Belonochilus numenius, the sycamore seed bug, new record for the Iberian fauna



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Bulletin of Insectology 62 (1): 121-123, 2009 

ISSN 1721-8861



Belonochilus numenius, the sycamore seed bug, 

new record for the Iberian fauna 

Francesc G

ESSÉ

1

, Jordi R

IBES

2

, Marta G

OULA

1

1

Departament de Biologia Animal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain 

2

Museu de Ciències Naturals de la Ciutadella-Zoologia, Barcelona, Spain 

Abstract 

Belonochilus numenius (Say) (Heteroptera Lygaeidae) is reported for the first time in the Iberian Peninsula, from two specimens, 

one at each of two urban areas in Catalonia (Spain). The suspected host plant, Platanus sp., is very common as an ornamental at 

the collecting sites. This is the second report for the Palaearctic Region, after collections in France (Matocq, 2008). 

Key words: faunistics, new record, Iberian Heteroptera, true bugs, allochthonous species, Platanus, plane tree. 

Introduction 

The worldwide exchange of goods and tourists facili-

tates the movement of allochthonous species, often re-

ferred to as “aliens”. Italy seems to be the most common 

door of entrance to Europe, due to its location in the 

middle of the Mediterranean Basin (Jucker et al., 2008). 

About 50% of imported species belong to the Hemip-

tera, and are scale-insects or aphids. Among true bugs, 

recent examples of imported species are the sycamore 

lace bug Corythuca ciliata (Say) (Tingidae) and western 

conifer seed bug Leptoglossus occidentalis Heidemann 

(Coreidae). Also the American oak lace bug Corythuca 



arcuata (Say), andromeda lace bug Stephanitis takeyai

Drake et Maa and azalea lace bug Stephanitis pyrioides

(Scott) have been reported (Jucker et al., 2008), al-

though they seem to be less widespread. 

In Catalonia, the most recent reports of allochthonous 

species concern L. occidentalis (Ribes et al., 2008), and 



Arocatus longiceps Stål (Ribes and Pagola-Carte, 2008), 

a pontomediterranean lygaeid which is expanding its 

range. 

Identification of Belonochilus numenius

Belonochilus numenius (Say 1832) (Heteroptera Ly-

gaeidae) the sycamore seed bug (common name sug-

gested by Sweet, 2000), belongs to a group species of 

family Orsillinae, tribe Orsillini with spiny fore femora, 

in which European, African and American species may 

be found (Péricart, 2001). In Ashlock’s (1967) key to 

world genera of the tribe Orsillini, Belonochilus is 

reached through the following characters: mesopleuron 

appearing to overlap propleuron, antenniferous tubercle 

not produced beyond point of attachment of antenna, 

profemora armed with a single spine ventrally, vertex 

without carinae, head long, and anteocular length more 

than twice length of eye. The genus is monotypic. The 

few other species described in, or at one time placed in, 



Belonochilus have been synonymized with numenius or 

transferred to other genera (Slater, 1964). 

In the context of the Palaearctic fauna, B. numenius

can be easily identified. The only other orsilline genus 



Figure 1. Dorsal view of B. numenius. Photo: Albert 

Masó. 


(In colour at www.bulletinofinsectology.org) 

that has armed profemora is Orsillus. Using Péricart’s 

key on euromediterranean Lygaeidae (Péricart, 1998), B.

numenius is easily attributed to subfamily Orsillinae. In 

Péricart’s opinion, tribes within the subfamily Orsillinae 

have not yet been resolved; thus he does not include a 

key to tribes. To include Belonochilus, we propose a 

slight amendment in the first step of his generic key: 

1 (2) Profemora spiny. Rostrum reaching at least the 

middle of the abdomen. 

1a (1b) Profemora with 1 spine. Body elongate, not 

depressed. Anteocular length more than three times 

length of eye ..........................................Belonochilus

1b (1a) Profemora with 3 spines. Body oval-elongate, 

depressed. Anteocular length about twice length of 

eye .................................................................Orsillus

2 (1) Profemora not spiny. Rostrum at most slightly 

surpassing the metacoxae. 

For remaining couplets, refer to Péricart’s key. 

Figures 1, 2 and 3 allow ready identification of B. nu-

menius.

Biology 

B. numenius may complete its biological cycle upon the 

seed balls of the sycamore tree Platanus occidentalis L. 

(Heidemann, 1902; Wheeler, 1984), which it pierces 



122

Figure 2. Lateral view of a female B. numenius. Photo: 

Marta Goula. 

(In colour at www.bulletinofinsectology.org) 

Figure 3. Lateral view of a male B. numenius. Photo: 

Marta Goula. 

(In colour at www.bulletinofinsectology.org) 

with its very long rostrum. It is considered a specialist on 

sycamores (plane in Europe) (Schuh and Slater, 1995). 

Platanus racemosa Nutt., Platanus wrightii S. Wats. and 

Platanus mexicana Moric. have been reported as host 

trees of B. numenius (Sweet, 2000). This arboreal niche 

is considered to be unusual for North American Orsilli-

nae (Sweet, 2000). In some cases, the species may be-

come a pest on ornamental planes, as for example the 

London plane (Platanus x acerifolia). Other occasional 

host plants are goldenrod (Solidago sp.), giant ragweed 

(Ambrosia trifida L.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis L.)

and willow (Salix sp.) (Wheeler, 1984). 

