True Bugs

(Order: Hemiptera)

Common Pondskater and nymph (Gerris lacustris) (Lochgilphead, Argyll)

This is a common insect that most people know. It skates over the water with its legs spread broadly. The water dimples where its legs rest. They have brownish-grey bodies, small heads and large eyes. The nymph is less elongated than the adult and seems to have these 'tortoise-shell' markings. I thought the insect in the bottom photos were water crickets at first, but I think their legs are too long and straight to be water crickets and they have more of a pond skater-like appearance. Pondskaters prey on other small insects that land on the water using their two front legs as can be seen in the photo on the bottom right.

Water Cricket and nymph (Velia caprai) (Beside Mearns Road, Whitecraigs, South West Glasgow)

This is quite colourful by water bug standards, but I would never have been able to get a clear photo of it darting around the water.  Luckily, these ones were having a rest on some reeds close to the edge of the stream. Because of the two cream spots on its pronotum, it looks as if it has four large eyes. Its abdomen is dark brown with a reddish, brown terracotta edge to it which also has cream spots near the top. It seems that this is the only surface water bug that can 'dive' below the surface of the water. The nymph was quite difficult to identify, so thanks again to Florin Feneru at the Natural History Museum for his confirmation (as much as it can be confirmed from this photo) on the indentification.

Water Cricket (Microvelia reticulata) (Lochbroom pond, South West Glasgow)

This looks a bit like a pond skater at first, but it is much smaller, rounder and less elongated than a pond skater. It is black with silver markings. These water crickets all appear to have this 'bent leg' appearance. They are not in fact crickets at all. When I first saw it, it looked a bit like a spider floating about on the water and at no more than about 2 millimeters, it is absolutely tiny. It was found swimming beside some reeds in the water close to the border. As the Latin name suggests, this is the 'micro' version of a larger water cricket.

 Lesser Water Boatman (Signara doralis or similar) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

Unlike the backswimmer below, these boatmen swim on their fronts. This has been on my 'wish-list' for years now, so I couldn't believe my luck when I found loads of these darting around a shallow, muddy puddle beside a pond. And I think the lesser water boatmen are mating in the last photo - but I can't be sure. I had no idea however, how small they were - these were only 4 - 5mm long or how fast they were. I confess to taking about 20 - 30 photos before I got anything remotely sharp. The trick was to try and take the photo when they stopped swimming for a split second and before they used those long paddles to dart off again. And I also confess that my camera ended up dipped in the water a number of times as I tried to get close to them, and then I had to spend ages wiping off the oily residue from the lens. Anyway, I think it was all worth it - I absolutely love this insect with its intricate yellowy-gold wavy marking against its dark brown body. Apparently, these are also very good fliers which I don't think you would guess by looking at them. I should point out that there are quite a number of very similar species,  so these could well be another species of lesser water boatman. Lastly, Wikipedia says that the lesser boatman's mating call is the loudest sound relative to its body size in the animal kingdom. This sound is generated by rubbing its penis against its abdomen. Do you ever wonder how you have managed to get through life thus far without knowing this?


Common Backswimmer (nymph on top, adults underneath) (Notonecta glauca) (Darney Country Park, Darnley and Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

These insects are a nightmare to photograph as they always seem to like swimming around in the middle of ponds, just out of reach of a decent sharp photograph of them, although the nymph sat nicely for a photo - adults please take note! Although these are supposed to be common throughout the UK, it has actually taken me quite a long time to find one in Scotland. Anyway, here you can see the typical stance of these insects, lying on their backs with the tip of their abdomens poking through the surface water. As you can see, the highly elongated back legs which act as oars, are instantly recognisable. They also have reddish eyes. While many people call these Water Boatmen, these backswimmers are in fact not Water Boatmen as true Water Boatmen swim on their fronts and not on their backs as with these aptly named Backswimmers. These insects can readily fly and can apparently inflict a nasty bite on humans. Having said that, how cool would it be to say you've been bitten by a Backswimmer?

Plant Bug (Heterotoma planicornis previously known as Heterotoma merioptera) (Beside White Cart Water, just west of Pollok House, Glasgow)

This is a very small mirid bug, only about 4 - 5mm long with green legs and brown and white mottled wings. These bugs are relatively common, but they don't stand out when seen them with the naked eye and can easily be overlooked. However, when you magnify them, you can see that the second segments of their antennae are very broad and paddle-shaped which prevents it being mistaken for any other species. They can be found among nettles and are more common in England, with them being barely recorded here in Scotland. In fact, records appear to only show them being observed on the east coast - and this was found in the west!

