Monday, February 27, 2012

Tree Stink Bugs

Yesterday the temperatures were in the low sixties which is absolutely gorgeous, if a bit unusual for Northwest Missouri in February. I spent about an hour outside enjoying the warmer weather and looking for any insects that were active. My honey bees were busy gathering Maple Tree pollen as they flew in and out of their hive. I found some ants hiding away under the bark of our elm tree. Then I came across these stink bugs under the bark of our maple tree. They were snuggled up as if trying to keep each other warm. I wasn't sure of the species so I sent this image into and within minutes I had a positive ID to genus. These guys are Rough Stink Bugs or Tree Stink Bugs as they are also referred to as. They are in the genus Brochymena.

These are relatively large stink bugs that measure up to 20 mm, or nearly one inch. The two pictured here were easily 3/4 of an inch in length. They have a very bark-like appearance giving them great camouflage among the trees that they frequently hang out on. They are common throughout North America in habitats that have trees. Look for them in orchards, forests and nearby areas.

There are numerous species within this genus and I've read accounts that claim some are plant feeders and will suck the juices out of various garden plants like okra, peas, cabbage, corn, squash, and tomatoes. Others feed on orchard trees like peaches and citrus. Many will also feed on alfalfa, cotton, soybeans, and other forage crops. Some species within this genus are beneficial because they feed on harmful caterpillars, beetles and soft bodied insects. One article stated that by looking at the "shoulders" of the bug you can determine if these stink bugs are plant feeders or insect feeders. Plant feeders have rounded shoulders, whereas insect feeders have pointed shoulders. The ones pictured here definitely have pointed shoulders.

The adults overwinter under the bark of trees or in leaf litter. In the spring the female will lay clusters of eggs on the leaves of various trees. It will take the nymphs most of the summer to reach adult size. Then they will in turn over winter and emerge the following spring to lay eggs and carry on their kind.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Small-Eyed Sphinx Moth

The small-eyed sphinx moth (Paonias myops) is one of the smallest and most strikingly beautiful sphinx moths in Missouri. They are commonly found around deciduous woodlands, suburbs and any other wooded areas. They are often attracted to porch lights and I frequently find them at the mercury vapor light I set out to attract insects.

Their wing span measures up to 2 15/16 inches and are (Photo by: Steve Scott) highly variable. The forewing is predominantly brown or black with wavy lines, and the hindwing has a small to large yellow patch enclosing a single black-rimmed

They are found throughout most of the United States and into parts of Canada. They are considered abundant to secure in all of their range. The adults do not eat, instead they gain all the nutrition they need in the caterpillar stage. The adult stage of their lives is for locating mates and laying eggs to carry on their genetics and grow their populations. As caterpillars they feed on a wide variety of hosts including A variety of plants including western chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), black cherry (P. serotina), sour cherry (P. cerasus), service berry (Amelanchier), and basswood (Tilia). The caterpillars can be difficult to identify as they are highly variable just like the adults.

The caterpillar here as feeding on a young wild cherry sapling near our garden. It was beautifully marked with these bright hot pink spots. Truly a striking caterpillar.