Life In A Dying Tomato Plant

x6 images. Double click to enlarge.

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.

Cartodere bifasciata

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.

Empoasca decipiens
Possible Empoasca decipiens nymph

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.

Parasitised Aphid – possibly Aphelinus mummy

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.

Peach-potato Aphid Myzus (Nectarosiphon) persicae

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.

Parasitised Aphid

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.

Delicately Beautiful

x1 image. Double click to enlarge.

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.

Under Leaves, Over Leaves

x8 photos. Double click to enlarge.

Birch Catkin Bug Kleidocerys resedae

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.

Phylus (Phylus) coryli – nymph

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.

Stenodema (Brachystira) calcarata
Eurhadina loewii
Campyloneura virgula – nymph
Zygina sp.
Common Flower Bug Anthocoris nemorum – feeding on aphid
Athysanus argentarius

For more species and more detailed information please visit below:

Something Strange In The Bushes

x4 images. Double click to enlarge.

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.

500 Insects

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:

Red-legged Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes
Red-legged Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)

Berberis Fusehorn Arge berberidis female
Berberis Fusehorn (Arge berberidis) female

2-spot Ladybird Adalia bipunctata larva
2-spot Ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) larva

Little Nomad Bee Nomada flavoguttata female
Little Nomad Bee (Nomada flavoguttata) female

Pellucid Fly Volucella pellucens
Pellucid Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens)

Grouse Wing Mystacides longicornis
Grouse Wing (Mystacides longicornis)

Hairy Spider Weevil Barypeithes pellucidus
Hairy Spider Weevil (Barypeithes pellucidus)

False Cacao Moth Ephestia woodiella
False Cacao Moth (Ephestia woodiella)

German Wasp Vespula germanica
German Wasp (Vespula germanica)

Peacock Aglais io
Peacock (Aglais io)

Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum female
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) female

Roesel's Bush-Cricket Roeseliana roeselii
Roesel’s Bush-Cricket (Roeseliana roeselii)

For those that may be interested you can visit my Insects page ‘here’.

Microcosmos II

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.

Double-click image for a closer look.

Red-and-black Froghopper

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.

Red-and-black Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata

Red-and-black Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata

© Peter Hillman ♦ 6th May 2020 ♦ Local woodland margin, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

Crucifer Shieldbug

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.

Crucifer Shieldbug Eurydema oleracea

© Peter Hillman ♦ 6th April 2020 ♦ Rear garden, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

The Strange

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.

Heterotoma planicornis nymph

Heterotoma planicornis

© Peter Hillman ♦ 30th June 2019 ♦ Rear garden, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

The Best Bed For A Bug In Town

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.

Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina

© Peter Hillman ♦ 24th March 2020 ♦ Front garden, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

Self Isolating

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.

Sonronius dahlbomi

Sonronius dahlbomi

Sonronius dahlbomi

Sonronius dahlbomi nymph

Sonronius dahlbomi nymph

© Peter Hillman ♦ 9th, 22nd & 30th June 2019 ♦ Local woodland path, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

Green Shieldbug

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

© Peter Hillman ♦ 16th March 2020 ♦ Back garden, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

Huddled Together

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.

Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 12th March 2020
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire

The Weird

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 …

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus early stage nymph

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 7th July 2019
Place: Local field, Staffordshire

Fly Bug

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.

Fly Bug Reduvius personatus

Fly Bug Reduvius personatus

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

Small Black And White

Anoecia corni
Anoecia corni

There was a bunch of these tiny critters hanging around on a wall out the front.

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Blending In

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

I discovered this Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) on my Water Mint this morning.

Feel free to click the image to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Beautiful In Red

Rhopalus subrufus

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.

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Small And Small

Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) early instar

Feel free to click the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina) early instar. Rear garden. © Pete Hillman August 2019.

On The Shed wall

Common Froghopper Philaenus spumarius

Common Froghopper Philaenus spumarius

2 photos in this post …. feel free to click to enlarge and click again to get even closer on the images …

This is the very varied Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) clinging nicely to my shed wall.

July 2019, rear garden, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Looking At You

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus – also called the Squashbug.

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …

June 2019, woodland margin, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

On The Crabapple Tree

Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina

Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina)

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …

June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.



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

May 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Ghosts of Insects Passed

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 …

May 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

The Box Sucker

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.

May 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Where The Colours Really Shine

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.

April 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

A Journey Into Their World

Rose Aphids

Rose Aphids on one of my fresh young rosebuds.

Double click on images to enlarge.

May 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Eye To Eye With The Hairy Shieldbug

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

Double click on images to enlarge.

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum, September 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

The Weird And The Wonderful #2

Dicyphus nymph

This is possibly a Dicyphus nymph, a plant bug. Quite hard to get an accurate id on these little ones.

Dicyphus nymph

July 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Alder Spittlebug Aphrophora alni

Alder Spittlebug Aphrophora alni

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’.

Double click for a closer look-see …

July 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Green Shield Bug Palomena prasina

Green Shield Bug Palomena prasina

Double click to get a little closer.

August 2017, local woodland margin, Staffordshire, England.

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum final instar

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum final instar

August 2017, local woodland margin, Staffordshire, England.

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum

Double click just to see how hairy this bug is.

August 2017, local woodland margin, Staffordshire, England.


Delphacidae sp nymph

Delphacidae sp nymph

Delphacidae sp nymph

Delphacidae sp nymph

A) Delphacidae sp. nymph with Dryinid wasp parasite. Local pond margin.

B) Unknown. Local pond margin.


C) UnidentifiedLocal pond margin.

Idiocerus sp

D) Idiocerus sp. Rear garden on crab apple.

Whitefly Aleyrodidae

Whitefly Aleyrodidae

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.

All taken July 2017, Staffordshire, England.

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

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.

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

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.

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus adult and final instar

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus final instar

Below is a mid instar, and comparisons can be made between the two stages with the final instar above.

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus mid instar

August 2017, Staffordshire, England.