Green shield bug

Last update: 31 December 2020
SPECIES: Green shield bug (Palomena prasina)




This nicely colored insect are abundant in the garden. It is the commonly found Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) [1].

The animal is green in the summer and changes to a brown color in the autumn.

Green shield bug
(Palomena prasina)
Green shield bug
(Palomena prasina)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), copulating on Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)


The Green shield bug is one of the most common large true bugs in the Netherlands. In the garden they are represented every year as well in larger numbers.



The bug is active between March and November and has a peak between Juli and September. Nymphs appear in June. The adults overwinter [12].


True bugs are hemimetabolous, which means that they develop by molting a number of times towards adulthood. With each molt they change a little bit towards the final adult stage, which is contrast with holometabolous insects that will undergo a complete metemorphosis, like a butterfly.

P. prasina has one generation per year, and ovipositioning occurs between sprin and Juli [12]. In 5 molts, instars, adulthood is achieved [6].
Eggs are laid in clusters on plant stems and hatch after about 5,5 – 12 days, in a period of 0 – 4 days, depending on temperature [4].

Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), copulating on Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Green shieldbug (Palomena prasina)
Eggs Green shield bug on Verbana bonariensis
(Palomena prasina)

Tempearature infleunces the development speed of instars (in the referenced research it varied between 16 – 28°C) [4]:

1st intar: ±4 – 8,6 days
2nd intar: ±7,5 – 20 days
3rd intar: ±7,5 – 20 days
4th intar: ±6,5 – 17,8 days
5th intar: ±8 – 23 days

As the species can only overwinter as adult, the nymphs undergo growth accellaration as the day length becomes shorter [9]. The new adult generation appears mid to late Juli [12].


The first instars of shield bugs aggregate in a group after hatching. The reason for this behaviour is that it increases their survivability. First instars do not eat and only consume moisture [14]. Research has shown the following advantages of aggregation [14]:

  1. Protection agains dehydration
    The nymphs in an aggregation are better protected against dehydration as the air pockets that occur between the aggregation members contains moisture which remains than accessible to the nymphs. Individuals that are alone do not have this
  2. Temperature regulation
    Aggregation provides a slightly lower mortality rate at higher temperatures.
  3. Increased development speed
    The development speed of the nymphs in the aggregation at higher humidities, is higher than of those that are alone. This benefit exists up to a temperature of 31°C. The aggregation is capable of temperature regulation and positively influences the growth speed.
  4. Increased adherence to the substrate
    Aggregation increases adherence to the plant survace and prevents nymphs from falling from the plant. The effect becomes lower as the aggregation increases in size because at a threshold of 11-15 nymphs the individuals start to stack in layers and hold each other instead of the plant.
  5. Increased protection agains predators
    The aggregation offers protection agains certain predators:
    • Hempitera: less individuals are eaten with the lowest amount in aggregations of 3 nymphs and the most in aggregations of 15
    • Ants: least casualties in aggregations of 10 to 15 nymphs, and the most in aggregation of five or less
    • Against wasps aggregation does not seem to offer protection

Aggregation is controlled by pheromones as described in paragraph 3.4.

2.3. FOOD

De nymphs are polyfagous on different plants and trees and coprofagous on bird dropping, as shown by soem remarkable observations.
The first instar nymphs don’t eat and only consume moisture [14]. The second instar feeds on herbs [6]. The other stages feed especially on fruit [6].

Bird droppings

This as well as other true bug species feed on the white part of fresh bird droppings [5], which consists almost entirely of uric acid and is rich in nitrogen. It’s the fifth instars that show this behaviour.


The species is a pest on a number of commercially cultivated plants [6, 7]:

  • Hazel
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Raspberry

In Turkey the species is a major pest on hazel and the damage caused by the insect is characterized by [6]:

  1. Premature dropping of nuts
    nuts are light colored and shrunken on the bottom
  2. Spots and damage to the kernel
  3. Shrunken kernels
    (note: the quoted article indicates that this damage cannot be addressed unambiguously to bus damage)

On raspberry the bug damage gives the fruit an  unpleasant taste [7].

On apple and pear the damage causes spots and dents in the fruit surface [7].

Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), mouthparts (proboscis)


In shield bugs communication between the sexes occurs in two phases [15, 16, 18]:

  1. Using pheromones the insect is brought to the proper plant
  2. Using song the insect is guided to the partner

3.1. SEX PHEROMONES (long distance)

The male secretes a species specific volatile pheromone to guide the female towards him. She detects the pheromone using her antennae that she will hold in a ‘V’ shape in the direction of the source, which enables her to find the proper plant where the male resides [18].