Common Green Capsid (Lygocoris pabulinus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

A stunning insect, mostly green with brownish membranous wing tips and long antennae. In the photo on the right, you can also see the capsid’s rostrum acting like a straw to suck up the flower’s nectar. It is considered a crop pest and is very damaging to apple trees, potatoes and will attack soft fruits in the garden. Capsids are also known as mirid bugs.

Mirid Bug Nymph (Calocoris (Calocoris) alpestris) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

Quite a distinctive nymph, I think, although the adult looks very like the common green capsid bug as pictured above. Here you can see the nymph sticking its proboscis into some poor defenceless fly and sucking out all its juices. Also, this species seems to have a very peculiar Latin name, I don't know if there are just two spellings of this species which is why they're both mentioned, but it's the first time I've come across this. I also checked the identification with  because there doesn't seem to be any other's of these identified in South West Glasgow, but ispot confirmed this is the correct identification.

Mirid Bug Nymph (Miris striatus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

I have been trying to find an adult Miris striates for years, but now that I've found a nymph, there must  be hope that adults are living there too. This is a strange creature which looked like a large ant from a distance, but on closer inspection I noticed the two distinctive yellow stripes on its abdomen with reddish-brown legs. I think these insects are far more common down south. Up north these seem to be restricted to the Glasgow area so I think I'm lucky to have found one of these at all. I found it on a dark, damp day, but they are quite shiny in the sunlight. The adult is also quite distinctive as it is a very stripy brightly-coloured mirid bug. They like to feed on small insects such as aphids.

Potato Capsid (Closterotomus norwegicus) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

The potato capsid on the left is a particularly Scottish bug as it has dark almost black markings on its wings. The English variety are a more puny brown colour. The distinguishing feature about potato capsids as opposed to common green capsids above, is the two black dots on its pronotum, which should be just about visible on the photo on the right - particularly if you expand it, although there are a number of similar species.

Capsid Bug (Capsus ater) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll and Mugdock Country Park, Stirling)

The adult of this capsid bug can take two forms - all black as the photos on the top, or it can come with an orange/brown pronotum and head as the bottom photo. Both forms have black forewings. It has an oval body which seems to bulge in the middle. The base of the antennae is a noticeably broader club-shape than the tips. Often found feeding in long grasslands, it is pretty small at only 5-6mms long.

Capsid Bug (Plagiognathus arbustorum) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

This is a very common insect and looks fairly similar to Capsus ater in the photo above, but it is more elongated and the antennae aren't clubbed. However, the most distinguishable feature is the black edging on its back 'thighs' and the dark spot on it lower legs. They are often found on nettles and can be a greenish-brown or black colour, although the head and pronotum are usually dark. Thanks once again to Florin Feneru at the Natural History Museaum for identifying this for me.

Mirid Bug (Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

This is a little insect with a big name. It is similar to Grypocoris stysi in the next photo but without the ‘butterfly’ marking on its wings. Whilst it’s not easy to see here, the pronotum, the bit behind the head, is raised and bulging. It is common on and around oak trees and eats both plants and insects. The markings can vary from light yellow (as in the top photo and on the left) to deep orange (as on the right).

Black Mirid Bug and nymphs (Grypocoris stysi) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

The markings on this are distinctive and therefore unlikely to be confused with other insects. I think the ‘butterfly’ shape in the middle of its wings are the clear giveaway of this species. They are very small and so these markings can only be seen on close inspection. The underside is a brilliant green metallic colour (see middle row). The markings can be whitish-yellow, but they can be quite orange, as in the photo at the top.

Mirid Bug (Harpocera thoracica) (male) (Beside Mearns Road, Whitecraigs, South West Glasgow) 

quite attractive bug, especially with the yellow legs and the cream pattern against the brown thorax, wings and abdomen. The sexes of these mirid bugs are dimorphic meaning the males look obviously different from the females. The females are shorter, stouter and redder and the females' antennae don't have the slightly bloated look that the males do (as can be seen best in the photo on the top). The adult males only live for about two to four weeks and are usually seen in May, as this one was. 