Detailed studies from field samples in Pennsylvania, 

and from rearing in laboratory conditions, permitted the 

description of life cycle, of egg and fifth instar, as well 

as diagnoses for the second to fourth instars (Wheeler, 

1984). Overwintering occurs as eggs in the plane tree 

seed balls, mainly those fallen on the floor. Only a few 

proportion of the first generation population develops in 

the fruit heads remaining attached to the tree. Number 

of individuals per fruit, either adults or nymphs, ranged 

from 0 to more than 50 (average 15/fruit). Hatching be-

gins in the first half of April, until early May. Early in-

stars keep protected inside the fruiting heads. First 

adults are found in May 20, and oviposition occurs in 

the current-season fruits, more rarely in old fruits re-

maining on the tree, and never in the old fallen fruit 

heads. Mating and oviposition of the first generation 

lasts until June 10, overlapping with all nymphal stages 

of the second generation. At 20 ºC under natural photo-

period, the nymphal period requires an average of 28.8 

days. By early October, the species has developed four 

generations. Eggs deposited by third and fourth genera-

tion females represent the overwintering stage. Adults 

may be found under bark either in autumn or in early 

spring, which suggests that overwintering adults may be 

found in more southern (warm) localities (Wheeler, 

1984). 

Distribution 

The native area of B. numenius is the Nearctic Region. 

Ashlock (1967) summarizes the distribution of B. nu-

menius as restricted to southern Canada, United States 

and most of Mexico, between latitudes 15º-45ºN. Slater 

(1964) and Ashlock and Slater (1988) give a detailed 

list of USA states and Canadian provinces where the 

species is known. 

B. numenius has been reported for the first time in the 

Palaearctic by Matocq (2008), through specimens found 

in Corsica and Languedoc. The present work includes 

the first records for the Iberian Peninsula (figure 4). The 

localities of samples from Catalonia are (UTM projec-

tion is based in the datum Europe 1950, Spain and Por-

tugal): 

1) Castelldefels, UTM 31TDF17, Barcelona province, 

Catalonia, Spain, 11 VIII 2008, 1 male. On a wall, 

near a row of ornamental Platanus x hybrida. F. 

Gessé leg.

2) Barcelona city, Barceloneta area, UTM 31TDF38, 

Barcelona province, Catalonia, Spain, 2 IX 2008, 1 

female. On the door of a drugstore. J. J. Pérez De 

Gregorio leg., J. Ribes det. et coll.

Figure 4. Localities where B. numenius was collected in Catalonia. 

Barcelona

SPAIN

FRANCE

PORT

UG

AL

 



123

North American specimens, lent by the American Mu-

seum of Natural History of New York, were also stud-

ied: 


1) Black Mountains, VI. 17, N.C., det. unknown. 1 

female, 1 male. 

2) USA, New York, Columbia Co., Stockport Marsh, 

July 1981. R. Schmidt., ex: fruits of Populus del-



toides. R. Schmidt det. 1 female, 2 males. 

Concluding remarks 

B. numenius has been collected in South France, Corsica 

and Spain in a very short lapse of time (from August to 

October 2008). The origin of the importation has not 

been elucidated in any of both reports. As plane trees 

are very common as ornamentals, high attention must be 

payed to possible new records of the sycamore seed 

bug, which may become a pest in parks and urban areas, 

although it doesn’t in natural plane tree habitats (Sweet, 

2000). 

As it happened in the past with L. occidentalis and C.



ciliata, more records are needed to confirm or not the 

establishment of B. numenius in Europe, and eventually 

its noxious effects. 

Acknowledgements 

We thank Dr H. Brailovsky (México D.F., México) for 

confirming the identity of the species, J. J. Pérez De 

Gregorio (Barcelona, Spain) for lending of sample, A. 

Masó (Barcelona, Spain) for picture in figure 1, A. 

Alma (Torino, Italy), C. Ferraccini (Torino, Italy), and 

A. Gogala (Ljubljana, Slovenja) for their help in inquir-

ing about possible previous records of B. numenius, and 

L. Mata (Barcelona, Spain) for revision of English text. 

References 

A

SHLOCK 



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WEET 


M. H., 2000.- Seed and chinch bugs (Lygaeoidea), pp. 

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(S

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ington, 86: 790-796. 

Authors’ addresses: Francesc G

ESSÉ


 (corresponding au-

thor, fgesse1963@yahoo.es), Marta G

OULA

, Departament de 



Biologia Animal (Artròpodes), Facultat de Biologia, Universi-

tat de Barcelona, Avda Diagonal 645, E-08028 Barcelona 

(Catalonia), Spain; Jordi R

IBES


. Museu de Ciències Naturals 

de la Ciutadella-Zoologia, Passeig Picasso s/n, E-08003 Bar-

celona (Catalonia), Spain. 

Received December 19, 2008. Accepted April 24, 2009. 



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