Gloria Nagler: Shield bugs stink!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Juvenile shield bug looking wistfully out into the cosmos

Text and photos (copyrighted) by Gloria Zmuda Nagler
Edited by John Wiley Lewis

Yep, shield bugs stink. That’s why the insects pictured in this article are commonly called shield bugs OR stink bugs! One way the four families of shield bugs are similar is that they have glands that produce foul-smelling liquid used to defend against predators (including humans when we touch them, so be forewarned:).

The photo of the smaller bug (looking wistfully out into the cosmos) is, according to my friend who belongs to a local entomology club, a juvenile who will lose much of its colorful design upon reaching adulthood. Found this shield bug on our garbage can lid (never know where you’re gonna find photo ops).

Adult shield bug

The other photo is of an adult shield bug I found on our car hood (The different tones of the background are because I shaded the bug in order to shoot it effectively). Their shield designs are, as far as bugs go, breathtaking (at least to photogs) — and I’ve notice more of them this season than I have before. Shield bugs suck the sap from various plants and also eat small insects. By the way, neither bug was harmed in the making of the photos.

A recent article in The New Yorker goes into detail as to how these insects can be overwhelming — truly overwhelming as in tens of thousands showing up inside people’s houses (the author talks specifically about a couple’s overrun home in South Carolina). The article says that the brown marmorated stinkbug profiled therein is not native, but has spread to almost all states in the continental U.S. They also found thirty thousand (30,000!!) stinkbugs living in a small shed in Virginia. 

The author of The New Yorker article, Kathryn Schulz, rightfully concludes that, although the offending stinkbugs may rouse us to get rid of them them as quickly as we may also act to save the beloved polar bears, we should keep in mind that “…the most troubling thing about the natural world today is not all the things we have to live with. It is all the things we have to live without.” Amen to that.


Kathryn Schulz, author of “When Twenty-six Thousand Stink Bugs Invade Your Home” in The New Yorker, March 12, 2018 issue

Wikipedia on “Pentatomoidea” on Shieldbugs


Anonymous,  October 5, 2018 at 1:10 AM  

That's a Western Conifer Seed Bug on your car hood, not a shield bug. We've seen alot of them lately in our Shoreline yard. It will also seek indoor shelter, so we've been sealing up possible points of entry. It eats seeds & is harmless to people & like the shield bug, is stinky. --Claudia Turner

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