Mirid Bug (Liocoris tripustulatus) (Parklands Country Club, South West Glasgow)

A tiny mirid bug only about 3 - 4 mms long. This was one of many found coorying in at the stalk of nettles, making taking photos of this tiny creature perilous.  Despite its small size,  its bright yellow scutellum (triangle behind the thorax) and wing tips stood out from its otherwise black body. These bugs can vary greatly in colour and can be brown rather than black.

Mirid Bug - Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus rugulipennis) (Auchindrain Open Air Museum, Argyll)

So called because of the rust coloured tarnish stain on the forewings. It leaves white spots on the leaves where it has fed (see photo on the right) although it doesn’t cause serious damage to the plant. It has yellow markings towards its wing tips, but the colouring can be quite varied.

Mirid Bug (Cyllecoris histrionius) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

The photo's not as sharp as I'd like it, but not bad considering it was a very windy day and the leaf was swaying about. A rather strange looking mirid bug which is so long and narrow it looks like it's been placed on a rack. Mirid bugs also typically have quite large and wide pronto (the bit behind the head), but this bug's shiny black pronotum is very narrow. These bugs are mostly brown, but have a bright yellow scutellum (the yellow triangle), a yellow ring around its 'neck' and two yellow patches at the bottom of its wings. The base of the antennae are also red as can be seen in this photo.

Mirid Bug (Phytocoris tiliae) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

A small and unusual looking mired bug that looks very moth-like.  It was only its broad legs and elbowed antennae that made me suspicious that it may in fact be something else. It has mottled black and white wings, although they can be greenish too and it was well camouflaged on the plant head on which it was sitting. It's legs and antennae are also striped black and white. It was found in a wooded area which was dark which made getting a good photo of it near impossible.

Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae) (Throughout Scotland)

Not a widely liked insect this one.  Also known as plant lice and greenfly. Tiny but with a huge impact and often occurring in very large numbers.  They are strict vegetarians.  Most of the information about aphids is as garden pests and how to get rid of them. Aphids can be winged (as here on the right) or non-winged.  I think the name ‘rosae’ comes the aphids being found on different types of roses (usually the stem) rather than that the insects themselves are red. Some are (as on the left), but others are dark green (as on the right). They give birth to live young rather than laying eggs and in fact, I think if you look closely enough you can see the winged aphid in the left hand photo may in fact be giving birth to its live young!

Large Thistle Aphid (Uroleucon cirsii) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

A large  black coffee bean-shaped aphid with short 'spikes' along its back and two long 'spikes' at its rear, known as cornicles. In particular, it long, narrow legs are distinctively yellow and black. This species of aphid is often found, as here, on creeping thistle. The cornicles do not emit honeydew (as is commonly thought) but pheromones to ward off predators. The honeydew is in fact excreted from it bottom. It has long antennae and from certain angles, as this one, can look like one aphid is on top of another. Unlike most insects, aphids give birth to live young - which, if you look carefully, I think this one is in the process of doing as we speak.

Mealy Plum Aphids (Hyalopterus pruni) (Waterfoot, South West Glagow)

Even as an avid insect lover, I'm struggling to love these. There's something about a huge pile of horrible creepy-crawlies that sends shivers up your spine and makes your skin crawl.  I've no idea why, there's no good reason for it. It's lifecycle is quite complicated with its eggs being laid in the autumn on plum tree leaves, hatching in the spring in large colonies (as here). They can damage the plum tree leaves - as you can see, this ones looking a bit worse for wear. These insects have a waxy texture to protect them from predators whilst they're sucking up the plant's juices.

Woolly Larch Adelgid (possibly Adelges laricis)(Pollok Country Park, South Side Glasgow)

This is the hairy egg of an aphid-like bug called an adelgid. As mentioned above, aphids, unusually in the insect world, give birth to live young. When the adelgid nymph hatches from the egg it feeds on the sap of the plant which then turns into a wingless light green aphid-like adult. The "wool" is waxy presumably to ward off predators. The conifer tree had lots of these tiny white dots on it, as if someone had flicked white paint from a toothbrush onto it. It is only after seeing the magnified photo, that its intricate nature can be appreciated.

