Green shield bugs

Two species of green shield bug now occur in Britain. The common green shield bug (pictured above) is native to Britain, and of widespread occurrence, but the southern green shield bug is a recent arrival from elsewhere in Europe that became established in the London area in 2003.

Common green shield bug (Palomena prasina). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Quick facts

Common names Common green shield bug and southern green shield bug
Scientific names Palomena prasina and Nezara viridula
Plants affected Common green shield bug: various plants. Southern green shield bug: runner bean, tomato and raspberry; also found on the seed heads of ornamental plants, including Caryopteris, Hibiscus, Agapanthus and Verbena
Main symptoms No damage is caused by the common green shield bug. The southern green shield bug may cause distorted bean pods and damaged fruits
Most active April to October

What are green shield bugs?

These bugs are sap-sucking insects that can be found on a wide range of plants. The adults, when viewed from above, have a distinctive shield-like shape.

Symptoms

  • When fully grown the common green shield bug (Palomena prasina) is a broad, flattened, green insect with a strongly contrasting blackish brown darker area at the rear end.
  • The adult bugs are about 10mm (about 3/8in) long and are often seen basking in the sun in late summer on a wide variety of plants. This insect is native to Britain and is of widespread occurrence, especially in southern England.
  • The name shield bug is due to the shield-like shape of the adult insects when seen from above. 
  • Nymphs of the native green shield bug have a rounded shape and are pale green, with some black markings during the earlier instars (pictured below).
  • In 2003, another species of shield bug, the southern green shield bug (Nezara viridula) was found breeding for the first time in the London area.
  • This recent arrival from elsewhere in Europe is up to 12 mm (about 1/2 in) long, making it slightly larger than the native green shield bug. The adults are uniformly green and lack a dark area at the rear end of the body.
  • Immature southern green shield bugs are green or black with many white, yellow or pinkish red circular markings on their upper surface.
  • This species can cause damage to some vegetables, especially runner and French bean pods, but it remains to be seen whether it will become established to the extent that it becomes a pest.
  • Whilst this bug can be a pest problem in other parts of the world, the evidence so far in mainland Britain is that the southern green shield bug does not become numerous until late summer or early autumn, by which time beans are coming to the end of their cropping period.

    The southern green shield bug (Nezara viridula) became established in the London area in 2003.

    Control

    Non-chemical control

    The native common green shield bug is harmless, so control measures are not required.

    The southern green shield bug may not be numerous enough until autumn when damage to crop plants is likely to be insignificant and control may not be necessary. 

    Chemical control

    If the southern green shield bug becomes a problem it may be necessary to spray with deltamethrin (e.g. Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer) or lambda cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), but check the instructions to make sure that the type of edible plant you are spraying can be treated with one of these pesticides.

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    Biology

    • Although sometimes mistaken for beetles, these shield bugs belong to a different group of insects, the Hemiptera or true bugs 
    • They feed by sucking sap from a wide range of plants but the native green shield bug causes no noticeable damage to cultivated plants, even when numerous.
    • Both types of shield bug overwinter as adults but before seeking sheltered places they are seen in late summer and autumn sitting on plant foliage in the sun.
    • They are also active in early summer when they lay small clusters of eggs on the undersides of leaves. 
    • The nymphs have a rounded body shape and gradually take on the adult appearance as they develop.
    • In recent years the native green shield bug has become more abundant and widespread in Britain.
    • The non-native southern green shield bug has become established, and is likely to become more widespread, at least in southern England.
    • There are other species of shield bugs, which are brown or yellowish green with reddish markings, that can also be found in gardens.

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