It is end of season for the tomato plant my neighbour had kindly given me in a hanging basket. It had been bountiful in fruit, but it was it now in its last days as autumn approaches, and I had the thought to look more closely at it before dropping it in the recyling bin.
I have never seen a member of this family of beetles before. Latridiidae are known as ‘scavanger’ or ‘mould beetles’. This one is very small at 2 mm (5/64 in) long, and is called Cartodere bifasciata. It feeds on spores and moulds found on rotting plant materials.
There were several of these green leafhoppers, adults and possible larvae. Called Empoasca decipiens, one of 3 very similar UK species, they extract sap from the plant on which they feed.
Like a scene from the film Alien, I discovered the dead remains of this wingless aphid. You can’t miss the obvious hole in the abdomen where something … probably a braconid wasp … burst out.
We have a live aphid here … most likely the Peach-potato Aphid (Myzus (Nectarosiphon) persicae). The apterae (lacking wings) are generally yellowish-green but vary from whitish or pale yellowish green to mid-green, rose-pink or red. They are often darker in cold conditions.
Another parasitised aphid all tethered … which goes to show that nature has a way of keeping the equilibrium.
I also spotted several running-crab spiders and money spiders … but all too quick and unwilling to hang around for a photo shoot. So even within its death throws a plant can still support so much life … and just focusing the mind and the eyes on a different plane can open up so much.
Another one of the Hemiptera – true bugs – but a small but delicately beautiful member of the Tingidae family commonly known as lace bugs. this one is called the Hawthorn Lacebug (Physatocheila dumetorum). A small bug at around 3 mm (1/8th inch) long.
There are almost 70 species of Hemiptera (True Bugs) on this site, yet there are almost 2,000 species in Great Britain. Turn over a leaf or having a look amongst them will turn up all kinds of true bugs, adult and nymph stages.
They are a very diverse group of insects, and here is but a small selection of some of them which I discovered in my small back garden.
For more species and more detailed information please visit below:
This tiny Cicadellidae (Leafhoppers) nymph was found on willow. There are several similar species and identification can be difficult, especially at this early stage. With some help I manged to get it down to Kybos sp.
I have a Hawthorn bush growing in the back garden, and I discovered these strange things stuck to the branches. They are around 5-7 mm (1/4 inch) long.
As you can see they are brown and wrinkly with what looks like a cotton wool ball tucked at the back of them. They were something I had never come across before.
I had my suspisions they were some kind of scale insect. Scale insects belong to the order of insects called Hemiptera – the true bugs, which include the shieldbugs and the likes. I discovered these belong to a family called Coccidae – the soft scales.
These strange insects are called the Woolly Vine Scale Insect (Pulvinaria vitis). They have a a soft shell of protection attached to the body which helps prevents them from dying out and gives them protection from potential predators like parasites. A cottony wax coating is produced that is used to conceal the eggs. Once these insects are attached to a tree they become immobile, feeding on the sap of the host plant. The images show females with cottony ovisacs. The smaller males (1.5 mm long), which possess wings, are rarely seen.
Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) showing its autumn colours. It will go darker, turning to a deep bronze as winter takes hold and then will hibernate during the coldest period. In spring it will gradually turn back to full green.
I have now photographed and uploaded 500 different species of insect to this site. Try to take in these facts about insects, they are quite astounding to comprehend:
There are more than 200 million insects for every human being living on the planet.
There are between 1 and 10 quintillion (can you imagine that number? I can’t) insects which are surrounding us in almost every environment on Earth.
Insects account for well over half of all of all multicellular species.
Insects come in around a million different variants.
Around 479 million years ago insects appeared on the planet, long before the dinosaurs, and long before us.
Insects developed flight 400 million years ago, which means they had total air dominance for more than 150 million years.
Insects have survived 5 mass extinction events.
So there we have it: The Earth belongs to the insects. And they will be around long after we have gone on our way. So enough text … and now for some photos I have taken of these amazing and most fascinating six-legged creatures:
For those that may be interested you can visit my Insects page ‘here’.
