Jennifer StackhouseBronze orange bugs

Here’s a cautionary tale. Bronze orange bugs are stinkbugs and they are around in large numbers on citrus trees in early summer – particularly on orange trees. I was outside picking up the last oranges for the year, which had fallen under my tree, when I sniffed the distinct smell of stinkbug. The perfume from the orange blossom almost masked it, but as I disturbed the leaves, the smell became stronger.

Orange tree very pretty - but the smell of stink bugs was unmistakeable

Orange tree very pretty – but the smell of stink bugs was unmistakeable

Wilted tips on the orange tree foliage

Wilted tips on the orange tree foliage

I soon spotted lots of the round light orange and green juveniles along with some mature bronze shield-shaped adults. They were clustered on stems and leaves. And there were wilted tips where these bugs had been feeding.

I took the oranges inside and came back out armed with gloves, sunglasses, tongs and a plastic bag. There are lots of ways of getting rid of these pests but as they exude a noxious smelly liquid you want to protect your eyes and hands if you are planning to catch them.

A jumble of bronze orange bugs ready to pop into the freezer

A jumble of bronze orange bugs ready to pop into the freezer





My plan of action was to grab them with the tongs, drop them into the bag and then kill them by putting them in the freezer (double bagged). I have also had great success sneaking up on the adults on a hot summer’s day when they seek shade and shelter in the middle of the day by congregating on the trunk of the tree. A few whacks with a thong (or flip flop for anyone who is reading this and doesn’t come from thong-on-the-feet-wearing Australia) and they gonners.

Bronze orange bugAnother option is to capitalise on their survival tactic, which is to drop to the ground when they are disturbed. As the adults can fly they opt to avoid a predator by dropping down (squirting a bit of noxious liquid at you as they go) and then either hide in the grass or actually fly off. You can catch them in a bucket filled with soapy water as they drop. The juveniles however don’t fly so they don’t drop to the ground as readily. I decided physically removing them was the best option for now.

Bronze orange bug juvenile

Bronze orange bug juvenile

I’d gathered most of them when one adult fell to the ground. Before I could squash it with my shoe, the dog rushed in to see what was happening. Zap, it got him in his little pug face. He immediately began rolling around, rubbing his face on the grass. I got a cloth, wiped his face and he seemed okay.

We went indoors – the double-bagged beasty bag went into the freezer – and I changed my garden clothes and headed off to a Christmas party. It was quite late when I arrived home, but the first thing I saw was Larry sitting look at me with one eye closed.

Larry - his eye is better now

Larry – his eye is better now


The vet couldn’t be sure if it was the bronze orange bug that had caused the problem, or if he had collided with a bush while running around chasing rabbits (which he had done after I left, later in the day), but he was sure about the $344 bill for removing some black gunky stuff from under the ulcer in his eye lid.

There are a few more bugs out on the orange tree, but I’ll be locking Larry inside before I head out to dispatch them. This crop of oranges better be worth it!



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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

13 thoughts on “Bronze orange bugs

  1. Horrible critters!! They seem to love my Tahitian lime more than anything else. But I have found that spraying the nymphs in winter with Eco oil puts the brakes on them developing into adults. You have to be persistent though and not get slack.

  2. While some of the shield bug family are pests on trees it’s important to remember that not all insects are “the enemy”. Many are beneficial allies around the garden. Here’s a snippet of info on shield bugs:
    By Charlma Phillips, Principal Forest Health Scientist

    These bugs belong to the family Pentatomidae. They are often called “stink” bugs as some species produce a powerful odour when handled. Many shield bugs are pests, for example the Green Vegetable Bug, Nezara viridula, but some are predators of other insects.

    The predatory shield bug most commonly found on eucalypts is Oechalia schellenbergii. This is a very mobile insect that feeds on a wide range of caterpillars and larvae (immature stages) of moths, beetles, sawflies and weevils. It is a very BENEFICIAL insect and plays a vital role in the control of many pest insects. For example, it is often seen on grapevines where it is important in the control of the Grape Vine Moth, Phalaenoides glycine. Unfortunately, like other beneficial insects, this insect is easily killed by chemical sprays and therefore it is essential that sprays be used in a responsible fashion, preferably as a last resort.

    • Yes it is important to be able to tell pest from foe and, while the bronze orange bug is a native insect, it isn’t doing anything good on my orange tree. It is a sap sucker, not a predator. Physical removal such as I’ve recommended means the pest is removed without accidently damaging any of the good guys with chemicals. By providing an exotic food source for some native insects we’ve encouraged them to succeed, become more numerous and widespread and move into the pest category. The grapevine moth caterpillar you mention is also a native insect, but one that’s found exotic food such as grapevine leaves very much to its liking and become a pest. Jennifer

  3. A question for Lissa. I recently found brown stink bugs (Oechalia schellenbergii) on a young eucalyptus which are devouring all the new young leaves… how are they beneficial? I haven’t found any other bugs or caterpillars on the tree. I removed the bugs and have them contained… should I put them back? I actually destroyed part of the tree to remove the bugs!

    • Hi Phileppa. I’m no expert on insects, just have an interest. Try identifying your insect – knowing what insect you have and it’s lifecycle will help you to understand it’s role in the scheme of things. Here’s some sites we have found useful in the past (not sure if they will show up as links here or you might have to search for them):
      Ask an Entomologist – Entomology Australia – Have you found an interesting insect but aren’t sure what it is? Have you got a question you’d like to ask an entomologist? Kathy Ebert, an entomology tutor from the University of Queensland, will try to answer your question or forward your question to local entomology experts.

      Brisbane Insects – Good local sites to help identy insects. I do find if I have a caterpillar though, that it’s quite difficult to locate the adult information.

      Caterpillar Idenfication – American (?) but many of the caterpillars are the same or similar.

      What bug is that? – guide to Australian insect families

      Life Unseen – picture gallery and information

      Mark Berkery – the most beautiful macro shots of insects, Mark is quite an artist. Check out his albums on the right side menu.

      Qld Museum What Insect is That? – insect identification (plus fossils, rocks, history and people)

      Identify a ladybird- CSIRO site and some of it very complicated, but this link will take you to 7 pages of ladybird pics for easy identification.

      Butterfly and other Invertebrates Club Inc

  4. Hi, I was wondering if this blog is still open as I require large numbers of Bronze Orange bug for trial work. I work on Central Coast NSW. If anyone could provide information that would be greatly appreciated.

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