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"A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook"

Bugs - True Bugs!

Juniper Shield Bug

Juniper Shieldbug

Elasmostethus tristriatus

The Juniper Shield Bug is not common in East Lincs but at the end of the long dry summer of 2003, within the space of two weeks, four specimens had been found in the garden. Their favoured habitats are Juniper (as the name suggests) and Cupressus - both of which occur in the garden.

The overall length of this mature specimen was 10.5mm - as verified by the background grid, although some other UK Shield Bug species may grow to 20mm.

Whereas butterflies and moths undergo 'complete' metamorphosis ie the radical change from caterpillar to flying adult, the shield bugs hatch from the egg as small rudimentary versions of the adult and undergo four 'incomplete' metamorphic moults, gradually developing towards the sexually mature adult flying insect.

24.08.2003 Back garden.
03.10.2004One disturbed while trimming Leylandii hedge.
20.10.2004One found on an indoor windowsill on a wet, rainy day.
31.01.2007One found in garden close to a storm felled Leylandii.
13.06.2007One found on long grass under Leylandii.

Woundwort Shield Bug Woundwort Shield Bug nymphs Woundwort Shield Bug

Woundwort Shieldbug

Eysacoris fabricii

Shield Bugs are true bugs, part of the Heteroptera group.

All are vegetarian and each species is usually identified with one particular foodplant. However the first specimens of this species that I found (seen upper right) were on White Dead Nettle which, in the absence of the later maturing Woundwort, I presume is the next best thing.

These adults are only about 8mm in length.

Three groups of newly hatched nymphs were later found in groups of 7, 8 and 12, each group on a separate Woundwort plant. It is normal for the first stage nymphs (barely 2mm long) to remain close to their egg cases until they undergo their first moult.

Further monitoring of their development was thwarted by heavy rain which washed the evidence away.

Through a lens it was just possible to make out a series of dark dots along the side of the abdomen, similar to those on the adult bugs.

In September I came across the final stage of the incomplete metamorphosis when I found a new adult emerging from its final instar shell (lower image). Pale and creamy translucent, it was very sluggish. But within 15 minutes it was walking briskly away. After a further 45 minutes it began to 'colour up', the head, and scutellum darkening and dark dots appearing around the edge of the abdomen.

10.05.2004Found on White dead nettle in the shelter of a hawthorn hedge. TF 305 660
31.05.2004Found on Woundwort (!) in the shelter of a hawthorn hedge. TF 305 660
05.06.2004This must be a good year for them. I found seven on one Woundwort plant. Three conjoined pairs and a singleton.
30.06.2004Newly hatched nymphs found, still close to egg cases on the upper side of Woundwort leaves.
15.05.20052 found on Bramble leaves adjacent to young Woundwort plant in same area as last year.
16.05.20052 found mating on Woundwort plant by stable hedge.
16.09.2005Small colony of three adults, one newly emerged adult and one final instar found on the same plant as mentioned in the previous record.
22.06.2006First of the year seen close to some eggs in SW corner of hedge.
07.06.2007Eight conjoined pairs and a seven singletons found within the space of 20m.
29.06.2008Found mating on Hedge Woundwort.

Pied shieldbug early instar Pied shieldbug instar Pied shieldbug adult

Pied Shieldbug

Sehirus bicolor

This distinctive little 7mm long shield bug feeds on White dead nettle.

The female lays her eggs in the ground and tends to them and the hatched nymphs until they are feeding for themselves. This caring behaviour is not all that common among insects.

The series of images indicates the transformation that occurs during the various stages of incomplete metamorphosis.

On hatching, the tiny first instars remain close to the egg cases and may not feed at all prior to the first moult. The upper image is of an early instar - probably stage 2. The search for food causes the family group to disperse.

The middle image probably represents the next stage of development. Rudimentary wing cases are beginning to appear.

The bottom image is of the mature adult which will have hibernated through the winter, seen in May, early in the season, on nettles. In favourable years there may be two generations.

21.07.2004Burton's paddock - western hedge.
25.05.2005On nettles in roadside ditch opposite front door.

