I’m turning to the archives for this week’s episode, because Mount Pisgah remains closed following damage from last month’s ice storm.
January and February can be a quiet time for most insects, but on sunny days, or when it’s over 50 degrees, you may come across a couple of types of Dirt-colored Seed Bug.
As a refresher: True bugs are an insect order whose members sport sucking mouthparts with built-in straws and a semi-translucent set of wings. Although Dirt-colored Seed Bugs are small in stature (1mm to 1.5cm), they are mighty in numbers. There are more than 420 genera and upwards of 2,100 known species.
Redundantly, or precisely fittingly, the scientific family name, Rhyparochromidae, translates from Greek to mean “dirt colored.”
You’re most likely to see the fairly common Mediterranean Seed Bug, also known more awkwardly by its scientific name, Xanthochilus saturnius. These tuxedoed little bugs originally hail from Southern Europe and Northern Africa, and were first noted in California in 1995. They’ve since moved north into Washington and southeast to Texas.
Adults and nymphs eat a wide variety of seeds, and don’t damage any plants—maybe because they find the seeds on the ground.
The second Dirt-colored Seed Bug here is, I think, in the Ozophora genus. Some species in Ozophora have enlarged front legs, but others look a lot like this individual, which I found in early February, 2022, at Mount Pisgah. Sure, it’s dirt-colored, but the pattern on its wings is lovely.
Ozophora means “smell carrier.” A paper I found from 1983 says the young bugs have three scent gland openings on the abdomen. That might explain the Greek name, although the paper doesn’t mention what sort of smell is carried. The researchers also say the genus is one of the most taxonomically complex in the family, with many species being spitting images of others.
See more of Karen’s work here.
Nicely written profile of the Mediterranean Seed Bug: http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2021/12/18/xanthochilus-saturnius-mediterranean-seed-bug/. Accessed 2/7/24.
A paper on the genus Ozophora in Florida, on page 416 here: https://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/00/09/88/13/00095/Binder14.pdf. Accessed 2/7/24.