Miridae? What are they?

Mirid on mango blossom
Mirid, Helopeltis sp.: the spike protruding from the back of the thorax is distinctive

After two years of wandering around my garden with a camera I don’t expect to find too many new species but last week I came across my first member of a whole new family: Miridae.

What are they? Hemiptera, or ‘True Bugs’, which are mostly sap-suckers. Shield bugs and the gorgeously-coloured Harlequin Hibiscus Bugs may be the most familiar members of the extended family.

Miridae is a very large family, with over 10, 000 known species; most are under 12 mm long and they often camouflage themselves in drab colours or, like the one I noticed, try to look like wasps so that predators leave them alone. Mine is one of the Helopeltis species, or Mosquito bugs, and would only be 4 – 5 mm long without its antennae.

I put the same photo up on Flickr and the spike surprised some Field Guide to Insects of Australia group members. See comments here, with links to photos of more spike-adorned Helopeltis.

(Apologies for a longer-than-usual gap in posting. A technical problem popped up last week and I didn’t have enough time to fix it until today.)

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