Meet Graphosoma lineatum. Or maybe it’s Graphosoma italicum. One’s red and the other orangey. Their colourings seem so similar, though, only an entomologist’s mother could tell them apart. They’re commonly known as stink bugs.
Red (or orange) with black stripes and if that weren’t striking enough, it has adorable black dots on its belly. The bold colours and markings warn predators that these aren’t the droids their looking for. Its size range is 8-12mm / 0.3-0.5in.
Stink bug, courtesy, pexels.com CC BY1.0
Stink bugs or shield bugs are one of approximately 50,000 species of the suborder Heteroptera in the order Hemiptera, and classified as true bugs. A true bug is one that has sucking mouthparts and feeds on the sap of plants, including crop plants.
This particular species is commonly found in Central and Southern Europe, Middle East and Western Asia (Anatolia). However, collectively, hemipterans, which include aphids, cicadas and bed bugs are worldwide.
If you agitate or squash one you’ll understand its moniker. And if your skin comes into contact with the toxic secretion they spray or excrete, wash it away as soon as possible as it’s a known irritant to some of us.
To keep their numbers in check you need to attract their predators. Wasps and other parasitoid insects are excellent hunters. One way to attract parasitoids is with food: have plants, such as bee balm, milkweed and others that offer a good source of nectar and in bloom by mid-summer when parasitoids are looking to lay eggs.
Learn to recognize larvae of beneficial insects, such as the one here: it looks like something you want to get rid of, but if you do, you’ll have killed a future lady beetle. Besides aphids it also consumes stink bugs.
Lady beetle larva, courtesy Katrina Br?#!@nd CC BY-SA 2.0
Other beneficial insects are lacewings, praying mantises and spiders. Some birds will eat them so give a thought to plants that will attract them into your yard. Having shrubs in the garden allows the praying mantis a place to hide from its predators. The Xerces Society has a great article on stink bugs, including what plants attract them.
It’s all about balancing the good with the bad because they all have a roll to play in the insect world.
Want more? Get up close and personal with Graphosoma lineatum here.
Other sites referenced:
Nikki Tilley’s 2016 article Praying Mantis Information: How To Attract A Praying Mantis To The Garden
Lori Jones’ 2011 article Watch Out Stink Bugs – there’s a mighty predator after you!