Forest Shieldbug

Forest Shieldbug

Pentatoma rufipes

These shieldbugs are normally found on oak and alder trees but, can be common on garden fruit trees as well where the damage they cause can render the fruit inedible. The upper image is of a particularly dark adult specimen found under a damson tree but, mid-brown specimens with orange or cream central spots are not unusual. One of the identifying features of the Forest Shieldbug is it's squared off 'shoulders'.

Eggs are normally laid in August. The yellow and black nymphs hibernate over winter in cracks in the bark of the tree and on awakening in spring adopt a varied diet of leaves and caterpillars.

Forest Shieldbug final instar

The immature 'instars' go through several moults, growing in size and changing shape and coloration at each stage.

The second image is of a fifth and final instar, the last stage before the mature adult appears. Note the broad 'M' shape on the back of the abdomen depicting the developing 'wing buds'. These will become the hard elytra (wing cases) when the adults appear in July.

The adults retain their omnivorous, meat and veg diet, and can reach 16mm overall length.

25.08.2004Dropped on the back of my neck as I was weeding under a flowering cherry tree.
16.09.2008Dark specimen found under Damson tree.
02.07.2012Fifth instar found on garden Potentilla.

Birch Shieldbug Birch Shieldbug instar

Birch Shieldbug

Elasmostethus interstinctus

At only 10mm, this adult shieldbug looks very similar to the bigger 15mm Hawthorn Shieldbug but can be identified by (a) the reddish band at the front of the scutellum (the triangular feature separating the wing cases) and (b) the more rounded shoulders of the thorax.

As it's name suggests this one favours birches - and also Hazel. We have a compact Betula pendula in the garden and pollarded Hazel in the adjoining ditchside hedge.

The female lays eggs in May and June which generally hatch in August. So the 10mm, mature specimen found in October must have been a year old.

The immature instar, probably second or third instar stage since the wing buds are barely discernable, was found crawling on my sleeve after I brushed past the Betula pendula. But, the surprising thing was that this was also in October so the conclusion has to be that this was an unusual second generation hatch. - More evidence of global warming?

Whether it would be able to feed up before the frosts cause the leaves to fall remains to be seen. But, at only 4mm I wouldn't give much for it's chances of survival.

26.08.2004Flew in through back door, attracted to light.
03.10.20062nd or 3rd stage instar found on clothing after brushing past Birch tree.
29.10.2010Adult found on a wire fence close to mature Hazel.
09.09.201110mm adult found indoors. Released onto silver birch, immediately sucked sap from leaf.
09.09.2012 Adult attracted to lighted window at night.

Hawthorn Shieldbug Hawthorn Shieldbug

Hawthorn Shieldbug

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale

This has to be the bug that inspired the 'Stealth Bomber' design.

This 16mm shieldbug is common in England and Wales - but not so common in Scotland.

Their food of choice is, as the name implies, Hawthorn berries and leaves but, they can be found on other trees. They have no biting or chewing mouthparts but have a long drinking straw type 'sucking tube' with which they probe for juices. This is normally carried, tucked up, close to the under-body when not in use.

Their camouflage is remarkably good and until you 'get your eye in' they can be quite difficult to find. But, in the autumn, when the berries (haws) are on the hawthorn, it is worthwhile looking around berries that have been damaged or half eaten. You may just 'get lucky'.

There is one generation a year and although the adults will hibernate during the coldest winter weather, the one in the middle image was active on 19 January 2007.

Hawthorn Shieldbug

The young bugs (nymphs) go through several instar phases before reaching adulthood. Each phase involves a moult, an increase in size and a developmental progression to sexually mature adulthood. An adult Hawthorn Shieldbug will reach about 15mm in length. The nymph in the lower image, at about 5mm was probably in a 3rd instar phase.

27.09.2004Found on fence post in the lea of the hawthorn hedge.
31.08.20063rd instar found on Stinging nettles under Hawthorn hedge.
03.09.2006Benniworth Moor car park plantation.
19.01.2007Found close to the 2004 sighting on a mild January day.
02.02.2007Another found close to the previous sighting.

