Stink Bug/Shield Bug Information

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Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Hemiptera

Identifying Features

Appearance (Morphology)

  • Adults: four wings. The posterior part of the top wings is membranous and the anterior part is leathery.
  • Oval to elliptical, recognized most readily by the large triangular scutellum ( plate that fits behind pronotum and between the forewings)
  • Generally green to brown
  • Long, thick beak (piercing, sucking mouth part) held between the legs.
  • Incomplete or simple metamorphosis (hemimetabolous)
  • Many are brightly colored or have conspicuous marks.

Natural History

Food
Most are plant feeders (a few are predators). Farming areas can yield good numbers in crops like cabbage, cotton, etc. or in nearby roadside vegetation. Many species come to lights at night. Adult stink bugs of various species are active from spring through late fall. To keep them alive in the classroom, give the bugs well washed fresh green beans.

Habitat
The eggs are laid in masses of 20-30 and are barrel-shaped. The harlequin bug, Murgantia histrionica (see illustration), a beautiful orange and black variegated bug, lays equally bright eggs. This southern United States stink bug is quite common and sometimes spreads north to New England states in years of abundance. It is readily found in cabbage crops.

Interesting Behaviors
When handled or disturbed, individuals will produce a fairly sweet odor from glands in the thorax, thus the common name. The openings for these glands are readily seen on the last thoracic segment towards the sides of the insect. To make a stink bug release an odor, hold the insect with your thumb and forefinger on the sides (see *s).

Behaviors to watch for include maternal care and guarding of egg clutches (in some species), aggregation behavior, and some sort of courtship displays.

Impact on the Ecosystem

Positive
Most species are innocuous, feeding only in their host plants, and are seldom encountered by humans.

Negative
Some of the species, because of their feeding behavior, will leave cosmetic scars in fruits. Some cause damage in cotton and other crops. If numbers become too great, a crop can fail.

Collecting Live Insects

Where to find
Where to Find Finding stink bugs may be a challenge. Sometimes they are all around, easy to see and easy to find. Many are green or brown and blend in with their surroundings. Home vegetable and flower gardens that are organic or where no insecticides have been used may be a good place to look. Look on squash plants, beans, and melons. Using a beating sheet on durable plants may flush some out of the leaves. Adults of some species are active from May to October.

How to collect
Use old pill bottles or small containers to gather the stink bugs. Hold the container below the bug and tap it into the container. Use an insect net to guard against them flying away from you. You can try to catch them as they fly away or swing the net by the plant to capture the insect. This method will rip leaves off the plant, so don't do it on the neighbors beans!

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Center for Insect Science Education Outreach The University of Arizona
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