24 February 2011
The western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis), a native to the western United States, Canada and Mexico, has been added to RAMM’s collection. Two specimens were found locally, one by RAMM’s Assistant Curator of Natural History, Holly Morgenroth, another brought in by a member of the public. Although these two insects are not the first recorded sightings in Devon, this species was absent from RAMM’s reference collection and consequently both have been accessioned.
A pest of fir trees
The seed bug is particularly partial to pine trees and can greatly reduce their reproductive output. It is a serious pest in Douglas-fir nurseries where it uses it straw-like mouth parts to pierce tree bark and feed on the sap of developing conifer cones and seeds.
A long journey
In 1999 the bug was accidentally introduced to Italy and has now spread across Europe. It was first sighted in the UK in 2007 inside a Weymouth classroom and since then these bugs have migrated across the Channel from France in large numbers.
Will it hurt?
It is likely that the western conifer seed bug will be a permanent addition to the UK’s fauna and it is already here in such numbers that sightings of this insect are no longer required to be reported. However, it has the potential to be a serious pest here also. Keep an eye out for it flying around parks and gardens in the summer and looking for suitable hibernating places in early autumn – homes and other buildings are particularly attractive options for this insect. Will it hurt you? No, but just like our native shield bugs it will emit an unpleasant odour if handled.
For more information the western conifer seed bug see www.britishbugs.org.uk .