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Stink Bug Biology

Superfamily PENTATOMOIDEA

This page contains pictures and information about the Biology of Stink Bugs in superfamily Pentatomoidea that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia. They include the stinkbugs, shieldbugs, tortoise bugs, burrower bugs and jewel bugs.
 
Shield Backed Bug
 
 
As all other bugs in the Order Hemiptera, bugs in superfamily Pentatomoidea have one common characteristic: their sucking mouths. Most of them suck juice from plants and some (Asopus Group) feed on other soft-body insects. They can be found on all kinds of terrestrial habitats, including under bark, on tree trunks, branches, stems, leaves, flowers, in the litter and deep under the soils. 
 
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Half membranous forewings                                  Sucking beak                                                       Adult's stink gland   
 
Almost all of those bugs in this superfamily the fore wings are hardened and thickened in the basal half but the distal half remains membranous. This results in a structure which is half hardened like the wing-covers of a beetle and half membranous like the wings of a bee.   
 
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Large Stink Bug                                                   Jewel Bug                                                             Shield Bug
 
The shield-shaped insect of the superfamily Pentatomoidea, especially the family Pentatomidae, are called Shield Bug. They have well-developed scutellum that is either triangular to semi-elliptical in shape. They are also known as Stink Bug. They have stink glands and will give off a strong-smelling odor when the insect is disturbed, particularly on capture. Adult and nymph bugs have those glands located in different parts of body. For the nymph bugs those glands openings are on the top or back centre of abdomen while the adults have the gland openings at the side of thorax immediately in front of the hind legs. The odor is from the discharged fluid which contains an oily component cimicine, which is a very volatile component. 
 
They usually have flat and soft bodies. Their forewings are toughen on the base area and with a membranous tip part. Their antennae are well developed with up to five segments. Most of them are colourful although some have unnoticeable camouflaged colours. 
 
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Mating couple                                                      Laying eggs                                                           Maternal care
 
For the stink bugs, female and male look almost the same except female is usually a little larger than male. Mating takes place usually with the couple facing in the opposite direction.  
 
Stink Bugs are developed in incomplete metamorphosis. Their young, when small, look quite different from the adult. Each successive instars increasingly resemble the adult. There are usually five juvenile stages and a few with four.
 
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Stink bug young instars 
 
When bugs newly hatched from eggs as 1st instars, they usually stay around their eggs cases. In general, the 1st instars nymph do not feed. They spend some time ingesting bacteria which the female deposited on the eggs when she laid them. The bug have to liquefy the food with saliva first before they can feed on it.
 
The principal differences between various instars and between nymph and adults lie in the development of the wings and in some case the number of antennal segments. The beginning of the wings development start in the 3rd instars. The wing-buds are fully seen in the 5th instars. Almost all nymphs have four antennal segment in early instars stages. If the adult has the 5th segment, the second antennal segment of the nymph divides into tow in the 4th or 5th instars stage. Ocelli are only seen in the 5th instars if the adult has.
 
To quickly identify the Stink Bug that you found, try our Stink Bugs Home page and Field Guide page. 

Reference:
1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 508.
2. PENTATOMOIDEA - Australian Biological Resources Study, Australia, 2002.
3. Plant-feeding and Other Bugs (Hemiptera) of South Australia. Heteroptera Part I & II - by Gordon F. Gross, South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide, 1975/1976.
4. Pentatomoidea Home page - Dr. David Rider, North Dakota State University, 2009. 

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Last updated: August 12, 2010.