Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Assassins and Soldiers

Assassin bugs are aptly named. Their appearance and habits suggest the kind of creature a Klingon would appreciate and perhaps keep for a pet. Like their cousins the Amush Bugs these insects lay in wait on a flower, hoping to grasp prey with their spiny forelegs. They inject their victims with venom and suck the tissues through their long beaks ... and can also deliver a painful bite to people if mishandled.

This specimen looks like a member of the genus Sinea, probably Sinea spinipes.

Spined Soldier Bugs (Podisus sp.) feed on insect pests and are beneficial from a human point of view. This Soldier Bug is similar to the Brown Stink Bug but can be distinguished by the much sharper "shoulders" and the brown spot at the end of the wings.

A predatory Stink Bug feeding on a Geometer Moth caterpillar; this bug lacks the sharp epaulettes of the Soldier Bug. The shape and color of the scutellum are distinctive but thus far I haven't had any luck with finding a picture or description to positively identify the species.

While we're on the subject of bugs here's another member of the order Hemiptera: the Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii). As a rule these bugs feed on nectar and milkweeds but they can (based on my observations) be scavengers or possibly even predators.

Small Milkweed Bugs superficially resemble Boxelder Bugs (Boisea trivittatus) but the red markings on the back of the latter insect don't form an "X"; I'll post a picture in the near future.

Compare the pattern on the back of this Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata) to the Milkweed Bugs above.

The Leaf Footed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) is believed to feed on red pine and Scots pine seeds; this bug has been expanding its east from its natural range on the west coast of north America.