A vast number of Hemiptera (bugs) are found in gardens, some readily identifiable and many not. Here is a relatively small selection; other shieldbugs are shown in the Woodlands and Hedgerow section. Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a common garden shrub which does well on nutrient poor soils and attracts plenty of invertebrates. The most interesting is the Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus, 14mm), which has enjoyed a remarkable surge after being found almost entirely at Box Hill in Surrey until the late 1980s. There were six pairs mating on one of my box bushes on one day in 2015.
While box may be the favourite, the bug now also uses hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), rose (Rosa sp), yew (Taxus baccata) and even apple (Malus domestica) and has begun to spread.
This expansion of range has been echoed in Belgium and the Netherlands, probably another indication of the benefits of warmer climatic conditions for certain species, particularly invertebrates. Box Bugs may be seen in almost any month from March to October but are most numerous in August-September. The nymphs have several stages of development known as instars, looking odd early on when the antennae are full length but the rest of the bug is tiny.
The Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorroidhale, 15mm), the largest in Britain, is much commoner than the Box Bug and has also taken advantage of garden plants. The main foodplant, as might be expected, is hawthorn but they also use whitebeam (Sorbus aria), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and the ornamental plant cotonoeaster (Cotoneaster spp).
The Forget-me-not Shieldbug (Sehirus luctuosus, 7mm) is a very dark species that is widespread but local. It has a close association with the plant after which it is named and appeared in the garden in the same year as I first had abundant forget-me-nots.
2016 proved an excellent year for bugs in the garden, with three notable new species. Two were shieldbugs, Corizus hyoscami (8mm) and Rhopalus parumpunctatus (8mm). The former used to be found only near the coast but is expanding its range rapidly. Rhopalus parumpunctatus is from the same family and is locally distributed in southern England.
Orsillus depressus (6mm) is a seed bug that arrived from the Mediterranean in the 1980s and is now naturalised in Britain where it is pretty common in lowland England. It usually found on Lawson's cypress.
The third new bug in 2016 was the leafhopper Iassus lanio (8mm), which is found mainly on Oaks and has superb camouflage but for the striking red eyes. The Alder Spittlebug (Aphrophora alni, 10mm) is a froghopper found on a wide variety of trees and bushes including in my garden grey poplar.
The Rhododendron Leafhopper (Graphocephala fennahi, 9mm) is a striking bug that is native to the United States but has been in Britain for over a century. It is esssentially found in the south and both larvae and adults feed on rhododendron sap. However, judged on the numbers on one of my rhododendrons in 2013, and the fact that the shrub has continued in fine fettle since that year, the assumption must be that they do not do huge damage to the plants.
Issus coleoptratus (adult 6mm) is a planthopper that feeds mostly on ivy. The nymph has strands probably of starch coming out of its back-end. The species became famous in the autumn of 2013 when scientists from Cambridge University published a paper in Science magazine revealing that the nymphs have a locomotive gear mechanism with cogs in the hind legs that enables them to jump straight by synchronisation. Previously it had been assumed that gears were a human invention.
The Birch Catkin Bug (Kleidocerys resedae, 5mm) has several generations each year. Pilophorus perplexus (4mm) is one of the Miridae and associated with deciduous trees. Oncopsis subangulata (5mm) feeds on birch.
Images © Jeremy Early. All rights reserved.
In 2013 I published My Side of the Fence – the Natural History of a Surrey Garden. Details may be found, and orders placed, via this hyperlink My Side of the Fence. In November 2015 Surrey Wildlife Trust published the atlas Soldierflies, their allies and Conopidae of Surrey, jointly written by David Baldock and me. Details are on this web page: Atlas.