The pheromones are produced in glands in the thorax of the adult animals [17].

3.2. SONG (short distance)

Like many other insect families true bugs produce songs for:

  • attraction / repulsion (repulsion only by the female)
  • mating

After the female has arrived on the plant where the male resides she will produce, stimulated by pheromones, a calling song that is followed by the male while producing the its own answer song and excreting pheromones [10, 16].

The songs are produced by the tergites in the abdmomen [10]. The instrument consists of tergites I and II and is vibrated using muscles [10].
The song is soft but is amplified by the plants on which the bug resides. The vibrations from the tergites spread through the body and the legs into the branch and can extend tens of centimeters through it.

The bugs have a number of vibration receptors in their legs to listen to vibrations [10]. Using time difference in the arrival of the vibration waves between the spread out legs, the bug can determine the direction of the source. The bug will stop at branches to listen in order to take the proper exit or direction. In this way the male can accurately track the sending female.

Each species has it own preference in plant. P. prasina has specialized in woody plants and produces frequencies that are best amplified for those types of plants [11]. The species is capable of adapting the frequency based on the substrate it is standing on [11]
The song uses tones between 70 – 150 Hz with peaks towards 900Hz.

Position of the tymbal in schield bugs
Position of the vibration sensors in the shield bug legs


The adult insects emerge everywhere but most stricking is in Lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

When pruning the dried flowers they often contain bugs, sometimes in pairs. The relation to the plant is described in one observation (Assmann, 1854, als Pentatoma dissimile) [13]
Possibly it is related to larvae as one research article mentions feeding the larvae leaves of this plant [2] and another reference mentions the it as a food plant for other species of shield bugs [3].
I suspect it has to do with mating and the fact that Lilac is a woody plant that works well in communication between the sexes. This would explain the relatively high number of pairs I find in the plant.

Green shield bugs (Palomena prasina), copulating

3.3. TOUCH

When the sexes finally meet they will touch each other using their antennae. The bugs will turn around each other and the male encourages the female by pushing her behind up with his head. When the female accepts the male during this process she will point her abdomen in the air and the male will move against her in reverse.
If she does not accept the male during this process she will repell him using pheromones [18].


Aggregating first instar nymphs communicate using pheromens to keep the group together or disperse in case of imminent danger [18].

Nymphs produce pheromones in glands in the abdomen [17].


The bugs use pheromones with the purpose to [14]:

  1. Distract the predator
    Pheromones contain components that occur in the alarm pheromones of their attackers, which confuses them.
  2. Repel / intoxicate their attacker
    Some components are very distastefull or even lethal to their ennemies.


4.1. EGGS

The egges of the Green shieldbug are bright grass green in color and become gradually more green-yellow as the nymphs inside them develop. They are clearly barrel shaped with a round lid on top.

The eggshell is thin so themore developed nymphs become visible through it.

Eggs Green shield bug on Verbana bonariensis
(Palomena prasina)
Eggs Green shield bug with nymphs visible inside, on Verbana bonariensis
(Palomena prasina)



When emerging from the eggs the first instars are light yellow-green in color with transparent white legs. They change color as they harden and adopt a dark red-brown scheme color with pink-orange spots or a black scheme with light green spots.

1e Instars Green shield bug wiggling out their eggs
(Palomena prasina)
Aggregated 1st Instars Green shield bug hardning after hatching, on Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
(Palomena prasina)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), first instar


The second instar is black with a light green abdomen with whitish and black spots on the back and lower edge.

Green schieldbug (Palomena prasina), 2e instar


Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), 3rd instar on Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)


The fourth instar has a flatter and rounded shape and is either complete green in colour covered with small black dots or green with a black thorax similar to the second instar but bigger in size.

Green shieldbug (Palomena prasina), 4th instar
Green shieldbug (Palomena prasina), 4th instar
Green shieldbug (Palomena prasina), 4th instar
Green shieldbug (Palomena prasina), 4th instar on Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)


Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), fifth instar on Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina), fifth instar


Adults change color depending on the seasons, a phenomenon called seasonal polyphenism. The new generation is green and colors brown towards the autumn. In spring the brown color is replaced by green again  [12], a more darker green than the summer generation [8].

