What is that … pretty bug? (part 2) 

2
Waddells

On January 22nd the Millstone News ran our article about pretty bugs … bugs that are really beetles.  In this piece we want to talk a little about some other pretty bugs at the cottage but these will be true bugs, scientifically known as hemiptera.  Most hemiptera feed on plants, using their sucking and piercing mouthparts to extract plant sap. Some, however, are parasitic while others are predators that feed on other insects or small invertebrates.

Arguably the best known hemiptera at the cottage is the cicada.  The dog-day cicada is an insect which usually we hear rather than see.  The high-pitched buzz emitted by the cicada announces summer and is often associated with the hot dog-days of summer.  To this day, when Bruce’s mother hears a cicada she says it must be hot out.  To her, cicadas buzz or sing only on hot days.  In fact, the hot days coincide with the cicadas’ courting ritual in August.  Sometimes it sounds as though we have a veritable orchestra buzzing from the pines. The cicada is a large bug, measuring 30 millimetres in length, and not particularly pretty we will admit, but it is certainly distinctive, warranting first place in an article about true bugs at our cottage.

A truly pretty true bug is the candy-stripe leafhopper, shown here on our precious basil plant at the cottage.  Before encouraging it to relocate to an indigenous plant, we ran for our cameras and took pictures.  As often is the case with insects, we did not immediately know what was, but John Acorn soon solved our quandary.  The candy-stripe is a tiny bug at only 8 millimetres in length.  Being so small, one might think it could not do too much damage to our basil; nevertheless we shooed it away, rather than exterminated it.

Several species of stink bugs are common at the cottage.  Whichever types we have are well-camouflaged when resting on a plant, but they show up clearly when they find themselves on the deck or inside the porch.  Stink bugs come in a variety of species and colours.  They are broad, shield-shaped bugs, and if you swat or step on one, well … it stinks.  This is one way it deters predators.  The green one below is the green stink bug and the brown one is called the rough stink bug.  Generally our forest looks pretty healthy, so we do not bother with them.

A number of sub-species of assassin bugs live in Ontario.  One, Zelus luridus, lives at our cottage at White Lake, where it is known commonly as the pale green assassin bug.  A pretty bug, it is also a welcome bug as it preys on other insects. It will often wait on leaves to ambush passing insects.  Both nymphs and adults are predaceous and feed on all life stages of some aphids and leafhoppers.  Although most assassin bugs are slow-moving and not aggressive, they may use their proboscis in self-defence if handled carelessly, so we sit back with respect and take their photographs.

The western conifer seed bug has been, according to bugguide.net, spreading eastward since the 1950s, and now is common throughout southern Ontario.  It lives in conifer forests like those at White Lake.  Adults may wander indoors late in the season looking for shelter to spend the winter.  They live on the sap of green cones and sometimes the needles of pines, hemlock, and spruce.  Western conifer seed bugs are unable to bite or sting or infect people or pets, damage property, or even reproduce indoors.  Again, we are not bothered by them, and we enjoy admiring their lovely colours.

Observations about pretty bugs or hemiptera are our own; however, for the technical aspects we have relied on John Acorn’s Bugs of Ontario; bugguide.net; and, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.