Sunday, January 31, 2016

HumBug: Bugs in Midwinter

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 3:31 PM

click to enlarge A mature box elder bug in all its glory. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A mature box elder bug in all its glory.

The middle of winter is not the best time to be a bug guy. There aren't many around and most of the ones that are hide under rocks. Sometimes though, they surprise you. Returning home one recent night, I found a dozen or so medium sized, dark colored critters on my front door. Even without looking closely, I knew they were Western box elder bugs (Leptocoris rubrolineatus — that last name translates appropriately to “red lined”).

Finally, a bug that's actually a bug! Hemiptera is the order referred to even by entomologists as the “true bugs.” With a piercing/sucking mouth, some bite and can transmit diseases, and others can be crop pests. Most of them have a roughly shield shaped body.
click to enlarge Juvenile box elder bug. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Juvenile box elder bug.
The true bugs start life as nymphs, which look a lot like the adults except without wings. Their lifestyle does not change throughout their lives — what the babies eat the adults eat and vice-versa. These guys drink the juices from box elder trees and maples. I have a big leafed maple in my front yard, which I assume is where they go when they need a drink. They can become a minor crop pest to fruit trees causing damage directly feeding on apples, pears and others.
A little research led me to a newer and better classification system than I had learned. This one breaks class Insecta down into three subgroups based differences in how they develop throughout their lives. It really makes it easier to understand the relationships between the different orders. So, even in the middle of winter there was still something new to learn.

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