damsel bug

(Nabis roseipennis)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

not listed


not listed


not listed

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Damsel bugs prey on aphids, caterpillars, and other insect nymphs and eggs, including many agricultural pests. They are considered beneficial, though they are not available commercially. Nabis roseipennis is a small, predatory, damsel bug. It is considered beneficial because it preys on many agricultural pests. It occurs across North America and southern Canada, but it is most common from the northeast to the Midwest.

Adults are soft-bodied, elongated, about ¼ long, slender, less than wide, and cone-shaped. They are tan and mottled with shades of reddish-brown and gray.

The head is small, cone-shaped, and much narrower than the thorax. At the front of the head there is a rounded lobe (tylus) that projects forward. The tylus is dark along the sides. The neck is very short. There are two large compound eyes and two small simple eyes (ocelli). The compound eyes are bulging. At the top of the head there are two converging pale lines with a dark, hairy, V-shaped area between them. The occeli are large and positioned at the back (posterior) ends of the pale lines. The antennae are exposed, conspicuous, and long, much longer than the head but not quite as long as the body. They have four segments. The first segment (scape) is shorter or as long as the width of the head through the eyes. The end of the second segment is dark. The fourth segment is longer than the scape. The mouth parts are optimized for piercing and sucking. They take the form of a long, prominent, 4-segmented beak that extends along the underside of the body between the legs when not used. The beak is slender and much longer than the head.

The abdomen is much wider than the thorax.

There are two pairs of wings, and they are held flat over the body when at rest. The small triangular plate between the wing bases (scutellum) may have depressed, semicircular spots on each basal angle, but if present they are poorly developed, not conspicuous. Most adults have long, fully developed wings. Some have wings that extend beyond the middle of the abdomen but do not completely cover it. When fully developed, the forewings (hemelytra) on the mature adult are longer than the body and completely cover the sides of the body. They have a thickened section at the base and a thin membranous section at the tip with a clear dividing line between the two. The thickened basal part is comprised of a narrow area (clavus) behind the scutellum when the wings are closed, and the remaining, broad, marginal area (corium). At the end of the corium there is a small but distinct triangular area (cuneus). There is one unbranched vein through the clavus, and two long veins in the corium, one of them split in the middle forming a diamond-shaped cell. A long submarginal vein in the membranous section separates an inner row of long closed cells and an outer (marginal) row of short open cells. The hindwings are thin, membranous, and concealed under the forewings.

The legs are long and yellowish-tan. The third segment (femur) and fourth segment (tibia) of each leg is heavily spotted above. The femurs on all legs have heavy dark spotting above. On the front leg they are thickened. On the front and middle legs they have a row of small, stiff bristles below. The tibia on all legs are also heavily spotted above. On the front legs they have double row of black teeth along the inner edge. On the middle legs they have a double row of black spines. The end part of the leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has only 3 segments. The tip of each segment is dark.



Total length: about ¼


Similar Species


Grassy fields, gardens, agricultural fields



One generation, early May to early October



Adults are usually found on grass or low on vegetation.


Life Cycle

Adults females probably overwinter after mating and deposit eggs in the spring. Nymphs pass through five stages (instars) before emerging as adults.


Nymph Food



Adult Food

Small insects, insect nymphs, and insect eggs, including aphids, mites, and caterpillars.


Distribution Map



24, 27, 29, 30, 82, 83.



Widespread in North America. Common in Minnesota.



Hemiptera (true bugs, hoppers, aphids, and allies)


Heteroptera (true bugs)






Nabidae (damsel bugs)










Subordinate Taxa






Common Names

This species has no common name. The common name of the Family Nabidae is damsel bugs, and it is applied here for convenience.








On plants: A comparatively short and stout, narrow or prolonged tip on a thickened organ, as on some fruits and seeds. On insects: The protruding, tubular mouthpart of a sucking insect.



The thickened basal portion of the front wing that lies between the clavus and the membrane of insects in the family Hemiptera. Plural: coria.



On insects and arachnids, the third, largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. On humans, the thigh bone.



The forewing of true bugs (Order Hemiptera), thickened at the base and membranous at the tip. Plural: hemelytra.



The developmental stage of arthropods between each molt; in insects, the developmental stage of the larvae or nymph.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



On plants: An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster. On insects: The basal segment of the antenna.



The exoskeletal plate covering the rearward (posterior) part of the middle segment of the thorax in some insects. In Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, the dorsal, often triangular plate behind the pronotum and between the bases of the front wings. In Diptera, the exoskeletal plate between the abdomen and the thorax.



On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot).






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Alfredo Colon

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)  

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)  


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Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)
Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

damsel bug (Nabis roseipennis)
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Created 11/25/2018

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