have been these plants that attracted them to my garden in the first place.  Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I made a decision to keep these two plants and removed all the other brassica plants from my garden with the exception of two healthy, happy and “untouched” Red Russian Kale. Trust me, I’m keeping a close eye on them.  Soon the heat it going to kick up even hotter and I’m certain my tatsoi and mizuna will perish shortly after, leaving my kale exposed and possible targets. Only time will reveal the true value of this tip. For now, I would only suggest a trap plant to those of you who have actively seen these guys your garden.
  6. Cultivate the Soil ~ from what I understand, this helps to interrupt their reproductive cycle.  Lightly cultivating your veggie bed soil about 2 inches deep  1-2x per week helps to kill any eggs laid in the soil.  I’ve been doing this around and close to my trap plants and it does seem to be helping 🙂
  7. Remove Infested Plants ~ Before doing this, spray the heck out of the Bragada Bugs currently on the infested plant to kill them, then carefully remove the plant and any/all dead plant debris.  Be sure to keep your soapy water close by… there may be some Bragada Bugs tucked in tight at the base of the plant or in the soil.  Then finally, cultivate the soil.
  8. Remove Host Weeds ~ in and around your veggie garden, especially wild mustard.

Resources

Now I’ve seen a short list of chemicals/pesticides being recommended by specialists and entomologists and an even shorter list of organic/OMRI solutions that are quite cost prohibitive ($350+ for one gallon), but I, personally steer clear of these types of solutions (if humanly possible).  When addressing pest challenges, I always… ALWAYS, consider my honey bees first.  I also have a beautiful colony of celophane bees somewhere on my property that frequently visit my garden and a huge number of beneficials that we’ve fostered over the past few years.  Beneficials like, bumblebees, assasin bugs, preying matids, ladybugs, green lacewings and a number of beneficial wasps.  Their care and safety is a priority for me.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Bragada Bug or about other possible solutions, please be sure to check out these reputable sources…

 UC Davis IPM

Infonet-Biovision.org

Dr. John Palumbo, Associate Research Scientist, Vegetable Crops
University of Arizona, Department of Entomology

Video: Part 1
Video: Part 2
Paper

Always remember to have a positive outlook on life and your garden, and try not to let anything bug you 🙂061214_Bragada9

Sharing my post with:
An Oregon Cottage ~ Tuesday Garden Party

 

God Bless,

AG_Signature_Color_Transparent

 

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12 Comments

Filed under Bugs, Pest Control

12 responses to “Bragada Bug (Painted Bug)

  1. Ana

    Thank you so much for the information i just fohnd these in my sweet alyssum!! I hope they dont make it to my veggies although i only have squash, tomatoes, green beans, peppers and carrots. I am mad for not squishing them ! Im still learning about good and bad bigs 😦 i will go get the dish soap tomorrw. You thjng dawn soap would work in the meantime? Thank you!!

    • Thank you for visiting my blog ~ I’m sooooo sorry you have these dreadful things in your garden. There’s a good and bad things about sweet alyssum. We’ll start with the bad first. It is one of the Bragada Bug’s absolute favs! That and brassicas. Now the good, because its their absolute fav, they can’t help but munch breed on the alyssum making it a super great “trap plant”. From what I’ve read and seen in my garden is they leave the other plants you mentioned alone as long as they are feasting on a fav and their numbers are not allowed to get out of control. So safe to say your summer veggies are in the clear for now. Using dawn soap and water is ok in a pinch, but the Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap is a winner! Make sure you check for and spray them daily in the hottest part of the day. Their most active time of day. Be sure to make contact with them when you spray versus hosing down the plant with the soapy water solution. Doing that may cause your plant to stress/die and you want to keep it alive for as long possible. As long as you are consistent, over time you will begin to see their numbers diminish and victory on the horizon. Also, once you no longer see them, remove the alyssum and till up the ground really well giving it a few blasts with your soapy water for good measure. Hope that helps.

