Parent Bug

Parent Bug brooding eggs ©Philip Precey

Parent bug

Scientific name: Elasmucha grisea
The Parent bug lives up to its name. The female lays her eggs on a Silver birch leaf, watching over them until they hatch. She stays with the young until they are adults. Other shield bugs lay their eggs and leave.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 7-9mm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to October

About

Largely restricted to Silver birch trees, the peculiar Parent bug looks much like the Birch shield bug at first glance. But closer examination of the flanks will show its distinctive black-and-cream bands; the flanks of the Birch shield bug are pale green. The real difference, however, can be seen in their behaviour. While the other shield bugs lay their eggs and then leave their young to fend for themselves, the Parent Bug is a dedicated mother. She lays her eggs in a tight cluster on the underside of a Silver birch leaf, and then she broods her clutch, sitting protectively over the eggs until they hatch. She stays with her family until the young finally become adults.

How to identify

The Parent Bug is only likely to be confused with the Birch shield bug, which also feeds on Silver birch catkins. The red-and-green Birch shield bug is brightly coloured, with plain green sides to the body, whereas the Parent bug is duller in colour, with a black-and-cream-chequered pattern along its sides.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The Parent bug is so-named because the adult females take such good care of their young. This protection helps to prevent attack by parasitic wasps. You can often find Parent Bugs on Silver birch leaves, sheltering or leading a gaggle of tiny youngsters.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for woodland plants.