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Pied shieldbug Steven Falk ©

Pied Shieldbug

Fast facts

  • Latin name: Tritomegas bicolor
  • Notable feature: Rounded, black and white body with brown wing membranes.
  • Rarity in UK: Rare / Common
  • Where in the UK: Widespread in Southern England and parts of Wales in hedgerows, woodland edges and some gardens. Absent from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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In contrast to most Shieldbugs which are camouflaged green and brown, the Pied shieldbug has an eye-catching livery. It is often mistaken for a black and white ladybird, especially the young nymphs which have black spots, but unlike these beetles it has overlapping wings and piercing mouthparts.  

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Picky eater

The Pied shieldbug uses its mouthparts like a straw to tap plant sap and has very specific tastes, only supping from the seeds of Dead-nettles (Lamium) and Black horehound (Ballota nigra) plants. Where these host plants flourish, Pied shieldbugs are often very common.
 

Keeping Mum

Perhaps surprisingly for an insect, Pied shieldbugs are great mothers. The female digs a small hollow in loose soil to lay her egg cluster, then stands guard over them for three solid weeks, turning them gently with her snout like a mother hen. When the eggs hatch she leads her babies to the food plant. The young nymphs have orange-yellow abdomens fading to yellowish -white as they grow. They go through several moults before reaching adulthood when their wings are fully developed and they can fly to pastures new.

 

Arrival of the lookalike

The Pied shieldbug used to be an unmistakable species in Britain, until the arrival of Rambur's Pied Shieldbug (Tritomegas sexmaculatus) in Kent in 2011.  Rambur’s pied shieldbug has black wing membranes and longer white margins of the thorax.

Fun fact:
Leaving wilder areas where deadnettle is left to grow can attract Pied shieldbugs to your garden, as well as pollinating bees and beeflies which enjoy the flowers.

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