True Bug from Inside Queen Anne’s Lace Seed Head

2016 February 17

On August 30, 2015, I was prying open nearly-ripe Queen Anne’s Lace seed-heads looking for caterpillars for last Saturday’s post. And I found that they didn’t always contain caterpillars. Sometimes they contained little true bugs like this one, about 5 mm long.

I never found both a bug and a caterpillar inside of the same seed-head. At first I thought that maybe the bugs were carnivorous, but it turns out that they aren’t. Looking at the underside, it has the long, thin proboscis typical of plant-juice feeders, not the shorter, more robust proboscis of a predatory bug.

The pattern of pale red on a black body is a very close match to the “Wee Harlequin Bug” (also known as the “Twice-Stabbed Stink Bug), Cosmopepla lintneriana (the intensity of the red is variable, this one is on the paler end of the spectrum)

These are found all across the northern part of North America. They are a “polyphagous” species, which basically means that they eat most anything.

I don’t know if “most anything” includes the occasional meat when the opportunity presents itself. I still think the fact that I only found these bugs by themselves in the seed heads, and never sharing them with caterpillars, is kind of suggestive, though.

The females of this species will guard their eggs until they hatch. The hatchlings then mature before winter, and overwinter as adults buried in the leaf litter. Since this specimen was an adult at the end of August, it was probably getting ready to find a hibernation site.

2 Responses
  1. Katbird permalink
    February 17, 2016

    Have you thought of finding a clear plastic grid to place under some of these so we have an idea of scale (must be tiny to hide in Queen Anne’s Lace, though)- but I see you have listed the length? I didn’t know they hibernated. Interesting.

  2. February 19, 2016

    I used to use graph paper a lot, although I had a lot of trouble keeping them on the sheet. Insects in general don’t seem to like to stand still on smooth, flat surfaces. They will run until they find a not-flat surface, like a branch or a finger or the edge of a bowl or a leaf. Which suggests that maybe I could persuade them to pose on the edge of a ruler . . .

    One of the things I use a lot is a tiny, smooth ceramic bowl that is slippery enough that they can’t crawl out. Maybe I could put some sort of grid on the bottom of it.

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