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Not so comedic after all

April 16, 2018

The harlequin is a character from 16th century Italian comedic theatre. Over time it has been portrayed as a dimwitted fool, an intelligent trickster or as a reinterpretation of the devil. Invariably it is dressed in a chequered  costume of many colours. It is the chequered colours that give the Australian Harlequin Bug (Dindymus versicolor), pictured, its name. As pretty as they look it is not so funny to have this insect in your garden.

The Australian Harlequin Bug is an hemipteran, that is a sap-sucking insect. Like other hemipterans previously discussed on this blogsite, such as the Southern Green Shield Bug, this bug develops through a series of instar states until the adult emerges. The insect feeds on common orchard weeds such as marshmallow, dock and wire weed but also fruit and vegetable plants as well.

Over winter the adults hide under the bark of trees. Mating occurs in early spring when large numbers of these insects can be seen  swarming on trees and fence posts. The eggs are laid by the larger female in leaf litter.

Both the adult and instar bugs use their mouthparts to pierce the outer layer of the plant or fruit and then suck the sap. In fruit this results in a depression in the surface of the fruit and browning underneath. Such is its notoriety that the Harlequin bug is listed as a Australian biodiversity pest on the government Pest and Diseases Image Library (PaDIL).

When confronted with a threat i.e. a camera lens, these bugs will actively hide on the underside of vegetation. Methinks more devil than fool.

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