  2. movonup

    Finally a concise look at the Bagrada. Thank you. When I first dicovered them it was almost impossible to find info about them. And when I read articles in some news papers (like two) and left comments, I never got a conversation going. I thought there was nothing more important at the time because this species has no enemies.

    These little bastardos ruined my last two years of organic gardening. I found out early that Kirkland’s “Environmental Dish Soap” worked wonders, but these little bugs are so prolific I could never destroy them completely. Maybe it’s because they will move to other plants (even if they do not like those other plants) just to survive. The one thing I read, I think from UC Davis was to squish them and leave them. For what ever reason this bug is repulsed by its own stink and will stay clear from an area where their squished remains lay.

    Because of the fight I’ve had with the Bagrada I did not plant a garden this year. It was so much work for such little produce, I just said to myself “Not this year”.

    I have tilled, and sprayed, and tilled, and up till now April 20, 2015 I have found only one Bagrada in my backyard. Which reminds me not only is the season still young, these little guys go through five incarnations of itself. They have five different appearances, and is another reason why it’s so hard to know if you are infested until you are over run.

    Thank you again for your informative post. Much respect.

    • Thank you. I’m so glad you found it helpful. You’re absolutely right about infestations. When I first saw them in the garden, I took my time in identifying the new pest. At that time, I had no reason for concern. All it took was watching a horrific video of them in action. OMG. That’s all it took to light a fire under me. The sense of urgency was overwhelming to me. I had to get the word out. It was definitely a daily battle and frequently multiple assaults on them each day. The trap plant (i.e., mizuna, a mustard ~ they just can’t resist it) was extremely helpful. It took a couple of months to eradicate them completely, but kept a watchful eye for nymphs, etc. also stirred up the soil in the battle zone frequently and sprayed with my Dr. Bronner’s castile soap mix. The nymphs are hard to see. I also heard that their absolute fav plant is the sweet alyssum. I considered purchasing stink bug traps and filling them with sweet alyssum, but was extremely nervous ~ did not want to attract more of them.

      We’re getting close to the time we saw them last year, so we’re at defcon 3. If we see them, I have some new tools to try out this year.

      Again, thank you for the wonderful feedback.

  3. Thanks for the detailed description and pics! We’ve had some nasty bugs (didn’t ID or save them) on bok choi and other brassicas a few years ago and I haven’t grown many since. I will try again this fall.

    We love to eat the wild mustard with our salad and have been letting it grow. Will keep a close eye on them.

  4. Hi April,

    Thank you for introducing the garden new guy to us. 🙂

    I really like your writings and your sketch. I am sure you will get rid of the painted bugs finally with your confidence, encourage and wise.

    I have not seen or found any of them in my garden fortunately. But I will still keep my eyes watch them out. Last summer time, there were many green sticky bugs a several brown sticky bugs on the leaves of my long noddle beans. I don’t know if the green, brown sticky bugs are the same family as the painted bugs. sometimes when I saw two or three green sticy bugs getting together on the place where I was going to harvest my beans, I tried to take them off by using my hand, and threw them on the ground and stamp on them with my foot. Most of time, I didn’t do much with them because I didn’t seen any damage on my plants where they set foot. When the summer harvest was end, I just saw a few of them on the bean vines. When the fall vegetables gardening began, I didn’t see them any more.
    I was confused that I didn’t see the numbers of the green sticky bug obviousely growing at that time and I have not seen any of them showing in my garden yet. I don’t know if this bug has their natural enemy and what kinds of insects are their predator. Is green sticky bug the same family as painted bug? Is possible that grasshopper or wasp is the predator of Bragada Bug?

    For my experience, in zone 7 + areas, the cool seasonal vegetables that you refered is better to be grown in spring and fall. Individually, musturd green can be grown better in spring time; and the other cool vegetables, especially like kale, collars,tatsoi, broccoli, bok choi, cabbage and asian musturd green should be planted in late summer or fall time for the fall ( winter) vegetable garden, in which those vegetable green is much more taste and more flavor when they get light frost ( some of them can tolerate frozen temperature, like kale, brussel sprouts, tatsoi ).

