These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg.
These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg. Crystal Jones

Bundy's summer to be bugged by tiny invaders

THEY'RE on our walls, they're on our floors and they seem to have an attraction to light colours.

And don't even think about switching on your phone in a dark room.

Rutherglen bugs are their name, and sap-sucking is their game.

According to La Trobe University Insect-Plant Interactions Lab Reader and Associate Professor Martin J Steinbauer, the bugs are known scientifically as Nysius vinitor and are a type of true bug belonging to the family Lygaeidae (order Hemiptera, suborder Heteroptera).

While most lygaeid bugs feed on seeds, the bug that's bugging Bundy feeds on sap (subfamily Orsillinae for those who want to know) which is what makes it a pest in high numbers.

According to Dr Steinbauer, the adults often occur in swarms in dry pastures.

"The winged adults are about 5mm longare the life cycle stage most familiar to the public," he said.

 

These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg.
These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg. Crystal Jones

"Their nymphs develop via five instars, are wingless and are not routinely encountered by the public.

"Nymphs develop on weeds and grasses and adults disperse onto irrigated horticultural, crop and domestic plants when natal plants begin to dry off; warm weather also increases adult dispersal and, as small insects, they probably benefit from wind-assisted dispersal."

Dr Steinbauer said the small bugs were capable of being a danger to crops.

"Feeding by large numbers of insects can cause damage such as wilting of foliage and pitting of fruit," he said.

"The recent rains have provided abundant food for the development of large populations which is why the adults are now abundant - they are likely to be abundant for most of the summer."

And why do they seem to love bright and light colours?

 

These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg.
These tiny bugs have been bugging people in Bundaberg. Crystal Jones

According to Dr Steinbauer it's all to do with their mechanisms for finding plants.

"They are probably attracted by certain wavelengths of light," he said.

"I would image they prefer yellow-green if they are looking for host plants.

"Remember, insects are sensitive to spectra we are not."

The influx of rutherglen bugs has coincided with swarms of butterflies across much of Queensland.

The butterflies are part of a phenomenon occurring only every five or six years when seasonal conditions are just right.

The cream-coloured Caper White (Belenois java) and the brown Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) have been making their way west towards the Great Dividing Range, where recent rains have created the perfect environment for caterpillars to thrive.

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