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EXPLAINED: The sticky black bugs driving us crazy

INSECT INVASION: Bugs are plaguing white cars like this one at Mooloolaba.
INSECT INVASION: Bugs are plaguing white cars like this one at Mooloolaba. Warren Lynam

DRIVERS of white cars cannot help but pick up a few extra passengers at the moment.

Light-coloured vehicles are proving magnets for small grey-brown-black bugs, measuring about 5mm long.

The bugs can be categorised as just that - true bugs, the name given to an order of insects which have tube-like mouths or proboscises, and which includes aphids, cicadas and grasshoppers.

Entomologist Dr Christine Lamkin, of the Queensland Museum, said the bugs may be more specifically identified the Nysius vinitor, otherwise known as the Rutherglen bug.

The bug is common in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Dr Lamkin said the bug's appearance in large numbers, just like the clouds of Caper White butterflies on the Coast during the last week or two, was probably due to seasonal conditions.

She said the bugs appeared to be adults who had more than likely come out of a seasonally-triggered molt with their fully developed wings.

The Rutherglen bug feeds on a variety of crops, including cotton, but also on coastal plants and weeds like milkweed.

Dr Lamkin said it was possibly the bugs could have been swept from the cotton fields to the Coast or they could have hatched and grown locally.

"These things are small enough that they could be be blown," she said.

"They are around everywhere at the moment... Toowoomba, Boonah, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane definitely."

Dr Lamkin said there had been reports that the bugs were biting but that was not quite right.

"They will 'nip'. They are basically trying to find out if you're good enough to eat," she said.

"It can be painful. They are trying to stick that proboscis in you, and that proboscis is quite tough. They can put it quite a way into hard objects," she said.

 

Insects which have been plaguing white or light coloured cars at the moment appear to be what are known as True Bugs, They may be from the Nysius genus, possibly Nysius vinitor, aka the Rutherglen bug.
Insects which have been plaguing white or light coloured cars at the moment appear to be what are known as True Bugs, They may be from the Nysius genus, possibly Nysius vinitor, aka the Rutherglen bug. Janine Hill

Dr Lamkin speculated the quest for food might also be driving the insects towards light-coloured cars which might remind them of the flowers they usually feed on.

The bugs are not just bugging car owners - they are small enough to fit through insect screens and have been invading homes.

Laguna Pest Control owner Jay Turner ventured further than Dr Lamkin, saying the bugs could be Rutherglen bugs or the closely related grey cluster bug, Nysius clevelandensis.

He said the bugs were active at night but seemed to take shelter on the sides of houses during the day, favouring glass rather than brickwork.

Mr Turner suggested the bugs had developed on abundant weed growth out west but had migrated east in search of fresh plant growth.

He said although he had come across the bug previously, he had not seen such an outbreak on the Coast.

"They turn up every summer but nothing like the numbers we've got this year," he said.

Topics:  bug bugs cars editors picks general-seniors-news insects light pest control sunshine coast



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