[Tweeters] Bugs N' Berries

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Sep 8 09:54:09 PDT 2013

This summer I made a new bug friend. Working in Snohomish, I noticed some interesting bugs on some Tall Oregon Grapes (Mahonia aquifolium) I'd planted years before.

These creatures are actually "True Bugs", to an entomologist. Belonging to the Order Hemiptera, with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Clustering mainly on the ripe Mahonia berries, they were quite attractive, I thought. Mainly black, they resembled round watermelon seeds, with bright orange rims. Hemiptera have what is called "simple metamorphosis", meaning that rather than the dramatic change that something like a butterfly goes through, the bug, from the egg stage, goes through a series of molts (or 'instars") of increasing larger forms much resembling the adult.

In the case of my new buddy's, they had some pretty good family values, it looked like to me. All levels of instars hanging out together in clusters on the Oregon Grape berries. An Oregon Grape berry, in case you didn't know, is about the size of an average blueberry.

The smallest of the bugs were only a couple of millimeters long. On that scale, with their bug "straws" stuck into a Mahonia berry, it would be like you or me with a straw stuck into a berry the size of a UPS truck. I guess that's good eating, because the later instars of these bugs, were the size of the berries.

It was only after a month of watching these bugs, that the adult form showed up. The adult shared the bright orange rim with it's youngster, but was otherwise different: brilliant green and shield shaped, and in it's final form, a bit larger. A Green Stinkbug (genus Chlorochroa). As far as the species goes, it's a bit up in the air. I guess final documentation depends on the examination of the male sexual parts. Lacking the equipment, and literature to compare stinkbug wieners, or whatever, I don't know the species name. A beautiful creature in all it's forms though.

I don't know if birds eat these bugs, but the Tall Oregon Grape is a real winner in the bird gardening department. Recently changed from genus Mahonia to Berberis, it's still the same plant. The berries (edible to humans, if enough sugar is added) are popular with birds. In the early spring the yellow flowers are a real hummingbird attractant. Adaptable to shade or sun, and most soil conditions, it is an easy to grow native plant - one of my favorites. And don't forget our friends the bugs - the flowers attract many pollinating insect species.

Jeff Gibson

bugging you again from

Everett Wa

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