What most of us call Stink bugs and Shield bugs are part of a large group of insects that are all part of the Order Hemiptera and are called True bugs. The Order is made up of Stink Bugs, Shield Bugs, Squash Bugs, Seed Bugs, Plant Bugs, Bed Bugs, Pond Skaters, Cicadas, Water Bugs, Aphids and Scale Insects.
For people in France it’s useful to know that in French the word Punaise is applied to most of them with the exception of Cicadas, Aphids and Scale insects. For example the Green Shield bug (Palomena prasina) which is called la punaise verte.
The distinguishing feature despite their great range of differences is that they all have piercing mouthparts with which they can suck the juices from plants, seeds or animals - usually plants. These mouth parts are contained in a beak (or rostrum) which is usually held underneath the body when not in use.
A small selection follows of species people are likely come across in France with a short description of life cycle and behaviour.
Mottled Shield Bug,
La punaise nébuleuse or punaise grise.
Mottled Shield Bug is a relatively common species in France associated with hedgerows, woodlands and scrub which they feed on as well as dead insects. Breeding takes place principally in May with one generation a year and the various instars share the same habitat as the adults. They overwinter as adults in sheltered areas, under vegetation, in cracks in walls or under tree bark and are one of the species that are sometimes to be found in houses. They are also one of the species that can emit an unpleasant smell when disturbed.
Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug,
Various common French names: Punaise des blés, Punaise nez-de-rat or Punaise à tête allongée
The Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug is a species that can be found in most parts of France that is associated with tall dry grasslands and as one of the the French names indicates cereal fields. They principally feed on the juices of the seed heads and overwinter as adults undercover of vegetation. They would be unusual to find in houses. There is one generation a year with breeding in April, May, June.
Southern green stink bug
Punaise verte ponctuée
The Southern Green Shield bug originated in Africa but has been spread to countries all over the world including France. It has one generation a year with breeding taking place in May or thereabouts. It favours the plants and fruits of Aubergines, Tomatoes, Beans, cucumbers, melons etc as well as some native plants. In most parts of France now but prefers warmer regions. They change colour to brown before over wintering as adults in sheltered places, sometimes in houses and they can emit a smell when disturbed which some people dislike
Common Green Shieldbug
La Punaise Verte
The Common Green Shieldbug is widespread throughout France. There is one generation per year with breeding taking place in May or thereabouts. They feed on many species of deciduous trees and shrubs including fruit trees but rarely cause serious harm. They change colour to brown before over wintering in sheltered places including homes and they can emit a smell when disturbed which some people dislike
Sloe or Hairy Shieldbug
La punaise des baies or pentatome des baies
The Sloe bug is found in all regions of France on hedgerows, woodland edges and open scrub. Feeds on the fruits and seeds of a variety of plants but strangely not Sloe despite its common name however they are hairy. One generation per year with breeding taking place in May or thereabouts and spends winter in sheltered places as adults. Occasionally may enter houses.
Eurygaster austriaca is in decline in many places in France presumably due to habitat loss. It is a shieldbug of dry meadows, scrublands, heaths, wastelands as long as there are grasses of more than one meter tall where they feed on seed heads. Colouration is extremely varied. They have a preference for warmer regions and are not found at altitudes over 1,400 metres. There is one generation a year and breeding takes place in June. They overwinter as adults. They have no known common English or French names.
Punaise des genêts
The Gorse Shieldbug is to be found throughout France where it is found mainly on gorse and broom but it also feeds on other plants such as tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and beans. The first pre winter stage of the adult form has reddish markings but they return to green the following spring when a single brood is produced in May.
Rhynocoris (Rhynocoris) annulatus
"La Réduve annelée, Le Rhynocoris annelé"
There doesn't appear to be a common English name for this species of Assassin Bug that can be found in many regions of France, although it is more abundant in the south. As can be seen in the photo it is active during the day and preys on other insects that it catches. The eggs are deposited in isolation, or in small groups in summer and they spend winter as juveniles. Can give a painful bite if roughly handled but does not enter houses other than accidentally.
Punaise du chou
The Brassica shieldbug can be found throughout France. They overwinter as adults emerging in early spring. The food plants are various crucifers, often in the flowering stage and are frequently to be found on mustards and garlic mustard. Does not enter houses and is rarely a pest. This species can have either white, yellow or red markings
Forest or Red legged shield bug
Punaise à pattes rousses or Punaise des bois
This bug has one generation a year which overwinter as young nymphs that develop and breed in late spring. In very mild winters some adults will survive and be seen in spring which implies that a second breeding cycle may be possible.
They are sap-feeders and their main food source is any of several species of oaks, but they can also be found on alder, hazel, and other deciduous trees, including apple and cherry.
Western Conifer seed bug
Punaise américaine du pin
A non native introduced species from the USA that is rapidly expanding it range and population numbers. Can be found in all regions of France. Often seen it autumn when adult bugs enter houses to hibernate. In spring they fly to conifer trees to mate and lay eggs. They feed on the sap of developing pine cones and may have two generations a year in warmer regions.