Green Shieldbug -
summer colour Green Shieldbug -
winter colour

Green Shieldbug

Palomena prasina

In the UK, the Green Shieldbug is unique in having a plain green appearance with no other markings other than the dark straw coloured wing tips terminating the hard wing cases (NB. Newly emerged adults will have clear transparent wing tips). However, in continental Europe there is another similar plain green species, Palomena viridissima. They can be differentiated in the adult stage by P. prasina having a marginally concave forward edge to the pronotum (either side of the head) while P. viridissima has a more rounded convex forward edge.

Their plain green appearance is remarkably effective camouflage as they roam over a wide range of herbaceous plants - their body segment lines and edges blending very effectively with plant leaf veins.

In the autumn the adult shieldbugs (up to 14mm in length) compensate for the dying back of lush foliage, by changing their green appearance to deep brown allowing them to merge with fallen leaves and dead wood and they will over-winter in this state. But when spring arrives and new plant growth appears, they revert to their summer green colouring. This seasonal colour change is seen in several animal, bird and insect species.

Batches of eggs are laid in early summer (usually on the underside of leaves) when good lush foliage ensures a ready food supply and they usually hatch within 7 to 10 days. Tiny little first instar nymphs emerge and usually remain close to their egg cases. Bacteria on the egg cases may be their only food supply for a few days until they undergo their first moult. Each instar moult results in a change of shape, size and colour so it is often difficult to guess what small infant shieldbugs will mature into.

Green Shieldbug -
2nd instar Green Shieldbug -
5th instar

The third image is of a 2nd instar, only 3mm long. At this stage, the nymphs start to disperse and forage independently. The prominent black banding is common to several shieldbug species at this stage.

The 3rd instar (not shown) is larger and the black banding is reduced in area. The 4th instar (not shown) appears like a little flat circular disc and again may not be recognised as a shieldbug. But, in the 5th instar (lower image) it is possible to see the formation of the wing buds developing either side of the 'V' shaped scutellum in the middle of the back.

The development cycle from egg to adult can be completed in about six weeks. And, weather permitting, may allow two generations to mature in a year.

Between the years 1908 and 1998 no Green Shieldbugs were recorded anywhere in Lincolnshire at all. But, since 1999, re-colonisation has been quite remarkable.

25.07.2006 Retrieved 5th instar found floating in water filled ditch - and released.
09.08.2006 2nd instar found on White Dead Nettle.
01.09.2006 2 adults found under Cupressus hedge - presumably from nearby Nettles.
26.01.2007 Brown adult found on fallen branch of Cupressus tree.
14.09.2008 Brand new adult emerged from 5th instar juvenile on Hawthorn.
08.01.2013 Brown over-wintering adult found by pile of fallen leaves.

Troilus luridus, instar Shieldbug,
Troilus luridus


Troilus luridus

Should you ever go looking for images of this Shieldbug, you will find that in it's early instar stages of development it is a striking and very colouful insect with very contrasting markings - lurid as its name suggests. When seen in shade the colours are usually stark and crisp but in bright light, as in the upper image, the immature insect takes on an irridescent sparkle.

Conversely the adult, when viewed in shade, is dull, nondescript and very well camouflaged. It is only in full sunlight or under photographic flashlight (as seen here) that it's irridescence is seen to full advantage. A good identification feature to separate this from similar species is the yellowish band towards the outer end of the antennae.

Whereas most shieldbugs are strictly vegetarian, both the adult and instar of this species are omnivorous, sucking the juices of beetle larvae and caterpillars as well as plants. The larva illustrated ignored all the aphids around and made straight for a sawfly caterpillar larva which it devoured with its long lancelike rostrum (mouthpart).

Its quest for beetle larvae means that it is more likely to be found in wooded areas or around piles of decaying timber.

The adult, at 10 - 12mm in length (this one was 11mm) of this species falls within the mid range of UK Shieldbugs.

04.11.2006 Found on sunny side of Hawthorn hedge after a frosty night.
18.08.2013 Instar found on Silver Birch, Betula pendula

Turtle Bug, Podops inuncta

Turtle Bug

Podops inuncta

The Turtle Bug is not a well recorded species. This is hardly surprising considering its small size ( 6mm ) and its relatively dull uniform colouring - and the fact that its normal habitat is grassland where concealment is no problem. In the UK it is regarded as a 'southern counties' species and only a dozen or so specimens have so far been recorded in Lincolnshire.

