Identification & Distribution
Atractotomus species are small black or dark red-brown bugs. The adults are characterized by having the dorsal surface covered in flattened golden or silver hairs, and by having the second antennal segment strongly thickened in one or both sexes. Atractotomus magnicornis has the first antennal segment approximately cylindrical (cf. Atractotomus mali which has the first antennal segment almost triangular and lives on hawthorn) (cf. Atractotomus parvulus which has a slightly shorter second antennal segment, and lives on Scots pine).
Atractomus magnicornis is zoophytophagous, feeding on Norway spruce (and less often on a wide range of other conifers) and preying on aphids and other small insects. We have also recorded it as man-biting. It is distributed throughout Europe.
Biology & Ecology
So far the only prey we have found it feeding on is human - us! (see pictures above). I was bitten by this mirid whilst examining a colony of the aphid Cinara piceicola on spruce (Picea).
Atractotomus magnicornis buenoi has been recorded feeding on elongate hemlock scale, Fiorinia externa, in Connecticut in the United States (Davidson & McComb, 1958; McClure, 1977). However, it was not thought to have exhibited any significant regulatory pressure on these scale populations.
For the mirid bugs we have used British Bugs to aid in identification and for the key characteristics. For aphids we have made provisional identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. In the great majority of cases, identifications have been confirmed by microscopic examination of preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Blackman & Eastop (1994) and Blackman & Eastop (2006) supplemented with Blackman (1974), Stroyan (1977), Stroyan (1984), Blackman & Eastop (1984), Heie (1980-1995), Dixon & Thieme (2007) and Blackman (2010). We fully acknowledge these authors as the source for the (summarized) taxonomic information we have presented. Any errors in identification or information are ours alone, and we would be very grateful for any corrections. For assistance on the terms used for aphid morphology we suggest the figure provided by Blackman & Eastop (2006).
- Davidson, J. and McComb, C. (1958). Notes on the biology and control of Fiorinia externa. Journal of Economic Entomology 51, 405-406.
- McClure, M.S. (1977). Resurgence of the scale Fiorinia externa (Homoptera: Diaspididae), on hemlock following insecticide application. Environmental Entomology 6, 480-484. Abstract