Harlequin Bug

Insect Summary Report


Murgantia histrionica


General Information

  • Preferred crops include: horseradish, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, mustard, Brussels sprouts, turnip, kohlrabi and radish. Can also be seen on tomato, potato, eggplant, okra, bean, asparagus, beets, and fruit trees.
  • Has ability to destroy entire crops if left uncontrolled.
  • Browning, wilting, and eventual death of host plants can occur under intense feeding conditions. Younger plants have a lower threshold for damage than younger plants.
  • Incorporates glucosinolates from crucifer plants, which are undesirable to birds.
  • Males produce aggregation pheromone to attract other feeding individuals.


Life Cycle 50-80 Days

  • Eggs… (4-29 Days) White and black striped, keg shaped. Usually laid in rows of two in groups of around 12.
  • Nymph… (4-9 Weeks) 5-6 molts. Orange and black. Coloration goes from pale orange to more defined colors in older stages. Pierce host with mouthparts and extract sap.
  • Adult… Red and black spotted. About 3/8 in. Back has distinct “X” marking. Female produces approx. 115 eggs during lifetime.

 Over-wintering Strategy

  • No diapause, but life cycles are extended in the winter, which results in low populations.
  • Seek shelter during cold temperatures in winter by hiding under grass cover, rubbish piles, and other insulating materials.
  • Adults are usually the only stage to survive winter conditions.

Organic Control

  • General Info
    • Plant a small acreage of a non-market preferred host such as turnip, kale or mustard in the spring before market crops are grown to serve as a trap crop. Monitor and Some type of control is necessary to avoid the trap crop becoming a source of infestation.
    • “Rolly Polly” bugs are predators. Mulching of seedbeds will provide habitat for these predators.
  •  Commonly Used Products

Cultural Control

  • Clear away brush piles, grass thickets, rubbish, and any other material that may serve as insulation during cold temperatures.
  • Plastic row covers early in the year to protect vegetation from egg lay and pest feeding.
  • Maintain control of weeds such as wild mustard, sheperdspurse, peppergrass, bittercress, and watercress.
  • Some resistant varieties listed below


Vegetable Cabbage Collards Cauliflower Radish
Variety Copenhagen Market 86, Headstart, Savoy Perfection Drumhead, Stein’s Flat Dutch, and Early Jersey Wakefield Green Glaze, Georgia (3) Early Snowball X, Snowball Y Red Devil, White Icicle, Cherry Belle, Champion, Red Prince, Globemaster

 More Images of the Harlequin Bug


  • Images by Ward Upham, Kansas State University, Bugwood.org (newly hatched nymphs and head to head adults)
  • Image by Edward L. Manigault, Clemson University Donation Collection, Bugwood.org (nymph in palm)
  • Images by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org (eggs, egg  mass on cabbage, adults on canola, cabbage injury by nymphs, and damage to whole cabbage)
  • Images by Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org (adults close up)
  • Images by Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org (adults on cabbage)
  • Image by Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia, Bugwood.org (egg mass with immatures)
  • http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/veg/leaf/harlequin_bug.htm Marie A. Knox, University of Florida, Publication Number: EENY-25, Publication Date: February 1998. Latest revision: September 2005. (Life cycle, over-wintering, damage)
  • http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/BODY_IG150 S. E. Webb, associate professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611-0640. ENY-464, Published: July 2002. Revised: September 2007. (Life cycle, conventional control)
  • http://attra.ncat.org/calendar/question.php/2006/03/06/p1903 (resistant varieties, natural predator)
  • http://www.ivyhall.district96.k12.il.us/4th/KKhp/1insects/harlequin.html (weed hosts, host crops)
  • Zahn, D.K., Moreira, J.A., and Millar, J.G. 2008. Identification, synthesis, and bioassay of a male-specific aggregation pheromone from the harlequin bug, Murgantia histrionica. J. Chem. Ecol. 34:238-251.
  • A. Aliabadi, J.A. Renwick, and D.W. Whitman “Sequestration of glucosinolates by harlequin bug Murgantia histrionicaJournal of Chemical Ecology, Sept 2002