A toad bug, identified as Nerthra fuscipes (Guérin-Méneville) (Fig. 1), was found in Brandon, FL (Hillsborough County) on 7 VIII 2003 by Gabrielle Gamester, a USDA/APHIS/PPQ inspector. The identification was confirmed by Jade Allen, (Doctor of Plant Medicine, University of Florida) and by Dr. John T. Polhemus, Colorado Entomological Museum. The first specimen was found in the flowerbed of a restaurant. Near the restaurant, there was a persistently wet drainage area that appeared to be ideal habitat for toad bugs. A subsequent survey of the area in Nov of the same year failed to turn up any more N. fuscipes, so it was thought that the single record may have been a chance interception, or perhaps a hitchhiker with the mulch used for the flower beds at the restaurant.
In 2007, four additional specimens were collected in the city of Tampa (Hillsborough County) by the junior author (30 VI 2007, 21 X 2007, 20 XI 2007, 4 VII 2008). Another specimen was spotted by the junior author in Riverview on 13 VIII 2007 but escaped capture. These finds and sighting strongly suggest that N. fuscipes is established in Hillsborough County, Florida. Captured specimens are deposited in the Florida State Collection of Arthropods (FSCA).
Nerthra fuscipes is known from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, and Puerto Rico (Todd 1955). Little is known about the biology of these bugs. Apparently, they are predaceous in aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats, although some Nerthra spp. can be found far from water (Epler 2006). All of our specimens were collected in urban landscapes, sidewalks or driveways. These bugs are not known to be of any economic importance anywhere. Nerthra spp. are collected rarely, probably because of cryptic habits and coloration.
The genus Nerthra can be separated from Gelastocoris, the only other Florida genus of toad bugs, by the greatly enlarged front femora and the absence of distinct tarsal segments (Slater & Baranowski 1978). Three species of Nerthra now are known from Florida, including Nerthra rugosa (Desjardins), Nerthra stygica Say, and N. fuscipes. Nerthra fuscipes is the only one that does not have fused hemelytra. Additionally, N. fuscipes is larger than either of the other 2 species. The smallest of the N. fuscipes in the FSCA measure 9.1 mm body length (range = 9.1–10.9 mm; mean = 10.0; n = 18, including 5 from Florida). Nerthra stygipes averages 6.8 mm body length (range = 6.0–7.9; n = 4, all from Florida), and N. rugosa averages 5.6 mm (range = 5.5 – 5.6 mm; n = 2, including 1 specimen from Florida). Separation of N. fuscipes from closely related exotic species may require examination of male genitalia (Todd 1955).
We thank David Ziesk for the photo of N. fuscipes. We thank Jade Allen and John Polhemus for confirming the identification and John Heppner and Gary Steck for reviewing the manuscript. This is Entomology Contribution No. 1094, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, Bureau of Entomology, Nematology, and Plant Pathology.