Mummified Aphid (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

There are always lots of gruesome stories about various insects, and this is no exception. There is, of course, a story behind such deceased puffy looking coppery aphids. These tiny 1-2mm creatures are frequently found glistening in the sunshine. What happens is that a parasitic wasp comes along and lays one of her eggs in a live young aphid. When the parasitic wasp hatches out of the egg (inside the aphid), it eats the inside of the aphid and kills it (endoparasitism), which causes the aphid to become 'mummified'. The parasite uses silk threads to hold the dead aphid in place. The parasitic wasp will then eat its way out of the mummified aphid, leaving a neat circular hole in the back of it (see photo on right). Sometimes the parasitic wasp is used intentionally as 'pest' control in greenhouses. I know aphids are generally not the most loved insects in the world, but surely you wouldn't wish this on your worst enemy?

Jumping Plant Louse (Psyllopsis fraxini) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

A tiny but quite striking insect.  Although it is a little difficult to make you from these photos, you can just about make out its yellow and black pronotum (the bit behind the head) and black, smoky wing tips to what are otherwise milky-clear wings. The body is also striped black and yellow. These are often found on Ash trees where the larvae form these beautiful purple-veined galls. As you can see from the bottom photos, the edge of the leaf curls and forms pouches that contain the nymphs. The photo on the bottom right in fact shows the gall and a jumping plant louse, although I think it's an adult rather than a larva just leaving the gall. One of the more eye-catching galls.

Cabbage Whitefly (Aleyrodes proletella) (Back garden, South West Glasgow)

These are only about 2mm long and whilst they look like moths and are called flies, they are actually true bugs! At rest, the wings are held horizontally over the body and the typical dark patch on each wing is clearly visible. There is no mistaking this insect when you see it. They can be very distructive in large numbers, but on the basis that there are no cabbages (and only disgusting rhubarb) in my back garden, I'm not too worried.

Green Leafhopper (top left photo adult female, top middle photo adult male, top right photo adult female and male, middle photos female nymphs, bottom photos male nymphs) (Cicadella viridis) (Patterton, South West Glasgow and Argyll Caravan Park, Inverary)

The adults remind me of miniature budgies for some reason. It’s the female of this species that has these amazing turquoise/green wings and yellow front with distinctive dark spots.  Males (as can be seen in the top middle photos and on the right in the photo on the top right) are much darker with blue/purple wings and are generally less attractive and as you can see from that photo, the males are noticeably smaller than the females. Leafhoppers have spiny back legs which distinguishes them from froghoppers. These are brilliant fun to try and photograph as they will always purposely hide behind the leaf when they see you coming - it's like a real game of hide and seek and both the nymphs and adults enjoy playing it. Honestly - give it a go!

Planthopper (female) (Dicranotropis hamata) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

These planthoppers are what’s known as ‘brachypterous’ i.e. their wings are abnormally small and undeveloped. This photo doesn’t show any of the detail properly, but you can see the ‘keels’ on its head which is a useful distinguishing feature of these types of planthoppers.

Leafhopper (males top and second row left, female second row right, nymphs bottom ) (Evancanthus interruptus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

Easy to spot, hard to photograph. They are small insects and very camera shy, hopping off wildly at the very sniff of a camera. I don’t think this could be confused with anything else and the male and female are quite distinctive, with the female's abdomen jutting out noticeably beyond her wings. The abdomens of the nymphs can come in a variety of colours ranging from orange to red. The third row right all yellow nymph is known as a variant and is quite a scarce variant which is pretty exciting and I would like to thank again for helping me out in identifying these nymphs.

Potato Leafhopper (Eupteryx aurata) (Darnley Country Park, Darnley, South West Glasgow)

Very distinctive yellow and brown markings on this leafhopper. Three main problems with getting a good photo of these insects: firstly, they’re tiny; secondly, they are often seen on stinging nettles which makes getting close to them rather perilous; and lastly, like all good leafhoppers, they like showing off their hopping skills whenever you get within ten feet of them. Their toxic saliva can damage potato crops. The photo on the left shows the typically back spiny legs displayed by all leafhoppers.

Leafhopper (male) (Oncopsis subangulata or Oncopsis flavicollis or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

Not terribly sharp photos of this leafhopper I'm afraid, but I think there is enough detail to see its rather striking pink eyes and its grey wings with prominent black veins of this rather odd looking creature.  Identification is very difficult without proper analysis. From what I can find from the research I have done, it appears that the male has the black/dark pronotum (the bit behind the head) and yellowish 'face' whereas the female has a brownish pronotum and 'face'.

