Length: 5-6 mm
Members of this genus are found under the bark of both hardwoods and conifers.
Neuroctenus simplex is the most common Flat Bug in the eastern United States; the bug pictured here appears to be a member of the genus other than N. simplex.
Taylor (1988) studied the question of how Flat Bugs orient themselves, and by extension, the question of how they find suitable habitat.
Taylor took a number of Neuroctenus simplex and placed each of them in turn in a white paper cylinder 13 cm high and 32 cm in circumference. Small pencil marks at the base of the cylinder divided its walls into eight equal sections. One of the eight sections was covered with black paper.
One hundred times, Taylor placed a Neuroctenus simplex in the center of the floor of the cylinder (facing a random direction), and recorded which of the eight sections the bug first touched as it walked forward. If the bugs behaved in a random fashion, they would have first touched each panel about one-eighth of the time. As it turned out, though, the bugs touched the black section of the cylinder wall 43% of the time.
This tendency to orient towards the nearest dark object is called skototaxis, and has been demonstrated for a number of species of Flat Bugs and other invertebrates. Presumably Flat Bugs prefer hidden places such as under-bark habitat, and orienting towards the darkness is a good way to find such places.
Several researchers have reported paternal or maternal care among the Flat Bugs. Steven J. Taylor (1988) twice observed female Neuroctenus simplex standing guard over eggs under the bark of oak trees. Taylor removed one of the females and eggs to the laboratory for observation. The female stood motionless over the eggs and then the hatchlings for twelve days in the laboratory, by which time eleven of the thirteen nymphs had reached the second instar.
Below: An under-bark aggregation from late March, in northwest Upshur County, West Virginia.
American Insects site