Stilt Bug

2012 November 17

This one was photographed on May 13, 2012. Sam found it crawling on the siding of our house. It was a bit less than a centimeter long, and looked kind of like a levitating grass seed.

I wasn’t having much luck finding this one at first, because I was looking under the “plant bugs”. But, after browsing through my copy of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, it looked like the “Stilt Bugs” (family Berytidae, were a much better match.

Specifically, the body shape and the bulges at the midpoints of the antennae look very much like Berytinus minor, another accidental introduction from Europe sometime around 1929.

They evidently suck plant juices, and back in their native range in the British Isles they particularly like clover, lesser yellow trefoil, and “rest-harrow”. There’s a lot of clover in our yard, so that’s probably what they are eating around here. They overwinter as adults, which is why we found this one so early in the season.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. November 17, 2012

    This is such a beautiful bug. She could be a brooch that I could happily wear.

    I like your poetical description of her as “a levitating grass seed”.

    She looks very long and flimsy—like a small collapsible tent.

    She reminds me in her stretched out state of my younger son who is also similarly etiolated right now–so much so —- that he resembles an overwintering geranium plant—all stem, hardly any leaves.

    The pipe cleaner limbs seem rather breakable.
    That last picture makes her look very vulnerable and “human” as if she were wondering –“What the heck is going on here? Who is this chap? Why can’t I stagger along alone without such examinations and scrutiny?”

    So how does she go about sucking plant juices? Do she use that short front pointy thing? Seems rather too short to be a lancet to jab into the vein of a plant.

  2. November 18, 2012

    Thanks, Julie. A brooch, you say? That’s a good thought. Maybe I should find a jewelry maker that I can partner with to make a line of brooches and earrings based on the best pictures on this site.

    As for sucking juices, the pointy bit at the front of her head is the joint for her drinking stylet. This is a long, thin tube that folds underneath her body when not in use, but that she can flick out like a switchblade to use to pierce plant stems and drink.

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