Horned Treehopper (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

Ok, so I'm not going to win any prizes for wildlife photographer of the year with this one, but I had to include it as this creature has to be one of the weirdest-looking insects in Scotland. It it fairly large, about a centimetre long, and looks a little bit like an alderfly, but it has two thorn like structures on the top of its head (hence the name 'horned') and a 'dorsal spine' (the rigid wavy structure) running down the middle of its back. If you expand the photograph, you should just about be able to make out both features here. It also has large bulging eyes which are reddish-brown which you should be able to see poking out just above the leaf. There are only two species of treehopper in the UK, the other being Centrotus cornutus which is smaller than this species and doesn't have the 'horns' on its head. I think I've been pretty lucky seeing one of these at all as, until recently, it has been restricted to England and has only just started making its way to the south of Scotland, where this one was spotted. 

Lacehopper (Cixius nervosus) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

This lacehopper is very similar to the one below, but has more distinct brown bands across its wings and in particular a broad brown band behind its head. Its wings do look lacy with silvery brown threads running down its body. There are many similar species. All references talk about this insect and Taxicixius (below) having 'three keels on the scutellum' which I think means there are 3 sticky-up ridges on the part behind its head, but to be honest, you'd need pretty good eyesight to see this!

Lacehopper (brown form bottom right) (Tachycixius pilosus) (Patterton and Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

For me, this is definitely one of the strangest looking insects of them all (other than the horned treehopper above which is even stranger). The clear wings with dotted veins and bulging brown eyes distinguish it from most other hoppers. This lacehopper looks a little like a fly of sorts, but it is in fact a true bug. It is similar to the lace hopper above but the brown markings are broken up a lot more and are not in distinctive bands as above. It's colouration can be variable (see brown form bottom right with dark brown almost opaque wings - apologies for the dreadful photo). And now that one particularly friendly one has landed on my finger, I'd like to retract my earlier comment about it being strange looking and describe it is very cute instead.

Common Froghopper and Cuckoo-spit (Philaenus spumarius) (Throughout Scotland)

So called because of their ability to jump and their vague resemblance to frogs. It has many different colour forms. The nymphs are surrounded by a protective white froth known as ‘cuckoo-spit’. The name comes from the fact that the cuckoo-spit is usually seen in late spring, when the cuckoos appear. They say if you brush aside some of the froth, you can see the nymph inside, but I’d be wary of doing this in Glasgow as the spit may be of the human variety rather than the froghopper type!


Broad Damsel Bug (Nabis flavomarginatus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

A rather large and handsome insect with short wings. I think there are quite a number of species of damsel bug that look similar and identification can be difficult. Its antennae are elbowed fairly close to its head. Apparently, the upper surface of the abdomen is covered in short golden hairs, although it’s hard to make that out in this photo.

Heath Damsel Bug (nymph)(Nabis ericetorum) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

This was discovered towards the end of September, when there were few other insects around, so it was pretty exciting to find a 'new' insect before the autumn/winter set in. Its abdomen has a very distinctive red colour, although the adult is generally a dark brown colour. They are found on heathland and are associated with heather, which is particularly pertinent for a Scottish insect website. As with all damsel bugs, it has very short forewings. There are a number of similar looking damsel bugs, so again I cannot be sure of the identification of this one.

Common Flower Bug adults and nymphs (Anthocoris nemorum) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

The adult’s “back” reminds me of a tribal African mask. Although called flower bugs, they are more likely to be seen on leaves. These insects are abundant but often missed because they are so tiny. They feed on aphids, other tiny insects (and larger ones...) and spiders too from the look of the photos at the top. Both adults and nymphs have a very sharp rostrum (see nymph photos) which will “bite” humans who handle them roughly. And to prove the point, I was recently minding my own business when one of these flower bug nymphs (no more than 3 millimetres long) somehow managed to get onto my hand and stuck its rostrum into me for no good reason and boy did it hurt - it was like a needle going into me! And I'm not exaggerating when I say that half an hour later, it was still throbbing. On the other hand, it probably didn't hurt as much as it hurt the poor defenceless grub in the bottom photo - those flower bugs are just nasty, horrible creatures...

European Chinchbug nymph (Ischnodemus sabuleti) (Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Lockerbie)

Great name for a bug in these Brexit-uncertain times.... There were scores of these tiny beautiful nymphs darting up and down the reeds beside a pond. I couldn't for the life of me even begin to identify it, so thanks once again to  who were able to help me to identify this within seconds of me posting it. Interestingly, although this was spotted in the 'correct' habitat, the person identifying it pointed out that this is further north than its recorded range but that this bug is said to be undergoing a rapid range expansion. Too exciting! And if no one has done so already, I would very much like to be the first one to welcome this species to bonnie Scotland. I might try and go back to Eskrigg Nature Reserve shortly and see if I can spot any of the adult European Chinchbugs, which are stunning black bugs with brown 'wood-effect' wings.