Green shield bug
(Palomena prasina) in summer dress
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in winter dress
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in overwinter dress
(13 March)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in overwinter dress
(24 March)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in overwinter dress
(29 March)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in overwinter dress
(29 March)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) in overwinter dress
(4 April)
Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) green again after overwintering
(24 May)

The adults are identifiable using the following characteristics:

  1. Evenly green or brown color
  2. Dark wing membranes
  3. Shield without a light base point
  4. Antennae segments II and III almost equal in length
  5. Antennae segments IV and V partly red colored (clearly visible in summer dress)
  6. Front neckshield slightly hollow


1 Aukema, B., Th. Heijerman & V.J. Kalkman 2016. Veldgids wantsen deel 1. – EIS Kennis­ centrum Insecten, Leiden.

2 Photoperiodic Control of Nymphal Growth in True Bugs (Heteroptera) D. L. Musolin and A. Kh. Saulich Biological Institute, St. Petersburg State University, Russia, Received December 26, 1995

3 Stink Bugs of Oregon, Oregon Department of Agriculture Insect Pest Prevention & Management Program, July 2016

4 Saruhan, Islam & Akça, İzzet. (2010). Development Of Green Shield Bug (Palomena Prasina L., Heteroptera: Pentatomidae) In Different Temperatures.. Zemdirbyste-Agriculture. 97. 55-60.

5 Ramsay, Alex. (2013). COPROPHAGOUS FEEDING BEHAVIOUR BY TWO SPECIES OF NYMPHAL PENTATOMID. British Journal of Entomology & Natural History. 26. 145-147.

6 C. Tuncer , İ.Saruhan and İ.Akça, "TRUE BUGS PROBLEM IN TURKISH HAZELNUT ORCHARDS", Ondokuz Mayis University, Faculty of Agriculture Department of Plant Protection, SAMSUN TURKEY, 2015

7 Alford, D. (2014). Pests of Fruit Crops. Boca Raton: CRC Press,

8 Saruhan, Islam & Tuncer, Celal. (2006). Palomena prasina L. (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae)’nın bazı morfolojik ve biyolojik özelliklerinin saptanması üzerinde araştırmalar*. 30. 43-56.

9 Kh Saulich, A & Musolin, Dmitry. (2014). Seasonal Cycles in Stink Bugs (Heteroptera, Pentatomidae) from the Temperate Zone: Diversity and Control. Entomological Review. 94. 785-814. 10.1134/S0013873814060013.

10 Cokl, Andrej. (2008). Stink bug interaction with host plants during communication. Journal of insect physiology. 54. 1113-24. 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2008.06.004.

11 Polajnar, J., Kavčič, A., Kosi, A., et al. (2013). Palomena prasina (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) vibratory signals and their tuning with plant substrates. Open Life Sciences, 8(7), pp. 670-680. Retrieved 24 May. 2019, from doi:10.2478/s11535-013-0188-z

12 Randall T Schuh, Invasive Stink Bugs and Related Species (Pentatomoidea): Biology, Higher Systematics, Semiochemistry, and Management, American Entomologist, Volume 64, Issue 3, Fall 2018, Pages 197–198,

13 Assmann, 1854, Hemiptera., Verscheichnis der bisher in Schlesiën aufgefundenen wanzartigen Insekten, Hemiptera Linné, Zeitschrift für Entomologie 8:1-106

14 Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Richard N. Story, Adaptive Functions of Nymphal Aggregation in the Southern Green Stink Bug, Nezara viridula (L.) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) , Environmental Entomology, Volume 15, Issue 3, 1 June 1986, Pages 739–749,

15 VIRANT-DOBERLET, Meta and COKL, Andrej. Vibrational communication in insects. Neotrop. Entomol. [online]. 2004, vol.33, n.2 [cited 2019-05-25], pp.121-134. Available from: . ISSN 1519-566X.

16 Drosopoulos, S. (Ed.), Claridge, M. (Ed.). (2006). Insect Sounds and Communication. Boca Raton: CRC Press,

17 Millar J.G. () Pheromones of True Bugs. In: Schulz S. (eds) The Chemistry of Pheromones and Other Semiochemicals II. Topics in Current Chemistry, vol 240. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

18 Borges, M., Jepson, P.C., & Howse, P.E. (1987). Long-range mate location and close-range courtship behaviour of the green stink bug, Nezara viridula and its mediation by sex pheromones. Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata, 44, 205-212.

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