Stinkbugs are color conscious when it comes to their eggs

stink bug eggs

BLACK AND WHITE  Stink bug moms lay darker eggs on the top surfaces of leaves (right) than on the undersides of leaves (left). The darker eggs receive more protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. 

Abram et al / Current Biology 2015

Stinkbug moms appear to carefully choose the color of their eggs.

A female Podisus maculiventris stinkbug can lay eggs in a range of colors from pale yellow to black. And she can control the color of the eggs she lays, seemingly pairing darker eggs with darker surfaces, researchers report online July 23 in Current Biology. This is the first time an animal has been shown to control the color of its eggs at will, the scientists say. 

Eggs laid on the tops of leaves were more than two times as dark, on average, as those laid on a leaf’s pale underside, the researchers report. Darker eggs protected developing stinkbugs from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which are probably most intense on a leaf’s sun-exposed top surface.

It’s still a mystery what chemical the bugs use to darken their eggs; the scientists were surprised to discover that the eggs weren’t colored with the compound melanin, which produces most dark colors in insects.

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