STINK BUGS (Pentatomidae) of about 5,000 species characteristically give off a strong odor when disturbed. Sometimes the odor can be smelled, or tasted, on fruits or vegetables on which the bugs have been crawling or feeding. Members of this family, which is worldwide in distribution, are easily recognized by their shield-like shape and by the large triangular area, called the scutellum, between their wings. Most species of temper-ate regions are brown, gray, or green. Some, such as the Harlequin Bug, are brightly colored, as are many of the tropical species. Stink bugs are medium-sized to large. A strikingly colored Australian species grows to be 11/2 inches long.
Eggs of stink bugs are usually barrel-shaped and often have ridges or spines on their top. They are laid in clusters or are lined up in uniform rows very close to each other on leaves of plants. Young stink bugs resemble the adults except in color. These nymphs feed, grow, and shed their skins several times be-fore they become mature. All undergo the same type of simple metamorphosis.
Most stink bugs feed on plants, and a few are serious pests. The Harlequin Bug is a pest on cabbage and other vegetable crops, as is the Southern Green Stink Bug. Some stink bugs prey on other insects. The Spined Soldier Bug, for example, usually feeds on caterpillars and thus is beneficial.
All stink bugs feed by sucking. They insert their beak into plants, caterpillars, or what-ever their food happens to be, and suck out the fluids much the same way that a mosquito sucks blood. Because of this feeding method, stink bugs may transmit plant diseases.
Burrower bugs, negro bugs, and shield-backed bugs all look so much like stink bugs that they are easily mistaken for them. Bur-rower bugs (Cydnidae) are usually found beneath boards or stones or in the roots of grasses and weeds. Some species burrow in the soil. They have spiny legs, and though most species are dull in color, some are a shiny metallic. Burrower bugs are most abundant in the tropics, though there are a number of species in temperate areas. Negro bugs (Corimelaenidae), quite small and usually black, look very much like small beetles. They are commonly seen on flowers in early spring. Shield-backed bugs (Scutelleridae) look most like the stink bugs, but their scutellum is exceptionally large, reaching the end of their abdomen. Most shield-backed bugs are brownish, but there are a number of colorful species, too, especially in the tropics.