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Thorn Bug Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sara Clarke-Vivier

Sara is a recently graduated PhD in Education with interdisciplinary experience in K-12 education.

What is a thorn bug? In this lesson, you'll learn about these interesting insects by exploring what they look like, where the live, what they eat and why on Earth they have that big horn on their backs!

What Is a Thorn Bug?

Have you ever touched a spiky rose bush? Or, a spiny thistle plant? Ouch! Thorn bugs have bodies shaped like these spiky plants, which makes them interesting for us to look at and hard for birds or bigger bugs to eat! Thorn bugs are a group of insects that share some common features. They vary in size and color, but they all have a tall, thorn-shaped horn on their backs. Thorn bugs can be found on every continent except Antarctica, but mostly live in forests in South and Central America and in Asia.

A thorn bug
A Thorn Bug

Why Do They Have Those Spiny Backs?

Thorn bugs use the spike on their back as camouflage. Camouflage is when animals' bodies blend into their surroundings to hide from potential predators. Birds and large insects hunt thorn bugs. By looking like the spiky and painful parts of plants, thorn bugs can avoid being eaten by predators like birds or large insects that want to have them as a snack. Thorn bugs also use color as camouflage. Though they look bright and colorful up close, most thorn bugs look green and brown from far away. This helps them to blend in with the plant stems and leaves that they call home.

Many thorn bugs camouflaged together on a plant stem
Thorn Bugs on A Stem

The group of thorn bugs in the photo transform a smooth plant stem into a spiny, spiky place that most birds wouldn't want to land on!

What Do Thorn Bugs Eat?

Thorn bugs eat the plants that they live on. Using their beak-shaped mouths, thorn bugs pierce plant stems and feed on the sap inside. Sap is the sugary, watery liquid that flows through plants and provides them with the nutrients they need to survive. Thorn bugs also survive by eating these plant nutrients. Younger thorn bugs are more likely to feed on softer plants, like grass, while adult thorn bugs can feed on harder plants, like trees.

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