Normally you would find these elongate plant bugs in dry grassland, but I had around half a dozen of them around my moth trap the other night in the backyard. They are quite small at around 5-6 mm (1/4 in) long.
Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae) – Again, looking through the rose cuttings I came across what I initially thought was just an aphid, until I looked closer and noticed it appeared to be fixed to the leaf by a silken pad of sorts. I discovered that the aphid had been parasitised by a braconid wasp, possibly Praon sp. The wasp grub would have fed on the inside of the aphid killing it, and now it has formed the cocoon from which it will eventually emerge as an adult. Some of these parasitoid wasps have been used in biocontrol to help keep down aphid pestilence in farming.
Cercopis vulnerata – This bug is hard to miss when coming across it resting on low plants like nettle. Apart from its eye-popping colour, it is also one of the largest of the froghoppers. Its bright markings signify that it is very distasteful to birds and other would be predators. Double-click images to enlarge.
Eurydema (Eurydema) oleracea – Also called the Cabbage Bug, this is a new visitor to the garden for me. Another one of the shieldbugs/stink bugs, but this one has a red colour form, too, which I have not seen. Double-click image to enlarge.
Heterotoma planicornis – I always think the early stage of true bugs look kind of strange, and this nymph is no exception. The adults grow up to around 5mm (just under a 1/4in) long, and they look quite strange, too. See last image. Double-click image to enlarge.
Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) – Looking through my living window yesterday evening I noticed this bug had got the most comfortable and fashionble bed for the night, cosily nestled right in the centre of one of my Camellia blossoms. Now that’s what I call sleeping in style. Double-click image to get closer, but please be quite so as not to wake him.
Sonronius dahlbomi – Like others around the world I am having to self isolate here because of the Coronavirus. I draw an interesting parallel to these tiny leafhopper bugs. Over the years I have come across these brightly coloured bugs (they are only about 5mm (3/16in) long) on a narrow woodland path and always in one particular spot amongst fern and nettle. I see them nowhere else. It is an uncommon species and localised, and found mainly in woodland in central and southern England.
I have had online discussions with an expert on these insects and he too has found that this particular species always seems to appear in a tight-knit cluster and does not develop out from it, which is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps they feel safe and content where they are, and they have everything they need in their confined living space to survive, and will only move if threatened to do so. The bottom two images show the early juvenile stage. You may want to double-click for a closer look.
Palomena prasina – As soon as the sun appears these shieldbugs crawl out of their hidey-holes and bask in its warming rays. This one is still sporting its autumn camouflage suit, although I have noticed others are gradually changing back to green to blend in with the new spring growth. Double-click on image to enlarge.
Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) – Although these three are hardly green, for they have not long come out of hibernation and are still sporting their autumnal colours. I took these after venturing into the back garden today. The sun was bright and cheerful and very inviting, but it was very windy and cold, so I had to wrap up. I was only out there for around ten minutes before I was forced back indoors to rest. It is such a frustration when the mind is willing but the body just can’t. At least I managed to get a few shots off, and here is one of them … oh yes … the green bugs which aren’t green … but they will soon be with the advent of spring.
Copyright: Peter Hillman Camera used: Nikon D7200 Date taken: 12th March 2020 Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire
Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) early stage nymph. Wherever there is dock (Rumex) you are bound to spot a few of these living on it, feeding on the fruits and seeds. They pass through five stages before becoming an adult as in the last image. Double-click to get closer still …
Copyright: Peter Hillman Camera used: Nikon D7200 Date taken: 7th July 2019 Place: Local field, Staffordshire
Reduvius personatus – At 16-18mm (5/8-3/4in) long this is a large and impressive black species of true bug belonging to the family Reduviidae – the Assassin Bugs. They are also called Masked Hunters. A synanthropic species, they live alongside humans benefiting from the association. They can be found in houses and outbuildings where they predate on other invertebrates like bed bugs, silverfish, lice, flies and spiders. They can give a painful bite if threatened and handled roughly.