Bed bug (dead)(Cimex lectularius) (Undisclosed hotel, Scotland)

Ok, whilst I generally love all insects of all shapes, sizes, colours and habits, I don't love this one. Or at least I'm not thrilled to be sharing my sleeping quarters with it. I can't even look at it without needing to scratch. It's a parasitic insect which feeds on human blood and although it thankfully doesn't transmit disease it can cause a nasty rash and other irritations. It seems these things are becoming more prevalent as travel increases and that a number of hotels are having problems with them. And eradication is not easy as they lay eggs which are difficult to spot and remove. 'Interestingly' when I was looking into these creatures, I found that the male 'traumatically inseminates' the female by piercing her abdominal wall with his genitalia. Honestly, see men...

Grass Plant Bug (nymph on the top left, young adult male in the top middle, older adult male on the top right, female on the bottom left and male and female on the bottom right) (Leptopterna dolabrata)

The adult looks a little like a stripy version of the grass bug (Stenodema laevigata) pictured below.  I just love the meadow plant bug nymph on the top left, which obviously isn’t big on the idea of camouflage at this stage. It’s antennae are ‘elbowed’ quite close to its head. The grass plant bug in the top middle photo is quite a young adult as it is black and yellow.  As it gets older it becomes more black and orange, as can be seen on the top right.  This species also has a black mark between its eyes. The males are fully winged and a bright orangey-brown colour, whereas females are greenish and usually partially winged (as in the bottom photos) with the abdomen jutting out beyond them.  

Grass Bug (Stenodema laevigata) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

These grass bugs are straw coloured when they first become adult, but later when they mate in the spring they turn greenish. According to the various sources of information I can find on this, this probably isn’t exactly the grass bug I’ve identified as they are only rarely found in south Scotland only and I found this in Glasgow! Any suggestions therefore will be gratefully received.

Hawthorn Shield Bug (adults, mating and instars below) (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) (Giffnock, Patterton and Rouken Glen Park, all South West Glasgow)

And here we have the little blighter that got me started on all of this insect malarkey in the first place. Isn’t it a stunner! Hawthorn shield bugs are also known as stink bugs because they let off a terrible odour if attacked (although I’ve never smelled it no matter how close I get my camera lens to them). The hawthorn shield bug can also be reddish (see photo on the right) which may cause it to be confused with the birch shield bug (but see below for differences).

Shield bug nymphal skin

Shield bugs go through incomplete metamorphosis  (with the nymphs looks similar to the adults) and shed their skin 5 times at which point they reach their adult state (as seen above).  Whilst this photo may look like a dead shield bug that's had its insides sucked out, it is in fact the nymphal skin (or 'exuvium') left behind after a moult. Some of the different stages of nymphs (or 'instars') can be seen below.

These are 2nd instar hawthorn shield bug nymphs (red form on the right)

Both these insects are 3rd instar hawthorn shield bug nymphs, but the picture on the right is the red form of it

4th instar hawthorn shield bug nymph 

These are 5th instar hawthorn shield bug nymph with the ones at the top being good pals!

Birch Shield Bug (adult and instars below) (Elasmostethus interstinctus) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

The adult shield bug looks very like the adult hawthorn shield bug (above) but the birch shield bug has a patch of brown on the scutellum (the triangular part between the wing buds). It was absolutely stunning and really did look like a shiny red display shield. It was happy to have its photo taken and even hung upside down off a twig to show me its stomach which is also beautiful. These shield bugs can, as the name suggests, be found on birch trees and this one was(!) and the larvae also feed predominantly on birch trees. This was found in September when there are very few other insects around. As these are also known as stink bugs, I was hoping the Latin name was something to do with it smelling badly, but it seems that 'interstinctus' actually means chequered or spotted, which is disappointing as it doesn't seem to be either of these and has nothing to do with it smelling badly whatsoever.

Birch shield bug final (5th) instar birch shield bug  (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow and Craignure, Mull, Argyll)

The red antennae on the instars above are distinctive. I found the one on the left at the beginning of October when there are few insects around. I also found the one on the right 5 minutes before jumping on the ferry from Mull to Iona, so that was an added bonus.

