Beneficials on farmland: identification and management guidelines (HGCA Summer 2008)

Bugs (Hemiptera)

There are about 1,650 species in Britain, most of which feed on plants; some are predatory.

Bugs are minute to large insects with a wide variety of shapes and habits. They all possess piercing mouthparts which can be used on plants or animals.

There are two groups:

Heteroptera include flower bugs, plant bugs, damsel bugs and shield bugs, some of which are predatory. The group also includes capsids, none of which are beneficials.

Homoptera are small to minute insects that include frog hoppers and aphids. None are beneficials.


Anthocoris nemorum
© Tristan Bantock

Nabis rugosus
© Tristan Bantock

Green shield bug
(Palomena prasina)

Flower bugs (Anthocorinae)

  • Found mainly on flowers and leaves
  • Overwinter under bark or similar places
  • Found on flowers throughout summer
  • Feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects

Damsel bugs (Nabidae)

  • All 12 UK species are brown
  • Four-segmented beak
  • Slender with long legs
  • Carnivorous, feeding on a wide range of insects
  • Closely related to bed bugs

Shield bugs (Pentatomidae)

  • Triangular region on back of body
  • Whole body is shield-shaped
  • Prefer hot summers
  • Only a few species are predatory

Plant bugs (Miridae)

  • Small to medium-sized insects
  • Common on many plant species in summer
  • A few species prey upon mites and aphids

Tarnished plant bug
(Lygus rugulipennis)

Mirid plant bug (Psallus ambiguus)


Philaenus spumarius

Non-beneficial species

Homoptera includes many important agricultural and horticultural pests such as aphids, whiteflies and scale insects, some of which are important in virus transmission. Frog and leaf hoppers are often eaten by birds.

Frog hoppers (Cercopidae)

  • Also known as spittle bugs or cuckoo spit insects
  • Nymphal stage is covered in a mass of froth or spittle
  • Froth protects from dehydration and to some extent from predators

Cicadella viridis

Leaf hoppers (Cicadellidae)

  • Usually found on leaves
  • Over 250 British species
  • Generally small and brightly coloured (mostly green)
  • Good jumpers and can fly


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