Shieldbugs are lovely. Why else would we give them such an elegant heroic heraldic name? They are chunky, glossy, often large and strongly coloured and many are suitably shield-shaped. They walk with a friendly clockwork waddle or take to the air with a calm and confident buzz. Some give off a mild, oily almond scent if handled, but they do not bite, and even the few with prominent, sharp shoulder thorns are not considered dangerous. Though a couple of species might take an occasional liking to the broad beans growing at the back of the garden, most are seen as harmless and non-threatening. What's not to like?
Shieldbugs belong to the diverse insect order Hemiptera — a huge group of perhaps 100,000 species worldwide, which also includes aphids, whiteffies, scale insects, leafhoppers, froghoppers, spittlebugs, cicadas, lanternflies, capsids, bedbugs, water scorpions, water boatmen, backswimmers and water-skaters. Among this daunting biodiversity, large, bright shieldbugs offer themselves easily to the general field naturalist – part of a burgeoning array of stepping-stone insect groups like dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees and hoverflies. They are slightly more difficult to identify than butterflies and moths, but not as tricky as fleas or flea beetles. There are roughly 80 species recorded from the British Isles; many of them can be identified from a photo, or under a hand lens, when held gently between finger and thumb. Nevertheless, they offer a bright window through which to study nature, the environment, conservation and ecology.
As well as being an identification guide to Britain's shieldbugs (and others which might colonise in the near future), Richard Jones’ groundbreaking New Naturalist volume on shieldbugs encourages those enthusiasts who would otherwise be put off by the, to date, rather technical literature that has dominated the field, providing a comprehensive natural history of this fascinating and beautiful group of insects.
Editor's preface vii
Author's foreword and acknowledgements viii
1. What is a Shieldbug? 1
2. Shieldbug Structure 25
3. Life Histories: Breeding and Feeding 55
4. Dangers and Defences 93
5. Evolution of Shieldbugs and a History of British Species 123
6. History of Shieldbug Study 145
7. Key to British Shieldbug Species 187
8. British Shieldbug Species 225
9. How to Study Shieldbugs 371
Appendix 1: Selected British and Irish Shieldbug Foodplants 395
Appendix 2: Shieldbug-related Websites and Apps 400
Picture Credits 420
Species Index 424
General Index 436
Richard Jones is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a past president of the British Entomological Society and author of several books on insects, wildlife and gardening. He also contributes articles on insects and the environment to several high-profile newspapers and magazines (including the Guardian, BBC Wildlife and Gardener's World Magazine), and appears regularly on radio and television.