Name: Parent Shieldbug
Scientific name: Elasmucha grisea
Nature Stars: 40
About: Also largely tied to silver birch is the peculiar Parent Bug, about 10mm long. At first glance, this insect looks much like the Birch Shieldbug, but closer examination of the flanks will show that where the Birch Shieldbug is pale green, the Parent Bug is banded with black and cream. The real difference, however, can be seen in their behaviour. Whilst the other shield bugs lay their eggs and then leave their young to fend for themselves, the Parent Bug is a dedicated mother. She lays her eggs in a tight cluster on the underside of a birch leaf, and then she broods her clutch, sitting tightly over the eggs until they hatch. She and her family stick close alongside each other right up until the young finally become adults.
How to identify: Only likely to be confused with the Birch Shieldbug, which also feeds on birch catkins. The Birch Shieldbug is more brightly coloured, with plane green sides to the body. The Parent Shieldbug is duller in colour, with a chequer board black and creamy pattern along the sides of the body.
Fantastic fact: The Parent Shieldbug is so named because the adults take such care of their young, guarding the eggs and then caring for the young. You can often find them on birch leaves, sheltering a gaggle of tiny youngsters.
Photograph credit: Photo credit tbc