In most shieldbugs the 'V' shaped scutellum which divides the wings is usually quite prominent. But, in the case of the Turtle Bug it has developed as a broad shield-like plate almost completely covering the upper abdomen.

It's unique identifying feature is the two little spurs or horns that project forward from the pronotum, either side of the head. They may seem obvious enough in the image but being only 0.25mm long they can easily be overlooked or dismissed as debris with the naked eye.

15.04.2007 Found at rest on the side of the garage wall.
Common Froghopper Common Froghopper

Common Froghopper

Philaenus spumarius (?)

With something like ten different species of similar looking 'froghoppers' or 'spittle bugs' the amateur should be cautious in labelling them with specific scientific names (hence the question mark after this species name).

To confuse things further, Philaenus spumarius comes in a wide range of plain colour and bi-colour forms.

This species tends to be found on a wide range of low growing plants such as grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs from June to September.

This is one of the bugs responsible for all that frothy 'cuckoo-spit' that gardeners find so objectionable. It is the nymphs that produce the 'froth' to protect themselves while they are in their very vulnerable, soft bodied and slow moving, juvenile state.

The adults are small, up to 6mm in length and rely on their ability to 'hop' (very effectively) from danger.

Their colloquial 'froghopper' name comes from the flat frog-like head and their frog-like ability to hop out of danger.

04.07.2004Adult on stinging nettles.
26.09.2004Adult on grass.

Aphrophora alni Aphrophora alni

a 'Spittle bug'

Aphrophora alni

Very similar in shape to the previous species but twice the size at up to 12mm in length. This species tends to be found on taller growing vegetation such as shrubs and trees from May to October.

The principle identifying features of this species are its relatively large size (for a froghopper), the pale patches on the outer wing margins and the prominent keel (ridge) running back across the head and body. But, beware, the previous species, a smaller species, Philaenus spumarius, only 6mm long, and with very variable colouring can have the same pale patches on the wings.

In its larval state, this bug also produces froth (spittle) to protect itself from predators while it nibbles and sucks sap from the plant.

The adults rely on their ability to 'hop' (spring) from danger before opening their wings to fly off.

16.05.2004Adult on Salix cprea tree.
30.09.2008Found on indoor windowsill.

Black and Red Froghopper Black and Red Froghopper

Red and Black Froghopper
or, ....... Black and Red Froghopper

Cercopis vulnerata

Not the most common but certainly the most striking of the froghoppers. This is one of the 'true bugs' or Homoptera. This species is found in central and southern England and the colourful mature adults appear for (what seems to me) a very short while in early summer. Other adult froghopper species can be found through to late summer.

The early nymphal stages of this species are spent underground feeding on plant roots. The nymphs undergo several skin changes during incomplete metamorphisis before reaching mature adulthood.

The froghoppers are sap suckers at all stages of their development, some being regarded as pests by gardeners. They get their colloquial name from the ability to leap quite suddenly when danger threatens.

13.05.2004Two insects found on east and west roadside verges.
02.06.2005Hay Meadow western hedge.
08.06.2006One seen Hay Meadow Southern hedge.

Treehopper Treehopper


Ledra aurita

This is a strange, almost prehistoric looking little bug. It's weird shape and habit of resting tight against tree bark provide excellent camouflage, making it very difficult to recognise.

There are two 'Treehoppers' found in the UK. This one, characterised by it's flat head and prominent ear like projections on the pronotum is commonly referred to as the 'Eared Treehopper'. Whereas the other one, Centrotus cornutus, with a more pointed head and sharper 'horns' on the pronotum is known as the 'Horned Treehopper'.

Both are to be found throughout the UK mainland although more prevalent in the south but, their excellent camouflage against tree bark means that they are not commonly seen and they may well be severely under recorded.

Ledra aurita is reputed to feed on lichens growing on oak trees but the one seen here was found on the smooth bark of a garden Viburnum that was host to several different lichens.

It is active from May through to October and, as with all bugs, it develops through several larval stages before reaching its adult state. Adults are from 10 to 18mm in length. This one, found in July, was 14mm.

