I am an amateur naturalist trying to identify everything that lives in my garden
In my previous posting I described some of my garden's nettles, and it was on such that I discovered the little bug seen in the centre of photo 1 (click to enlarge). If you look closely you'll see a second individual a little lower down the nettle stem.
Photo 2 shows a magnified (40x) image of my bug. I can only speculate over what purpose it serves the bug to wear the rather smart, yellow, arrow-symbol on its back.
I had expected to struggle, and quite possibly fail, to identify my little insect, but the internet is an amazing thing! Ten minutes of searching against 'bug', 'nettle' and suchlike and I'm reasonably confident to pronounce my insect The Common Nettle Capsid Liocoris tripustulatis.
L. tripustulatis is a member of the insect family the miridae. From my copy of Insects of Britain and Northern Europe (M. Chinery, Collins) I learn that the miridea family is, in turn, part of the insect order hemiptera or the so-called true bugs. The true bugs have piercing mouthparts for sucking the juices of plants and can be distinguished from the beetles, by beetles having hardened wing cases ('elytra') that meet at a line along their backs without overlapping (see a previous posting here).
There are about 6000 true bugs in the family meridae. About 200 are found in Britain.
The true bugs are equipped with a drinking straw' (rostrum) for tapping the stems of plants and sucking out the juices. This is carried horizontally below the body and can be clearly seem in the 40x magnified image of photo 3 (click to enlarge).
Although I've come across various general discussions on the true bugs, I've been able to discover almost nothing on the specific habits of L.tripustulatis; A search of Google books turned up The Biology of the Plant Bugs (Wheeler and Southwood, Cornell University Press). The publishers have made a selection of pages available online and from a single sentence I learn that, along with their association with nettles, L.tripustulatis is known to need on nectar from buttercups. In addition, from a single sentence in my copy of Insects on Nettles (B.N.K. Davis, Richmond Publishing) it seems L.tripustulatis undergoes at least five larval instar phases. Aside from these facts however, the habits of my little bug remain a mystery to me. I'd love to know a little more. As I learnt from my readings on hoverflies, there are simply so many insects that often even the basic behaviours of many are completely unrecorded. My failure to find any substantial information on the natural history of L.tripustulatis perhaps indicates a good project for a keen amateur out there. On the other hand, perhaps much is already known and I've simply not looked in the right places. If anyone out there can help I'd be pleased to discover more about my handsome little capsid.