Red-legged Shield Bug adults and mating (Pentatoma rufipes) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll and Paterton, South West Glasgow)

The adult red-legged shield bug (apparently the newer hipper name for the forest shield bug) has an orange spot at the tip of the scutellum (in the centre of the back). It also has orange and brown edges and square hooked “shoulders”. These feature distinguish it from the similar looking Picromerus bidens (see photos further below). It feeds on fruits as well as caterpillars and other insects.

Red-legged Shield Bug (mid instars top row, final instars bottom row) (Pentatoma rufipes) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll and Darnley Country Park, South West Glasgow)

The mid instar red-legged shield bug was found in early June and has very undeveloped wing buds. One of the final stage instars was found in early June and the other in late June - they were both incredibly eye-catching. As I was photographing them, I couldn't help telling them how stunning they looked. They seemed to be pleased with these comments, they tilted 'back' towards me so that I could get a better shot!

Spiked Shield Bug (mating adult shield bugs and adult shield bugs, nymph below) (Picromerus bidens) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

This shield bug is similar to the forest bug above, but has even more pointed “shoulders” and does not have the orange and brown edging. A large, broad shield bug which feeds on fruits as well as caterpillars and other insects. I was very excited to get a picture of these shield bugs mating, but they must be at it like rabbits as every insect book I have has a picture of them mating! The nymph at the bottom below is tucking into something that looks less than appetising. 

Spiked Shield Bug (mid instar nymph)(Picromerus bidens) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

Spiked Shield Bug (final instar nymph)(Picromerus bidens) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway and Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

I always think it is relatively easy to recognise a shield bug nymph as they often have what looks like to me ‘stitching’ on its ‘back’.  Identifying them precisely is another matter.  I thought I was going to have to call in the heavies to identify these ones, but hopefully I’ve managed to identify them correctly. It seems that these final instar nymphs come in quite a variety of colours.  Many of them seem to be a light grey-brown colour with shiny blackish-brown thorax, wing buds and stitching. And as you can see from the photo on the right, they're not vegetarians - what was that poor creature?!

Bronze Shield bug (adult - eggs and instars below) (Troilus luridus)(Patterton, South West Glasgow)

The adult looks a bit like a forrest/red-legged shield bug or spiked shield bug (see above), but it can be distinguished from both of these as the adult has an orange band near the tip of each antenna and no orange spot on the tip of its scutellum.

Bronze Shield bug (Eggs, 1st stage, 2nd stage and early instar)(Troilus luridus)(Patterton, South West Glasgow and Brighouse Bay Campsite, Kirkcudbright)

The eggs are an amazing black colour with white spike-like protrusions. Thanks to for helping confirm the identity of these eggs. I think these are fairly rare in the UK generally and certainly seem to be very uncommon in Scotland and indeed the west of Scotland.  The 1st  and early instals  are also a black and orangey colour. It's probably not obvious from these photos which are magnetised, but the 1st instars are about 1mm in length - absolutely miniscule. As you can see from the photo on the right in the second row, one of the 1st instar shield bugs has shed its skin leaving its exuvium behind and become a bright orange and red 2nd instar shield bug. It is really awe inspiring to watch each stage of the development of these creatures.

Parent Shield Bug (Elasmucha grisea) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway)

I didn't think I'd ever find one of these as they are mainly found south of the border. It would have been easy to miss this one as it is really tiny for an adult shield bug (about half the size of a hawthorn shield bug) and it was very well camouflaged against the greenish wood, It is a strange mix of a mustard and brownish-red colouring but with a typical black patch on its 'scuttelum' - the part behind the thorax. These are called parent shield bugs because the female adult sits on her eggs for two to three weeks and then looks after and protects the newly hatched nymphs. Not often I get to bring you a good news story...

Green Shield Bug (adult top, 2nd stage instars (second row)  3rd stage instarts (third row) and 4th stage instars (bottom)) (Palomena prasina) (Mabie Forest Nature Reserve, Dumfries and Galloway)

Awwh - so cute!  I absolutely adore the 2nd instar nymph in the middle in particular. Although these are pretty common in England they are pretty difficult to find in Scotland. All the books I've read say they are widespread and common throught most of Britain - believe me, no they're not! It took me years to find one of these instars and it's not been through lack of trying. And I have to confess that the adult was actually found in London, I still haven't found one here...!