Did That Thorn Just Move? Meet The Thorn Bug!

Roses are a plant that is covered in thorns on the branches which help in protecting the plant from predators. Even the best of gardeners come prepared to deal with the thorns by wearing gloves and other protective equipment to make sure they don't tangle with the spiny branches.  Roses are nowhere close to the only plant that has evolved spines for protections, many other plants, cactus and numerous trees are covered in spines.  Many animals and insects have learned about the safety created by the spines and one insect has gone so far as to mimic them.

That's right defenders, the Thorn Bugs have evolved to look exactly like a thorn and when they are standing on a branch you can barely tell the difference.  Their bodies have a long, pointy, slightly curved spine called a pronotum, which is what gives them their thorn like look.  This actually makes Thorn Bugs look incredibly cool and unique, but it serves a different purpose as well.  Their appearance gives them the upper hand when dealing with predators, as just like those gardeners most animals don't like spines as well. So, predators will choose not to investigate the Thorn Bugs as if they are food.  Thorn Bugs are also masters of disguise so the majority of predators may not even notice them.

Thorn Bugs feed on the sap of trees and love a good fruit tree to suck on.  They are able to suck the sap out of tiny twigs and leave stems to a point of cause damage and death to the tree in that area. Their mouths are pointed and shape similar to a beak, so they are able to penetrate the bark and drink the sap.   Thorn bugs are be considered pest to farmers, when they are found feeding on fruit trees.  These masters of camouflage will also use the holes made in the bark to lay their eggs and the females will actually guard the eggs and stay with the babies until their are old enough to go off on their own.  This parental care will actually increase the survival rate of the eggs and nymphs by more then an astonishing 50%, which makes the Thorn Bugs some really great parents!

The thorns don't just help with protection and are actually quite important to the males as they are constantly needing to display their size and dominance to other younger males. Males will fly from branch to branch and strut their thorny bodies around to impress females.   Babies or nymphs have also become accustom to the protection the thorn offers and will stay close to their moms when predators are around, which also increases their chances of survival.

Thorn Bugs are great communicators and are known to create multiple sounds for communication, including a courtship call and vibrating noises that can announce the arrival of a predator and help with confirming the location of a predator.  Mothers will actually team up to notify others of predators, including syncing up to create a louder version of the warning signals.  Thorn Bugs can also send out a safety signal to let the others know that a predator has left or that it is safe against o start feeding.   This makes the Thorn Bugs a very interesting and sophisticated creature.  There is not a large amount of info out there regarding Thorn Bugs, but we do have fact sheet for a common species and we have an amazing Thorn Bug Coloring Page as well.  Find it all in the Kids' Zone, only at Critter Squad Wildlife Defenders!

 

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