Marc de Jager found a weird looking insect in his bedroom in Oktober 2012. He wanted to know what species of insect he had found. So a few weeks back he sent me an email with pictures of the insect in the bedroom and after he had put it outside. The pictures are below:
It does look exciting don’t you think? It is pink, has six legs and is decently sized. I can imagine that when you find one of these critters in your bedroom, you are very curious what the heck it is. However, a quick look at the pictures did not ring a bell and I couldn’t tell what species we were dealing with. There are a couple of things though that we can tell from looking at the pictures. One, it has six legs and as we know six-legged creatures (hexapoda) are insects. At least we can rule out the other arthropods, which leaves us with a mere 1 million possibilities.
So let’s see what google can tell us about pink insects. Well not what we want to know. What else can we tell from the picture that can give us a hint about the identity of this insect? In the second picture I show the location of the scutellum (a region on the back of the insect) with a red arrow. This has the shape of a triangle pointing to the back of the insect, which is characteristic for Heteroptera (true bugs). Unfortunately, there are still many species of Heteroptera so we need some additional clues to identify this critter. So I grabbed the book: “Insects of Britain and Western Europe”.
In this book we find the Heteroptera. It has a nice key which is useful to identify Heteroptera, however, this is difficult to do based on pictures because we cannot see all the details necessary for identification. So we will just look at the pictures. Unfortunately we cannot find the species we are looking for in this book. But is there something that resembles this species? In my opinion Coriomeris denticulatus resembles our insect in shape, the colors don’t match and it is definitely not the right species but there is resemblance. This Coriomeris belongs to the family Coreidae. So let’s give google another go and do an image search for Coreidae. This is what drew my attention. Leptoglossus occidentalis, also known as the Western conifer seed bug. Just to be sure I checked whether this is the species we were looking for and yes, bingo! Here is another beautiful picture of this insect:
It seems that this species is an invasive one, native to America and sighted for the first time in Europe in 1999. The first sighting in the Netherlands was in 2007, which means that its occurrence here has only been known for 6 years. It lives on pine trees and has specifically an appetite for young shoots and seeds. They overwinter as adult insects and try to find a nice cozy home to spend the winter months. This explains why Marc found it inside. As it is not native to Europe, it is no wonder that we were not able to find it in our book. It just doesn’t belong here! If you would like to know more about this species click here.
Marc, thanks for your question! It was a very interesting insect to identify!
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Chris Jacobs (Chris Jacobs)
Evolutionary biologist, eco-evo-devo | seek to increase the understanding of science | PostDoc @ Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
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