Nottinghamshire Damselbugs (Nabidae)

Damsel Bugs are generally rather elongate, slender-legged insects. They are carnivorous, feeding on a range of insects with their four segmented rostrum and both the adults and their nymphs, will be a familiar sight to many naturalists. Yet once again, there has been little general interest showed towards recoring the family for a number of years.

However, that trend has reversed somewhat and invertebrate surveys undertaken at several Sherwood Forest sites and elsewhere within the general Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park areas, have at least given us a better picture of species distribution.

Even though our knowledge of their Nottinghamshire distribution is far from being accurate, it is considerably better now than it was a decade ago and a number of recorders have recently contributed records.


Known Nottinghamshire species

The UK currently has 12 known species of Damsel Bug (Nabidae), ten of which are known to occur in Nottinghamshire. Most species do have regularly used common names, which we have included here. Species recorded from Nottinghamshire are: Himacerus boops, Grey Damsel Bug Himacerus major, Ant Damsel Bug Himacerus mirmicoides, Tree Damsel Bug Himacerus apterus, Field Damsel Bug Nabis ferus, Heath Damsel Bug Nabis ericetorum, Broad Damsel Bug Nabis flavomarginatus, Marsh Damsel Bug Nabis limbatus, Reed Damsel Bug Nabis lineatus and Common Damsel Bug Nabis rugosus.

Nabis brevis (RDB3) and Nabis pseudoferus (Nb) are two largely coastal species of southern parts of the UK. Neither are known from Nottinghamshire.

Species accounts
Himacerus boops (Schiødte, 1870)
A small species found in dry habitats such as heathland. It is rare in Nottinghamshire, but we are aware of records for Sherwood Heath in 2006 and Budby South Forest in 2011.

Identification: Length 6.5 - 7.0mm. A brachypterous Damsel Bug with large eyes There are three dark longitudinal stripes on the pronotum, which help to distinguish it from all other species, with the exception of Himacerus major.

Grey Damsel Bug Himacerus major (A. Costa, 1842)
Described as being common in the UK, but seemingly not in Nottinghamshire. It is a Damsel Bug of heathland and other dry grassy sites.

The only records we can trace are both from the Sherwood Forest area (including Sherwood Heath SSSI in 2006) but we recently found this elusive species in set-aside at Market Warsop in October 2015.

Identification: Length 7.5mm - 9.0mm. Himacerus major is macropterus (fully-winged) and has distinctive part of the hind femur coloured black, a feature it shares with the previous species.

Ant Damsel Bug Himacerus mirmicoides (O. Costa, 1834)
A common species of the southern UK, usually found on low vegetation. Young nymphs are amazingly ant like in appearence, gradually becoming more typical Damsel Bug in shape as they grow and are more commonly found than the adults.

Identification: Length 7.0mm - 8.0mm. Not as large as Himacerus apterus, with the wings slightly longer and the antennae are shorter, although these can often be difficult to discern without a direct comparison.

Tree Damsel Bug Himacerus apterus (Fabricius, 1798)
Commonly found, this is the only Damsel Bug which is consistantly found on trees or tall scrub. It's UK distribution shows a distinct southerly bias, becoming more scarce further north, but it appears to be common in a wide range of habitats in Nottinghamshire. Regularly found as both nymphs and adults, especially by beating the lower branches of deciduous trees.

Identification: Length 8.0 - 11.0mm. This large species is almost always micropterous, with the wings reaching about half way down the length of the abdomen. Males are much slimmer than females.

Field Damsel Bug Nabis ferus (Linnaeus, 1758)
The Field Damsel Bug is a common species of grassy areas. It is best found by sweeping areas of long grass, or carefully hand searching vegetation along field margins etc.

Identification: Length 8.0mm - 8.5mm. Not as large or as obvious as some other species, the Field Damsel Bug is fully-winged, with the wings extending beyond the end of the abdomen. The densely hairy forewings help to separate Nabis ferus from fully-winged forms of N. rugosus and N. ericetorum.

Heath Damsel Bug Nabis ericetorum (Scholtz, 1847)
A heathland species and generally quite restricted in Nottinghamshire. Often best looked for by sweeping areas of grass and Heather, but be aware that several other species (including Nabis rugosus, N. ferus, Himacerus boops and H. major) can also be found in the same habitat.

Identification: Length 6.5mm - 7.0mm. It can be difficult to identify as other species can be very similar, but the brachypterous wings just about cover the abdomen and there is usually a reddish colouration to both adults and nymphs.

Broad Damsel Bug Nabis flavomarginatus (Scholtz, 1847)
Despite being described as common over much of the UK, this is not a Damsel Bug we have found too often. It favours rough grassy areas, edges of fields and woodlands etc.

Identification: Length 7.0mm - 9.0mm. N. flavomarginatus is a large and distinctive species, with short wings reaching to around half the length of the abdomen. The upper surface of the abdomen is densely covered in short golden hair, but this is not always obvious in the field.

Marsh Damsel Bug Nabis limbatus (Dahlbom, 1851)
Presumably quite common and probably found across much of the county, although this is not a Damsel Bug we have found with any kind of regularity. Typically a species of damp grassland and wet meadows, best looked for by using a sweep net.

Identification: Length 7.5mm - 9.0mm. This species is always micropterous, with the forewings being shorter than those of the more robustly built  N. flavomarginatus, almost covering the third abdominal section.

Common Damsel Bug Nabis rugosus (Linnaeus, 1758)
A small Damsel Bug which is common in grassy areas and the edges of woodland across much of Nottinghamshire. Easily found by sweeping vegetation during the late Summer.

Identification: Length 6.5mm - 7.5mm. This species is usually brachypterous, with the wings virtually reaching the end of the abdomen. This helps identification to a large degree, but fully-winged forms do occur.

Species distribution maps

The following distribution maps are sourced from the records of the following list of individuals and organisations/survey results and are as accurate as can be (as of January 2022) with the records and data we have at our disposal. We have again refrained from using historical records listed in J.W. Carr's book 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire' in any of the maps, in order to keep the distribution consistant with current knowledge.

Himacerus boops (Schiødte, 1870)   Himacerus major (A. Costa, 1842)
Himacerus mirmicoides (O. Costa, 1834)   Himacerus apterus (Fabricius, 1798)
Nabis ferus (Linnaeus, 1758)   Nabis ericetorum (Scholtz, 1847)
Nabis flavomarginatus (Scholtz, 1847)   Nabis limbatus (Dahlbom, 1851)
Nabis rugosus (Linnaeus, 1758)    
Shieldbugs and Plant Bugs etc