20.07.2010 Found on a garden Viburnum tree.

Aphanus rolandri

Ground bug
..... no common name

Aphanus rolandri

One might be forgiven for thinking this is 'another little black beetle'.
At only 8mm long, 'little' it certainly is. But you don't see many beetles with only one central mark on their wing cases.

And closer inspection shows that the mark is actually abdomen colour showing through membranous wings. And that directs one to the Heteroptera Bugs.

Superficially, Aphanus rolandri looks similar to the Mirid and Capsid leaf bugs, but, as one might expect, 'ground bugs' are invariably found at ground level. This one feeds on fallen seeds and favours dry sandy areas. Since my area cannot be classed as sandy, I can only presume that my specimen is a descendant of bugs that had arrived in bags of sand delivered many years previously.

The coloured spot can vary from yellow to red.

27.08.2006 Found close to a longstanding sand store.

Nettle Ground bug

Nettle Ground bug

Heterogaster urticae

Nettle Ground bugs can be active all year round - I found this one on the last day of November, but in severe weather they have the sense to seek shelter and remain dormant until the temperature warms up again.

As their common name implies, they feed on the stinging nettle Urtica dioica and in late spring will congregate in the new foliage to mate.

With many similar looking bugs, the clue to this ones identity lies in its banded legs.

30.11.2006 Crept out of hibernation while inspecting damp rotten wood.
05.04.2007 Found wandering on outside door..

Tree Damsel bug

Tree Damsel bug

Himacerus apterus

In the UK, the Tree Damsel bug and the Ant Damsel bug (Himacerus mirmicoides) look superficially quite similar. Fortunately there are body characteristics which help to separate them.

The antennae of the Tree Damsel bug are about as long or longer than its body (thorax and abdomen) length and the basal antenna segment is as long or longer than the head. In the Ant Damsel bug the antennae are significantly shorter than its body and the basal segment is also shorter than the head.

Even in the adult (as seen in the image) the wings are quite short. In the Tree Damsel bug they will only reach to the third abdomen segment. In the Ant Damsel bug the wings reach down to the fifth abdomen segment.

And finally, one would expect to find the Tree Damsel bug on trees - and the Ant Damsel bug in low level herbage. Although there was a tree nearby, this one was found halfway up a stone pillar!

Both species are omnivorous, preying on small insects when available or sucking sap from plants through their long proboscis.

25.08.2007 Found on a stone pillar near a Salix caprea tree.

m and f Leptopterna dolobrata

Meadow Plant Bug,
     Cocksfoot Bug,
          or Timothy Bug.

Leptopterna dolobrata

The Meadow Plant Bug is one of the 6,000 odd species of Mirid or Capsid bugs in the Miridae family. Although some of that family are omnivorous, this species is wholly vegetarian, feed on the stems and seedheads of tall meadow grasses - which is why they are sometimes also known as Cocksfoot Bugs or Timothy Bugs, after those common grasses.

The adult bugs (upper image) are to be found from May to August but in my experience it is much easier to spot their presence during the period just after the adults emerge from the larval state when the brightly coloured males remain close to their egg site. This provides an optimum sighting window of about 10 to 14 days in June when many insects can be found grouped on the seeding heads of grasses. The males will then disperse to spread their genes further afield and the green females are much more difficult to spot. Harvesting of cereal and hay crops in July will obviously also reduce their numbers.

...... life stages

immature Leptopterna dolobrata

The middle image is of an immature instar, probably the penultimate instar because although the abdomen appears to have taken on adult characteristics, there are no signs of the small 'wing buds' that would extend back from the thorax that would be seen in the final instar form.

Adults emerging from the final instar will be pale and creamy coloured before the plump female slowly turns green and the slimmer male becomes dark brown and cream (as in the upper image). Note also that the male has long wings extending beyond the abdomen giving it better flight capability, while the female has much shorter wings.

male Leptopterna dolobrata

The lower image is included as it shows the beak-like proboscis, which is present in all stages of development, used to suck juices from the food plant. The overall body length of the adult insect, omitting the antennae, is only about 8 or 9mm.

