Mystery of the Month solved thanks to Karl: Bellyache Bush Jewel Bug from Trinidad and Tobago

Shield Bugs apparent male and female?
April 4, 2010
These bugs where taken in October 09 on the north coast of Trinidad of the republic of Trinidad and Tobago, they were sparsely abundant feeding on a type of stinging nettle of sorts about 21/2 meters high.
Roger Neckles
Trinidad & Tobago

Bellyache Bush Jewel Bug (female on left)

Dear Roger,
First, we are not certain what Hemipteran family these True bugs belong to, but our best amateur guess would be Bordered Plant Bugs in the family Largidae or Scentless Plant Bugs in the family Rhopalidae.  Second, we are not certain if they are the same species or closely related species.  We find it difficult to believe that there would be this degree of sexual dimorphism in a species, but it is possible that there might be drastically different color variations within the species.  It is also difficult to ascertain if both individuals are winged, indicating adults and not nymphs.  We would lean toward closely related species.  We are tagging this as a Mystery of the Month so it will remain on the top of our homepage until we get some sort of response, or until it is replaced by a bigger mystery.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for taking of your valuable time to reply to my query so speedily, I am very grateful indeed.  Why I leant towards the fact that these individuals might have been male and female was because I found a photo (attached) on the net a few weeks ago (No info was available with photo) of an identical striped one as in my photo mating with one very similar to the spotted one except the spots were barely visible if as in my photo!  But I accept your opinion and I promise when I come across them again I will be much more thorough and and observe them longer next time.  I do hope that you can get a fix on the species name etc. for me. May I send you other Bugs from time to time?  I do not have a credit card, I would like to send a donation is there another way to send or would you be content with getting pics from time to time, please advise!
Best regards – Roger

"Mystery Bugs" snatched from the internet by Roger

Thanks so much for supplying this photo snatched from the internet.  They do appear to be the same species you have photographed.  We are very conscious of copyright infringement, which is why we only post images that were submitted by the authors, but in this case, we are making an exception.  Do you recall where you found this image?  We would much rather supply a link to it than to post the image on What’s That Bug?  We recant our earlier suppositions, and we now agree that this Hemipteran either has an extremely developed sexual dimorphism, or there are multiple color morphs of the species that are not limited by sex.  We won’t know the actual answer until we identify this elusive mystery.  Generous contributions to our web site are always appreciated, but it is not a requirement for having photos and letters posted to our site.

Dear Daniel,
I am delighted that this new image has been useful in narrowing the mystery to the actual ID of this rather lovely bug.  I fully support and endorse your policy of copyright infringement, as such I have chosen to redeem our exception to the rule by searching my ‘history files’ to relocate the origins of the work.  I am pleased to say that I have been able to locate the source, and perhaps the author may be of more assistance!  The source link is; photos/riomanso/ and the authors name is RN Riomanso. I have a few more bugs on flickr you may care to ID.
Could you advise me as to how I would title this species in an article, given the fact that the species and/or genus is not clear?  In other words what is for sure?  Sorry to sound so clueless!
Cheers – Roger

Hi Roger,
Thanks for the link.  I would recommend giving this a few days to see if anyone writes in with an identification.  The best thing for you to do is to provide a comment on the posting and then you will automatically be notified if anyone supplies a comment in the future.

Karl Solves the Mystery
Hi Daniel and Roger:
The species is Agonosoma trilineatum (Scutelleridae) and, somewhat curiously, the best information about it comes from Australia, where it is called the “Bellyache Bush Jewel Bug”. The Bellyache Bush, Jatropha gossypiifolia (Euphorbiaceae) is a toxic native plant of the tropical Americas and Caribbean that has become a serious invasive pest in northern Australia. Apparently, A. trilineatum is a natural enemy of the Bellyache Bush in its natural range, and it was released in Australia as a biological control agent in 2002. According to an Australian Department of Primary Industry Agnote, “The bug inserts its mouthparts into bellyache bush fruit and injects a liquid into the seed, which dissolves it. It then sucks up the liquid. This method of feeding destroys seeds before they develop.”  The same paper also has a good image of the spotted female and striped male. Great stuff! Regards.

Dear Karl and Daniel:
Thanks awfully for putting me out of my misery, your identification and fascinating report were far more that I expected, it had me hopping in my seat with excitement reading this amazing account of the species… Wow! Wicked job guys.  They really are quite attractive Bugs aren’t they?
Very best regards – Roger
P.s. If ever either of you are ever in Trinidad and Tobago, look me up for sure, we’ll do a sortie into the sticks and find some more Bugs!

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