The lifecyle of the shieldbug was an unexpected discovery during the 2020 lockdown; all of these examples were found at Surrey Docks Farm. Special thanks to the British Bugs website for identification of the lifecycle stages of each species: www.britishbugs.org.uk
Above: a batch of hatchlings of the Common Green Shieldbug, gathered on top of their empty eggshells in mid-June. The entire cluster of tiny nymphs is actually only about 1cm across; it is almost impossible to see what's going on without magnification. These eggs would normally be safely hidden on the back of the leaf, but this particular leaf had bent backwards, giving us this rare view. It took several days for all of them to leave their eggshells behind and disperse in search of food and fortune...
Above: the empty eggshells about a week later, with their neat little pop-up lids, and curious black symbols - could these be the lids' 'hinges'? This cluster of eggs is only about 8mm across - i.e. impossible to distinguish with the naked eye.
Above and left: the final nymph form of the Common Green Shieldbug. To the naked eye it appears wholly green; only in close-up can the dark speckles be seen. The shapes of its developing wings tell us that its next stage will be as a winged adult.
Common Green Shieldbug
Southern Green Shieldbug
Above: this African species, a recent arrival in the UK through imported produce, was found in profusion at Surrey Docks Farm in 2020. As an adult it's almost identical to the Common Green Shieldbug, but as a nymph it goes through many colourful changes. Here it is in one of its earliest stages, still just a few millimetres long.
Above: here they are at their most colourful stage. Even their legs are half red, half green.
Left: the nymphs at a later stage of development - the black and white starts giving way to green, and the wings begin to develop.
Above: the cycle begins again, as a pair of adults mate. They have abandoned the bold colours of their youth for the simple safety of camouflage green...
Above: a particularly handsome Hawthorn Shieldbug, found at the same site in 2012.
All photographs Copyright Germander Speedwell, but feel free to get in touch if you'd like to use any.