Buggin with Bridgey – August 2023

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature & Photography Tour in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

True Bugs in the Cairns Botanical Gardens

and Wet Tropics of Queensland.

A dense cluster of Orange Jewel Bugs crammed together on some thin leaves. They are True Bugs found in the Cairns Botanical Gardens

In this blog, I’ll introduce you to just some of the True Bugs found in the Cairns Botanical Gardens and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.  From the adorable to the creepy, and everything in between, we’ll be taking a closer look at these curious creatures and how they make up an essential part of our world’s ecosystem.  If you’re fascinated by insects, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of ‘true bugs’. These insects make up a diverse and fascinating group of creatures, with over 50,000 species found worldwide.

One of the first things I learned when I started my journey down the rabbit hole of the world of insects is the difference between beetles and true bugs.   The most significant distinctions between beetles and true bugs lies in their mouthparts. Beetles have chewing mouthparts with pincer-like mandibles, which they use to bite and chew their food. On the other hand, true bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, consisting of a long, slender beak called a rostrum or a proboscis. This beak is used to pierce plant tissues or prey and suck up fluids.

Orange Jewel Bug (Calliphara regalis)

These dazzling Orange Jewel Bugs are a thrill to come across due to their bright colours, which contrast beautifully against the green of the foliage that they are usually sitting on. This True Bug species can often be found in aggregations of hundreds or more and to find this is a really great opportunity for some interesting behaviour photos. I’ve come across these ‘over-winter’ aggregations every year for the last five years, with most of those occurrences in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.

A reddish Orange Jewel Bug sitting on a leaf looking straight at the camera. They are one of the many True Bugs found in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.

Top & above: Orange Jewel Bug (Calliphara regalis) in ‘over-winter’ aggregation

Leaf-footed Bugs (Pternistria bispina)

These chonky Leaf-footed True Bugs are what I refer to as the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bugs. If you check out their huge legs you will see why!  These impressive bush-dwelling True Bugs are regularly seen during my Let’s Go Buggin Tours in the Cairns Botanical Gardens both on morning and night walks.  They tend to be easier to spot and photograph at night as they venture out into the open under darkness.  They are commonly referred to as Squash Bugs, which implies that they could also be a pest for farmers.  They reach an impressive 4.5cm long and 3cm wide, which includes their massive legs.

A large brown Leaf-footed Bug with a robust elongated body sitting on a green leaf. It's one of the many True Bugs found in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.

Leaf-footed Bug (Pternistria bispina)

Orange Assassin Bug  (Pristhesancus plagipennis)

Like the name suggests these Orange Assassin Bugs  (Pristhesancus plagipennis) are hunters of other insects.  Like all True Bugs they have a rostrum that pierces the body of their prey and they suck up the juices like a straw…a true example of the brutality of nature! The rostrum seems to be especially large in this group of insects.  These insects reportedly have a very painful bite, but I haven’t seen any examples of aggressive behaviour so a bite is extremely unlikely unless you are handling this insect.  They have a fairly wide range mostly on the Eastern Coastline of Australia and some observations of the West Coast as well.

A large Orange Assassin Bug sitting on a pink flower. It has large orange wing covers like spoilers on a car.

Orange Assassin Bug  (Pristhesancus plagipennis)

Midgey Bridgeys Undescribed Lacebug (Tingidae)

In the first few months of running my tours, I re-discovered a tiny little Lacebug that had been lost in the scientific taxonomy world, and didn’t get the attention it deserved by being scientifically classified…meaning it is ‘Undescribed’. I took steps in organising a Permit to collect some of these individuals, after I took the time to make sure that there was an abundant population. The Undescribed Lacebug (Tingidae) is currently being classified, and in the meantime, it has a nickname, The Midgey Bridgey.  We are seeing abundant individuals at the moment and we are coming up to the peak season for them in October.

A tiny bug with a dome-shaped wing covers with translucent stainglass-like patterns. It's an Undescribed Lacebug with a nickname The Midgey Bridgey and they are True Bugs found in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.