08.06.2006 Penultimate instar found on ........
26.06.2009 Many adults found on Cocksfoot grass

Potato capsid bug Potato capsid bug

Potato Capsid bug

Calocoris norvegicus

The Potato Capsid (a true Miridae bug) is a minor pest of potatoes but by way of compensation, it is just as happy feeding on nettles, thistles, ragwort, clover and, as seen upper right, on Hedge Mustard.

The Common Capsid is a very similar green bug but, the key to positive identification of the Potato Capsid lies in the two brown dots on the pronotum region just behind the head.

Early instars tend to appear uniformly green but after the final metamorphic moult the adult insect emerges quite pale and will take some days to develop mature colouration.

01.08.1999Back garden.
04.07.2004Hay meadow western hedge on nettles.
16.07.2004Hay meadow western hedge on Hedge Mustard.

Pantilius tunicatus Pantilius tunicatus, wing venation

A Mirid bug

Pantilius tunicatus

The Mirid and Capsid bugs belong to the family Miridae which includes some 6,000 known species. Like others in the family they tend to go through colour changes as they mature - so there can be room for confusion when trying to identify them.
This is one of the more common ones, found throughout the UK, but is more often than not found at night when it is attracted to bright light, as this one was.

The image is of a mature adult that measured 9.5mm, nose to wingtip. The underside was a pale yellowy green, similar to the leg coloration. The last abdominal segment of mature adults terminates in a red patch.

If seen with the wing tips partially open (lower image) the bright red wing viens help with identification as do the last two segments of the antennae which are shorter than those of many other mirids.

The bugs are most often found in September and October. They are equipped with a strong proboscis that is used to suck sap from leaves and P. tunicatus favours Hazel, Alder and Birch. In areas that commercially cultivate Hazel it is regarded as a pest.

25.09.2011 Attracted to the light of a moth lamp.

Deraeocoris ruber Deraeocoris ruber Deraeocoris ruber

Red Spotted plant bug

Deraeocoris ruber

I found many of these, about 8mm long, chiefly on White Dead Nettle.

What I found confusing was that there appeared to be many subtle variations in colouring.

These ranged through to a version that was almost completely black with red spots. It was tempting to think that this variation might be due to the natural maturing process since the darker specimens also appeared to be slimmer - less mature?

....... or, maybe that the darker slimmer models were the males.

But, despite all that conjecture, it does appear that there is significant diversity in coloration within the species. A similar, slightly larger species, D. olivaceus, can be identified by thin, contrasting 'rings' on the tibia, the long middle segments of the legs.

Both adults and nymphs feed on aphids and other small insects.

Adults will be seen July to September. The eggs overwinter to hatch in the Spring.

10.08.2004Active on White Dead Nettle throughout August and September.

'The Golden Heart bug'

- no common name

Liocoris tripustulatus

First time I saw this striking mirid bug, I named it 'The Golden Heart bug'. It really is quite distinctive. About 6-7mm long.

It is reputed to favour nettles but I have seen it on both Red Currant and Salix caprea.

In this species, the adults overwinter, mating occurs during May and June, after which the males die off. But the females survive until the new generation adults appear. It is therefore possible to find adults all year long, albeit in different colour forms. Entering hibernation they will be pale brown but by Spring will be rich chocolate brown with orange spots before changing to black and gold for the summer

They are entirely vegetarian.

06.06.2004First spotted on Red Currant bushes.
26.05.2005On nettles, Hay meadow western hedge.

Heterotoma merioptera

No common name

Heterotoma merioptera
      or,    H. planicornis

.... The sole UK Heterotoma species is recognised by both scientific synonyms whereas two mainland European species are discretely identified.

This small member of the Miridae (Capsid) family (only about 5mm long) is quite common in southern England. It is to be found on a wide range of vegetation (seen here on White Dead Nettle) and feeds on aphids, other small insects and also flower buds and unripe fruits.

When viewed directly from above, it appears to have conventional thin antennae but, a side view reveals the broad paddle-like second segment which readily identifies it.

A second feature is that it appears to glide over green vegetation as its green legs merge into the background.

As it poses here to show off its antennae and green legs, the light reflecting off its wing cases makes them appear quite silvery whereas they are almost black.

26.07.2004Found on White Dead Nettle in garden hedge.

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