Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Matchmaker, matchmaker

It's been over a week since Laurie brought me that Western conifer seed bug. ** And it spent most of the week sitting alone in a plastic container, with only a few twigs off my evergreens for comfort. It was looking pretty sad, when I checked up on it last Saturday; lethargic, uninterested in life (barely twitching an antenna when I tickled it with a paintbrush).

That has changed.

Sunday morning, back in Strathcona, I noticed another bug on the floor under my daughter's window. I brushed it into a plastic bag, bundled it into my backpack and brought it home. I dropped it into the first bug's new home, with a handy pine cone for a perch.

"Aha! A companion! A new best friend!"

Immediate result; a whole lot of grooming going on. Every time I looked, one or the other beetle was busy scrubbing hands, scraping back legs, or smoothing its forewings (elytra). Antennae waved wildly, capturing data. Bug # 2 roamed about. By Monday evening, # 1 was following suit.

These are interesting bugs; intelligent, as bugs go, brave and inquisitive. They seem to have no fear of my camera lens, a bare centimetre away from their faces. They neither run away nor play dead, but instead wave their antennae at the camera; "Hi, all my fans!" One kept following the lens around, as I tried to position it where the light was good.

They wear a brick-red formal jacket trimmed with a large garnet, opening to reveal an inset of luxurious chocolate-brown silk, a red and black shirt-front with checkered trim and a thin, red tie.

Jacket. (Hemelytra or front wings)

Shirt-front, with tie. (Mouth parts, actually.)

And around the shoulders, they wear a feathery collar, with jester's corners and cream lace inserts:

"Handsome, aren't I?"

By Monday night, both bugs were alert and busy; they kept opening and closing their wings, and occasionally attempting a short flight. I caught a glimpse of a back, yellow and black, like a wasp.

It took a while, but I got a photo:

Three layers: hemelytra (forewings). Gauzy, transparent flight wings underneath. And below that, the upper abdomen.

I don't know how to tell if they are male or female. Or when, or whether they will be interested in breeding if they are opposite sexes. Something to look up. And I'll keep an eye on them for mating and/or fighting.

I'm keeping them both in the plastic container. I don't dare let them go; they, or their young, destroy our evergreens. Nor can I "put them down", not after I've been watching them for a week. So I'll have to provide a home for them, I guess.

I wonder if there are books on the Care and Feeding of Seed Bugs as Pets.

**Corrections made after input from Christopher (see comment #1). Thanks, Christopher!


  1. Ummm.... that's not a beetle. It's some form of bug (Hemiptera). You can tell from the long tubular beak and the fact that it doesn't have elytra but hemelytra. The front pair of wings is hardened at the front, but the rear half of the front wings remains membranous, and the forewings are still functional in flight.

  2. Christopher;

    Thanks. I should have known; I wrote down "bug" first, then thought, "but they're beetles" and (in)corrected myself. I should have looked them up again.

    I'll go back and correct my post.

    I'm still too stuck to the common usage of "bug" for anything with more than 4 legs, that I automatically discard it as incorrect. I'll pay more attention in the future. Thanks, again.

  3. Ok, so this is ancient, but relevant nonetheless. I appreciated the info. We have these guys here in some number, and I've always found them to be friendly and inquisitive as well. Often they land on my laptop screen and seem fascinated by it, tapping away with their antennae, and reacting to, then often following, my mouse pointer when I bring it up to them. I've always found their level of curiosity to be fascinating, given the tiny size of their little heads. A lot going on in such a small package.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Dave! It gave me the chance to go back and remember this. Since I've moved to Campbell River, I rarely see any of these any more. I miss them.

    That's interesting, about them following your mouse pointer!


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