Description & Statistics
Pentatomidae derive their name from 5-jointed antennae. The subfamily Asopinae has developed the predatory habit to a considerable degree, and a few species have reached the status of obligate predators (Clausen 1940/1962). Among the latter are Podisus maculiventris Say of North America, which feeds primarily on hairless larvae of Lepidoptera, but also attacks those of Chrysomelidae. This species has been regarded as the most useful of the American predaceous Hemiptera and has been ranked next to Calosoma as a natural enemy of the fall armyworm. One individual was found to have consumed 122 3rd-4th-instar larvae of Laphygma exigua Hbn. over 9 weeks. The 1st instar nymphs cluster about the eggshells for several days after hatching and undergo the first molt before any feeding occurs. However, it is thought that these young nymphs feed to a certain extent on plant juices, and this habit is shared with many other species that are strictly predaceous after the first molt. There are 2 generations annually, making the various instars available for attack on crop pests during almost the entire season. Winter is passed as adults. The eggs are laid in batches of 20-30, and each female is able to lay up to 1,000 or more eggs during a period of 5-8 weeks. Couturier (1938) gave an extended account of the biology and behavior of this species as a predator of the Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say. it was introduced into France from North America during 1930-1933 for biological control of this pest (Clausen 1940/1962).
Podisus serviventris Uhler is predaceous on many different caterpillars, and its feeding is similar to that described above (Preble 1933). First instar nymphs feed on unhatched eggs of their own kind and on plant juices, which are essential at this time, and they consistently refuse to attack caterpillars. Plant food may also be taken after the first molt, but the nymphs are unable to develop to maturity without animal food. Podisus sagitta F. is a very abundant predator of Epilachna larvae in Mexico (Clausen 1940/1962). Perillus bioculatus F. of North America has also been introduced to France for biological control of the Colorado potato beetle, and its behavior was studied by Trouvelot (1932). Both adults and nymphs attack beetle larvae, impaling them with their beaks and often holding them suspended in the air while the body fluids are imbibed. First instar nymphs feed only on eggs and young larvae. It was thought that each individual destroyed 150-200 larvae during its lifetime. Landis (1937) found that the eggs were the principal food during the nymphal period and that an average of 452 eggs were consumed during development. In America it was noted that control is effective where the predator is very abundant, precluding the need for other controls. Several generations occur annually, and overwintering is as adults. Females lay a maximum of ca. 260 eggs.
Picromerus bidens L. of Europe also feeds on larvae of various Lepidoptera, foliage-feeding Hymenoptera, Chrysomelidae, etc. It is an important natural control for several crop pests. Its preference for bedbugs, Cimex lectularius L., is interesting, as already by 1776 its use was recommended for biological control of this pest. Clausen (1940) stated that a few individuals confined in a heavily infested room were said to have completely exterminated the bedbugs within a few weeks.
This is a large cosmopolitan family with about 2,512 described species as of 2000. The family is numerous in Africa, Australasia and South America. Diagnostic characters of these "stink bugs" are their broad shield-shape; large and triangular scutellum; 5-segmented antennae and odoriferous glands in nymphs and adults. Many species are noticeably marked and brightly colored.
Although most Pentatomidae are phytophagous, some are also facultative predators that feed on both plants and insects. The subfamily Asopinae has mostly predaceous species, which feed on larvae of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera and other prey, and also on eggs. The Asopinae rely on the paralyzing effect of their saliva, which they inject into their prey. Therefore, they do not need to attack lively and vigorous insects that are able to defend themselves or can easily escape. Several species have been transported from North America to Europe in biological control efforts against the Colorado potato beetle.
The name is derived from Greek pente = five and tomos = section. The family includes some of the stink bugs and shield bugs. The antennae have 5-segments, which is the origin of the scientific family name. The body is usually shield-shaped. The forewings are hemelytra, with the basal half thickened while the apex is membranous (as are the hindwings). The common name comes from their tendency to emit a smelly substance when disturbed; in some species the liquid contains cyanide compounds with a rancid almond scent, which drives away predators.
The term "stink bug" is also given to more distantly related Hemiptera such as Boisea trivittata, the "boxelder bug", and entirely different types of insects such as beetles in the genus Eleodes.
Many stink bugs and shield bugs are pests of agriculture, because they can occur in large numbers and they suck plant juices.. However, some genera of Pentatomidae are beneficial as predators of other insects, especially Mexican bean beetles, Japanese beetles, and other pests.
Also known as jumiles, chumiles, chinche de monte, or xotlinilli, some stink bugs have served as food in Mexico. And parts of Asia. The insects may be mixed with spices and a seasoning to prepare cheo, a paste chilies and herbs.
There are several subfamilies, of which the Australian Aphylinae is often given family status, but is here retained as a subfamily, according to Grazia et al. (2008)
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Grazia, J., R. T. Schuh & W. C. Wheeler. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships of family groups in Pentatomoidea based on morphology and DNA sequences (Insecta: Heteroptera). Cladistics, 24: 932-976.
Hart, C. A. & J. R. Malloch. 1919. Pentatomoidea of Illinois with keys to nearctic genera. Ill. Nat. Hist. Survey Bull. 13(7): 157-223.
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