An infrequent species, they are not seen very often in Britain, and are mainly recorded in central and southern England. The adults are seen May to September, and are attracted to light. The bodies of the young nymphs are covered in very sticky hairs which they use to cover themselves in dust and minute debris to help camouflage themselves after each molt. This helps them to sneak up on their prey and ambush them.
Double-click on images if you want to get up close and personal with this dark assassin …
Copyright: Peter Hillman Camera used: Nikon D7200 Date taken: 29th June 2019 Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire
This true bug is called Rhopalus subrufus, and a new species for me in the garden. It appeared to be attracted to my Water Mint. Looking closer it is quite a hairy species, and one of only four of this genus found in the UK.
This is a nymph, a young spittlbug which can be found in frothy spittle, also called cuckoo spit, on plants, which the nymphs produce to protect themselves. They are also known as froghoppers, and there are ten species in the UK.
Click and click again on the images to get that little bit closer
Across the surface of the rose leaf can be seen the ghostly remains of the shed skin of an aphid that has passed by. This is all part of the insect’s metamorphosis processes. Most aphid nymphs are born live, and they have to go through a series of moultings – also called ecdysis – to develop. Moulting can be a risky buisness as it renders the subject immobile during this phase and vulnerable to predators. Aphids usually have to pass through 4 instars to reach full maturity. The remaining cast skin is called exuvia.
Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …
No, not a kind of chupacabra, but still quite strange.
At this time of year I have always wondered what all these sticky fluffly bits were on my Box Hedge, and now I finally know.
When you get closer you can see hidden amongst the fluff these Psyllid nymphs which look a little like greenfly. They are called Box Sucker Psylla buxi, and in other parts they are called Boxwood Psyllid. They appear to do little damage to the Box, and they disappear after a while. They are true bugs which suck the sap from the shoot tips in spring.
This is the first time I have seen the little critters up close, and how bizarre they look. They almost look like they have large ears, but I think they are the beginnings of wings.
Basking in the warming afternoon sun and showing off its very fine shiny colours, this is the Gorse Shieldbug Piezodorus lituratus. It must have got itself lost for it is generally associated with Gorse, but there is no Gorse in my back garden. However I am pleased it stopped by, for this is my very first ecounter with this marvellous insect.
This is quite a large bug with a length of 9-10mm, almost half an inch overall. A common and widespread species, the adults are seen May to October. It is associated with a wide range of trees and shrubs, not just alder. The larvae and eggs live in a protective mass of bubbles called ‘cuckoo-spit’.
A) Delphacidae sp. nymph with Dryinid wasp parasite. Local pond margin.
B) Unknown. Local pond margin.
C) Unidentified. Local pond margin.
D) Idiocerus sp. Rear garden on crab apple.
E) Aleyrodidae. Rear garden on Buddliea near Strawberry plants.
F) Psyllidae. Rear garden, off cotoneaster.
G) Miridae. On crab apple, caught probing a small fly.
I have reposted these images with some newly added photographs of species in the hope of getting a positive identification. I realise it is not always possible to make an id from an image, but if there is a possibility one has to give it a go. Thanks in advance to Craig Slawson and other recorders from the Staffordshire Ecological Record who have already been of great assistance with their aid in confirming and identifying species in this challenging yet fascinating group of insects.
Please click on images to enlarge, and click again to get even closer.
I have featured this extraordinary ‘bug’ before in a previous post, and you can learn more about it there if you wish to: Dock Leaf Bug. However, please note the two converging lobes on the nose in the second image down. This is diagnostic of this species.
When I came across several of them this morning on a local woodland margin, I also saw two instars which can be seen below. Note the differences between the adult on the left and the final instar on the right in the image directly underneath.
Below is a mid instar, and comparisons can be made between the two stages with the final instar above.