    In order to pretend the bad bugs from damaging my vegetables, it is very helpful to plant diversity flowers, herbs and vegetables which are seasonal, local and native. In May and June every year, blackeye susan, echinacea, indian blanket, marigold, zinna, bee balm, borage, butterfly bush, yellow evening primrose, etc. show up in time around my garden. They are easily to reseed, grow and care-free. Those flowers will friendly attract many wild lifes into my garden, and some of them probably will be the predator of the bad bugs. I am sure the flowers and herbs have played key role to keep the gardens in a balance eco-friendly situation for years.

    • Hi Lily,
      It was an introduction I felt I had to make. Hopefully these guys never make it to your area. The Bragada Bug is a type of stink bug. From what I know, there is a parasitic wasp that can help, but because the Bragada Bug mostly lays its eggs in the soil, it is too challenging for the wasp to be successful.

      This time of year I typically plant warm weather seasonal veggies, but I was conducting a test to see how long my Tatsoi and Mizuna would last. The plants were doing fairly well under 30% shade cloth even in our heat, then entered the Bragada. They had other plans for my cool weather test veggies.

      I agree 100% with you on diversity in the veggie garden. I rarely grow my plants in traditional rows and I like to mix-it-up with companion planting. I love that you have several wild flowers and perennials that pop-up every year. I bet the beneficial insects love you and your property 🙂 We have plans to install planters throughout our veggie garden and orchard dedicated to flowers that attract, feed and shelter garden beneficials. Hopefully they’ll be in place growing by next summer.

  5. Lois

    Looks like hard work wins out. I’m glad you checked out these pests. do they only attack veggie plants?

    • Hi Lois,
      Unfortunately no. Though their all time favorite is plants in the mustard family, in my research I’ve read reports of them going after citrus fruits, though I could not confirm whether they do damage to the citrus or not. I did read that they’ve been seen on strawberry plants with no visible damage. I have not seen or heard of them attacking any other types of fruit trees, but I’m following updates very closely and I’m considering contacting one of the experts to see if I can obtain a bit more information.

  6. Margaret Rosin

    Thanks for the info, sure enough, I have these buggers on my younger Russian kale plants. I’ve spayed and removed the plants, but I think I see evidence they’ve gotten to my Dino kale! Is it ok to eat the affected plants ( I love my kale! ), or do they ruin them in some way, make them inedible?

    • Hi Margaret,

      I hear you… I love kale, too! As far as I know… no. I haven’t read or heard anything about transmittable diseases. I think it’s a personal decision on what you will and won’t eat. Me personally, if the plant in question had a total infestation (we’re talking 50+ at one time) and the plant looked to be in bad shape (severe wilting or more scarring than healthy plant tissue)… I would sadly say goodbye, spray the heck out of the nasty little guys with soapy water, then dispose of my beloved kale.

      My Tatsoi is beyond the point I would consider edible (it has lots of tattered leaves and scarring from the Bragada, who visit it daily). My Bok Choi, on the other hand, had only some scarring so I decided to pull it and bring it inside. Now, I was very careful because I knew the Bragada was probably still somewhere in the “tight” areas of the plant and some stink bugs like to take up residence inside the house (not sure about these guys), so as a precautionary move, I immediately brought the plant to my kitchen sink and sprayed it with the soapy water. Sure enough a few Bragada came out and died. I pulled apart the whole plant, rinsed it well and then soaked it in my sink for 10 minutes in a mild bleach solution (2 teaspoons of unscented bleach in 3 gallons of water). I do this to kill any bacteria, etc. After soaking, I rinse everything thoroughly in fresh water. It’s been a week since I ate my Bok Choi and I’m still standing. Hope you’re able to save your Kale!

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