Bug Life

I think the shield bugs must be one of my favourite groups of insect. There’s something about them; they look so determined waddling around like minute clockwork toys. When they fly they make a loud whirring noise out of all proportion to their size and have a habit of landing on me if I wear green in the garden (must stop wearing that Robin Hood outfit!) Besides my prized Box Bug from a previous blog post, we’ve recorded 6 other species in the garden – all cute little characters in their own right. By far the most common is the Green Shield Bug. Their exoskeletons are leathery with small dark pits all over them. In the spring and summer they are green like the one below, but in the autumn and winter they turn a bronze colour.Green Shield BugThey start of as tiny nymphs and develop through various stages called instars before taking their adult form. The photo below shows a couple of these instars (possibly 2nd and 3rd stages) plus a skin discarded when one moulted into the next stage back in the summer. We had loads of these in the garden, dotted around like little green smarties.Baby Green Shield Bug

The remaining 5 species have been less common in the garden, but all have put in an appearance at least once this year. The first is the Red Legged Shieldbug – named, not surprisingly, for its red legs. It’s a predatory shieldbug – in the world of predators, it may not rank as the most fearsome, but I guess if you’re a small caterpillar, then the Red Legged Shieldbug is perhaps your worst nightmare!Red Legged Shieldbug

The Green Birch shieldbug is apparently more of a vegetarian and has a tendency to be attracted to lights – as this one was coming to the moth trap one night. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around long enough for me to get a more arty photo, hence him sitting on a bit of kitchen towel!  Green Birch ShieldbugThe remaining three species are the Sloe or Hairy Shieldbug, the Dock Bug and my favourite the adorable little Tortoise Shieldbug. I’m sure there must be other species in the garden waiting to be discovered – just need to fight through the weeds to find them next summer.

Sloe Bug

Dock BugTortoise bug

There’s a Bug Going Around

Feeling very pleased with myself this month – all thanks to a bug! I had planned to follow Buglife’s Bug of the Month feature, but this month they’ve chosen a Wasp Spider and a) we don’t get them in our garden and b) I’m really not very good with spiders (huge understatement!)  So I thought I’d do an actual BUG feature instead. Shieldbugs are part of a group of insects called True Bugs, which always makes me imagine that somewhere out there, there are insects who go around faking it as bugs? I knew we got shieldbugs in the garden, so did a trawl through the photos and tried to properly ID them for once. There’s a website called iSpot where you can upload photos and get help identifying them, so I got all my shieldbugs checked out.

Box Bug 2Box Bug

There was one bug that had landed on our birdbath last month – unfortunately our birdbath hangs quite high and being vertically challenged, I couldn’t see in. Luckily the other half is considerably taller and spotted said bug clambering through the hole in the middle. Anyway turns out this little bug was a Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus). Box bugs were originally known only from Box Hill in Surrey but have recently been expanding their range. Word on the nerdy street is that our little bug in Malvern maybe the first one to be recorded as far across as Worcestershire.

We get 6 other species of shieldbug in the garden; many of whom are perhaps more interesting looking than the Box Bug. But I will forever be most chuffed with this one, even though I was too short to have actually seen it!