John C. writes:
I have a patch of autumn-fruiting raspberries at the bottom of my garden and over the past two or three years they have become very popular with some rather ugly ‘bugs’.
The ‘bugs’ are dock bugs and classified by entomologists as squash bugs (or leather bugs) and are closely related to shield bugs. They are also known as ‘stink bugs’ because some species emit unpleasant smelling chemicals to deter predators.
A characteristic of all true bugs (as the entomologists call them) is that they all have a beak (rostrum) that they use for sucking juices from plants or, in some species, from other insects.
The dock bugs on my raspberries are quite gregarious, with sometimes three or four of them sucking the juices out of the same fruit. They don’t bother me and I usually just flick them off (they don’t seem to mind). I have never noticed any bad smell and, although they are not very attractive, I have enough raspberries to share with them.
Scorpion flies, so-named because the male’s tail curls up like a scorpion’s sting, and not any kind of bug, also seems to enjoy the raspberry hulls.
Some shield bugs have less pleasant habits. Last Sunday Sue (whilst looking for crickets!) found a red-legged shield bug feasting on a hapless caterpillar, species unknown.
Whilst some of the squash bugs are rather ugly, some shield bugs are really quite attractive, such as the hairy (or sloe) shield bug we found a few weeks ago in Sue’s garden.
I should add that the bug identifications are rather tentative; my books differ and I’ve based them on the pictures on what seems to be an authoratative website: britishbugs.org.uk .