Midgey Bridgeys Undescribed Lacebug (Tingidae)

Fruit-spotting Bug (Amblypelta lutescens)

Another species that is considered a pest to fruit growers.  However, I think Fruit-spotting Bugs (Amblypelta lutescens) are fantastic to photograph, especially the juveniles (nymph or instar). Perhaps the two dots on the back of the juveniles is mimicking a jumping spiders face?   They make fantastic models while they are in this juvenile stage as they lack wings and will not fly away.  I had numerous individuals in my backyard while I was focusing on my Disco Bugs series, and was able to include a nymph in the collection.

A Disco Bugs style photo of a Fruit Spotting Bug on a green leaf.

Fruit-spotting Bug (Amblypelta lutescens) included in the Disco Bugs Photography Series

Lychee Bug (Lyramorpha parens)

These impressive bugs are commonly referred to as Lychee Bugs, Large Stink Bugs and Large Shield Bugs and are in the family Tessaratomidae.  These are plant suckers and considered a pest by farmers, but regarded as one of the holy grail of bugs for nature photographers.  They are known to be dedicated mothers, sitting on her eggs without moving or eating.  Once hatched, the nymphs will stay close to mum until they have almost reached adulthood.  These are an impressive size, with the adults reaching almost four cm in length (1.2 inches).

4 bugs on a plant stem, the adult a very large bronze and green mother with her bright red juveniles. They are Lychee Bug & Instars.

Lychee Bug Adult & Instars (Lyramorpha parens)

Predatory Shield Bug (Amyotea hamata)

This species varies from the previous stink bugs in that it is predatory…it doesn’t eat plants, it eats other insects. These hunters can be seen throughout the Cairns Botanical Gardens, although I don’t see them often.  The maroon and yellow combination is curious!

Elongated Brown Stink Bug (Poecilometis elongatus)

Most people refer to these True Bugs as Stink Bugs, and it’s true they do fall under the so-called group of Stink Bugs.  A term I grapple with as I’ve not noticed any ‘stink’ from them and I see them virtually every week on my Buggin Tours in the Cairns Botanical Gardens.  In fact there is one bush where I have seen a little cluster of them living for the past five years.  Five years…no stink!  These seemingly plain looking bugs exhibit a beautifully coloured wing-cover embossed in reds, greens, gold and bronze.  When my participants get a nice macro shot of these bugs I see their appreciation of this beauty.

Spiked Brown Shield Bug (Elasmucha salebrosa)

Another Shield Bug found exclusively in the Wet Tropics of Queensland is this lovely Shield Bug who has extreme spikes on the shoulders, which you could say have inspired the fashions of John Paul Gaultier.

Southern Green Stink Bug (Nezara viridula)

This species has been introduced to Australia and is believed to have originated from Egypt. They are considered a pest by farmers, but I do see them in the Cairns Botanic Gardens from time to time, as well as fruit trees in the Wet tropics of Queensland.

Green Grid Stink Bug (Antestiopsis cederwaldi)

A common bug that I will see often in the backyard on fruit, in bushes and on flowers all over different ecosystems. I especially like finding them on flowers or fruit for photographing them. Quite a small bug, not even reaching 1 cm, but they are very photogenic little insects.

Top to bottom: Predatory Shield Bug (Amyotea hamata), Elongated Brown Stink Bug (Poecilometis elongatus), Spiked Brown Shield Bugs (Elasmucha salebrosa), Southern Green Stink Bug (Nezara viridula) and Green Grid Stink Bug (Antestiopsis cederwaldi) sharing a fruit.

Egyption Large Shield Bug (Plisthenes australis)

This stunningly beautiful Large Shield Bug (Plisthenes australis) only recently became known to me.  My first encounter was in the Daintree, and then I found a deceased one in the rainforests of Cairns.  An impressive size, just short of three Centimetres (1 inch) and adorned with seemingly Egyptian-themed colours and patterns.   It appears that they are endemic to the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

A Large Egyption-styled Shield Bug on a stem. It has dark bronze and yellow and green embossed wing covers.

Large Egyption Shield Bug (Plisthenes australis)

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the True Bugs in the Cairns Botanical Gardens and the Wet Tropics of Queensland. If you would like to take a deeper dive into some other encounters you can check out my Let’s Go Buggin Project on iNaturalist here.

Keen for a Let’s Go Buggin Tour? Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 15% discount on your tour booking here.

Next Blog in late September.

🐞 💚 🪲


Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses