Beetles and bugs in our garden
Although to Amy just about all pictures on these pages feature "bugs", zoologically
the only bugs are found here.
Attack of the killer bug! The wheelbug (Arilus cristatus) is a large
member of the assassin bug family, named for the cog-like protrusion on its
back. I found this one chomping down on some prey, clinging to the bottom of a
This one is just a youngster (same species), but already looking plenty fierce
with his red fang. I found him hiding in between some leaves on a young tree,
Another, smaller, assassin bug, on the lookout for flying snacks near a
Laying in wait on or near flowers, ambush bugs (Phymata
species) are ready to jump their unsuspecting prey. They take on insects
several times their size (including wasps and butterflies), grabbing them with
their strong foreclaws before paralyzing them with their bite. This one here
is a girl (the stronger of the sexes, in ambush bugs).
I found two of these colorful bugs crawling around the seedpods of my swamp
milkweed. Sure enough, they are small milkweed bugs (Lygaeus kalmii), and
belong to the 'seed bugs'. See, some things just all make sense :-)
Years later and many states further south, I find that these bugs also favor
my tropical milkweeds: quite a few of them were crawling around the flowers in
mid-November, including the nymph shown at right.
Pennsylvania, August 2004 / Texas, November 2017
These four-lined plant bugs (Poecilocapsus lineatus) appear on their
favorite plants scattered across the garden in June. They seem to like fragrant
plants – I found some on costmary, and others (like the one pictured
here) on hyssop. They must like bubblegum and liquorice! They are shy: when
they spot nearby activity (such as an approaching camera) they quickly trade
their positions on the tops of leaves for ones on the undersides.
This is an advanced-stage nymph of that four-lined plant
bug, once again found on a fragrant plant (agastache), on a leaf where an
adult was also scurrying around. They are right on schedule: eggs
laid in summer overwinter inside stems of host plants and hatch in spring;
nymphs pass through five instar stages in April-May. The one shown here is
probably in its final instar.
This plant bug belongs to the genus Alydus, the broad-headed bugs. It
feeds on plant juices. I found this one on a variegated lysimachia, on
One day in mid-August, preparing to take a picture of my pink glandularia
flowers, I reached to flick off a speck of debris - and realized it wasn't
debris, but a long slender bug. Upon closer inspection, it was a confluence
of two bugs. Then I saw several more solo specimens on the same plant. They
are some kind of stilt bug in genus Jalysus.
Ben found this bug scurrying around our patio. It's a nymph of the Eastern
box elder bug (Boisea trivittata), which is interesting, because I
don't know of any box elders around. Maybe it likes one of the other Acer
species in our garden. You can tell he's a youngster, because he has just
stubs where the wings will be in the adult stage. Baby box-elder bugs are all
red, while adults have just a few red markings left.
A good example of a bug that looks much cooler when magnified than
with the bare eye! This is a plant bug in the genus Neurocolpus. I found
several of them making their way along a hardy hibiscus (the one in the photo
is sitting on a hibiscus bud).
Another plant bug, this one in genus Phytocoris,
found lounging on a red currant shrub in late June.
A couple of waterstriders (species Gerris) on the edge of a waterlily pad, trying to ensure
the survival of the species. With plenty of predators around, let's hope their
offspring is numerous!
This sharp-looking dandy is a spot-sided coreid
(Hypselonotus punctiventris), a member of the clan of leaf-footed
bugs, even though this species doesn't possess the broadened femur features
typical of that clan. It was perching possessively on an oxypetalum flower
one afternoon in late November. The species is common from the southern
United States down to Central America. It feeds on plants; its favorites
are in the mallow family, but our garden offers few choices in that
botanical corner, so I guess it made do with a milkweed relative. Occurs in
the southern US through to Central America.
Texas, November 2017
Another leaf-footed bug, this one a bit larger than the one above. It's
a Florida leaf-footed bug (Acanthocephala femorata), noted for its
beefy spiked femurs, and occurring in the southern US. I found this one on
a stepping stone by our pond, not too far from a satsuma orange (it
reportedly liked citrus). I nudged it with my finger to get a better camera
angle. Afterwards, I noticed a heavy perfumey scent on my finger. Some
research told me that this is a defense mechanism: the bugs squirt an
odorous liquid from their sides when harrassed. To me, it wasn't really a
bad smell (one scientific paper suggests it may be trans-2-hexenal,
which is a fragrance/flavor compound), but I guess to its predators it is.
Texas, December 2017
This Texas bowlegged bug (Hyalymenus tarsatus) was
lounging on the window above our poinsettia plants – which makes some
sense, because euphorbias are among its favorite food. It belongs to the
broadheaded bugs, and remains active year-round in Texas.
Texas, December 2017
I found this circular formation of neatly arranged white
eggs on stilts on the underside of a live oak leaf on autumn afternoon. My
friends at BugGuide say it's hatched green lacewing eggs (Chrysopidae). They're
good guys, so I hope the little ones survived!
Texas, October 2016
Very recognizable because of their distinctive shape, these bugs come in many
color patterns and sizes. I've collected snapshots of a few of the ones found
in our garden, just so you can admire them up close without fear of malodor.
This colorful little bug was hiding deep inside an agastache flowerspike.
Although I had tentatively identified it as the last nymph stage (5th
instar) of Nezara hilaris, a better fit may be the 3rd instar of a
species of Euschistus.
And this is probably the adult form of the little one above. This green stinkbug
was lounging on a pear in our orchard.
Another plentiful stinkbug in our garden is the twice-stabbed stinkbug (Cosmopepla lintneriana).
This one, too, is rather fond of agastache flowerspikes. The adult is small,
about 1/8" (3 mm).
In its own
way, this stinkbug is kind of handsome, too. Unfortunately, it's the brown
marmorated stinkbug (Halyomorpha halys), an agricultural pest
from East Asia that was first found in the US in 2001, of all places in
This one looks different, but is actually a nymph (juvenile stage) of the marmorated
stinkbug at left.
And this is yet another individual of the same species - in this
case a newly emerged adult, who hasn't yet attained his mature coloration -
a teneral form, in entomological terms.
Another smaller stinkbug species, Banasa dimiata occurs
through most of North America. Its coloration depends on the season. This one
is plotting its escape from a plastic sand bucket, into which it was captured
by my enterprising son Ben.
Amy spotted a cluster of these little guys on the underside
of a Japanese maple leaf. They were so tightly and geometrically arranged, and
sitting so still, they looked like a cluster of eggs. But as soon as they were
exposed to the sunlight, they started to scatter, only to huddle again when
a suitable cover was returned. My friends at BugGuide reckon they are stinkbug
nymphs, but the species has not yet been decided.
And this is an even earlier stage of some stinkbug
(Pentatomid, as the entomologists call them). It was so little, I thought
it was a tick, until close-up inspection of the photograph revealed that that
"fourth pair of legs" was really its antennae.
A rather diverse gang – one day I'll read up on them and figure out
what makes a beetle a beetle and a bug a bug. For now, just some photos:
This colorful one is adept at skeletonizing the plants
it feeds on – it's a flea beetle in genus Disonycha. I always
associated flea beetles with the much smaller black hopping things that
decimate my eggplants in early summer (Epitrix fuscula), but I
learned that they are a much more diverse group of insects.
Ain't it marvellous? A bright shiny pink thing on a very spiny solanum branch.
According to the friendly folks at BugGuide, this is a potato beetle larva.
The next year, I found more of the larvae - and also a few adult specimens.
Further research told me that these are in fact false potato beetles (species
Leptinotarsa juncta) recognizable by brown stripes interrupting the
white and black ones.
Every year in late June and July, fireflies light up the garden. They're
easy to catch when they're active at dusk, but in the dark you never get a
good look. So I didn't recognize this one when I found it in broad daylight on
a pepper plant in the veggie garden. Pretty handsome beetle, this Photinus
isopyralis, don't you think?
I spotted this darling couple on a pinellia plant in late
May. I must admit I had no idea what I was looking at: bugs, beetles, or even
moths? Turns out they were net-winged beetles, species Calopteron discrepans,
not too distant relatives of that firefly above..
I don't know if the boys are always smaller than the girls, or if this particular
pair was simply a case of "opposites attract".
This willow leaf beetle (probably Plagiodera
versicolora) was a real little guy. It's hard to tell from the photo, but
he had a quite vivid dark metallic blue-green color.
Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis) just love our empress tree,
probably because the aphids like it too.
Another non-native ladybug (it hails from Eurasia), this
is the "fourteen-spotted lady beetle" (Propylea
quatuordecimpunctata), characterized by its rectangular spots (which
take on quite a few different appearances, as evidenced by their Bugguide page.
This tiny thing (less than half the size of the lady
beetles above) is a varied carpet beetle (Anthrenus verbasci),
so named for the tendency of its larval stage to eat woollen rugs while
a house guest. This individual, however, was outside, perched on the edge of
an anemone petal. It flew away before I could get a better photo.
Small but colorful beetle, spotted on a purple coneflower.
It appears to be a three-lined potato beetle (Lema daturaphile), which
may mean that my potato plants, just a long hop away from the flower border,
are under attack.
Found this twosome carousing on a milkweed plant one
evening in early June. I learned that they are swamp milkweed leaf beetles
(Labidomera clivicollis). Their chosen host in fact was not a swamp
milkweed, but close enough. They are apparently part of a milkweed-related mimicry
complex, along with the milkweed bug above, the red milkweed beetle below,
and several other insects.
Another asclepias-dweller, this dandy is a longhorn beetle, more specifically a red milkweed beetle (
Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). In late June, our swamp milkweed flowers were full
All of a sudden one nice day in late summer, there were dozens of these orange
fellas hovering around. Turns out they are goldenrod soldier beetles, or Pennsylvania
leatherwings (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus). While we have a good
supply of goldenrod in our garden, our visitors seemed to prefer our culinary
herbs. Gourmand beetles - go figure.
A similar species to the one above, margined leatherwings
(Chauliognathus marginatus) fly earlier in the year (May-July) and
have a band instead of a spot on their pronotum (the collar-like bit between
their heads and their wings). The ones pictured here were ensuring survival
of the species on a lovage flowerhead.
During a few days in mid-June, the flowers on a goat's
rue growing in a mostly shaded area of the garden were just crawling (literally)
with these black insects. They belong to the class of tumbling flower beetles, most likely
the gold-shouldered mordellid (Mordellochroa scapularis), which occurs
in a large swath of central and eastern North America.
This is one of many varieties of click beetle, so named because it can snap
itself upright from an upside-down position. Adults live mostly on plants, so
it makes sense that we found this specimen on some curly endive I brought in
from the garden. Its antennae are folded in close to its body in this picture.
The beetle I least like to see in our garden - the one that defoliates quite
a wide range of plants in mid-summer: the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).
We really haven't tried to fight them: The milky spore fungus is a natural
control that attacks the white grubs overwintering in the lawn, but takes a few
years to become effective and is expensive for the expanse of grass we'd have
to cover. Grub control chemicals seem like overkill, counter to our mostly
organic gardening approach, and I'd be afraid they'd kill beneficials as well.
The pheromone traps are controversial - do they help, or do they merely attract
more of the nemeses to the gardens they're in? So we don't do much more than
make rounds of the garden once in a while, knocking however many of them as we
can manage into a bucket of water. Hardly very effective...
The spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) is usually
found on flowers, in this case red flax.
I found two of these odd-looking creatures on a damaged eggplant
leaf one day in mid-August. When they moved around, they waved the brown appendage
on their tail about - but mostly they just sat still. They are the nymph stage
of Plagiometriona clavata, the clavate tortoise beetle. The brown bit
is in fact attached excrement, which it uses to hide itself from would-be
Found several of these tiny things crawling around in
decaying matter. Turns out they are rove beetle (staphylinid) larvae.
Rove beetles are a large family of the beetles. Atlhough I've probably
encountered adult forms, I've yet to take a picture of one.
These scurriers with odd-looking antennae are members of the beetle order
(coleoptera). I haven't found many so far, and most of those have been
I'm pretty sure this is a rose curculio (Merhynchites bicolor). It fits,
because I found them all over our Virginia rose in late June. It's classified
with the leafrolling weevils, but I saw no evidence of that behavior (lots of
A bunch of these tiny grey weevils were feasting on hollyhock leaves. I tried
to get a better picture, but it's hard to focus a camera up close to a running
Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|FrankG||Jul 03, 2005||Very nice pictures and nice breif blurbs|
|Megan B||Sep 24, 2005||You helped me with my bug project! I had a wheel bug and had no idea what it was! Thanks! Nice pictures, they're well-taken!|
|Joy Derksen, Manatee County Fl. Master||Jan 29, 2007||Excellent photo of an ambush bug, phymata, which a client brought in to the extension center to identify (after it bit a family member). My son, an entomologist at the U. of Fl., referred me to your site for a confirming picture after identifying for us. |
|firstname.lastname@example.org||Jan 29, 2007||Hello,
Thanks for your help. The Ambush Bug, Phymata did a good job of biting me. I had no idea what it was! Glad to hear it is not poisonous!!!
I didn't know they bit people! I haven't seen one since I took that photo, so I guess the danger level is low.
|Henry||Jun 22, 2007||Hey thanks for the great pictures. My mom found one of those red milkweed beetles in her garden on a milkweed plant she let grow for the butterflies. Now we know what kind of insect it is.|
|morgan||Jul 23, 2007||These bugs are amazing,i wish i could find cool bugs like that!I love wierd bugs,you've showed me some bugs I've never evan thought of!|
|james jackson||Oct 27, 2007||I recently glanced at an article in the newspaper about stinkbugs in the area but never got to go in depth in the story so I never knew what one looked like until I came across your site. I'd like to say thank you for enlightening me on this bug I've been finding in my home this past summer .now I know just what it it I'm dealing with, the brown marmorated stinkbug.|
|Lisa||Dec 18, 2007||Hi, I am surfing online trying to figure out what type of beetles are around our house. I did not see it on your page, and wondered if you could help me figure it out? They are small, the length size of a pinky nail, maybe a bit larger, black in color, with these almost tribal looking red lines that criss cross on their backs. They are similar to one you have above witht he red lines, but ours are still very different from those. I have not been able to find them online - thanks for any help you can offer on your page! Your page, by the way is very informational and the pictures are great.|
Hi Lisa - I'm afraid I don't know much about all these bugs. I just get help from more knowledgeable people to identify the ones I find in my garden. If you can take a picture of one, you'll find that bugguide.net is a great place to get an ID.
|Mark||Mar 17, 2008||Hi, Rob. Incredible insect pictures, once I started looking I had to look at them all, that is until I saw the brown marmorated stinkbug, and saw that it was from East Asia, and was found first in the U.S. in Allentown. Until recently and for three years prior, I worked out of the old Mack plant in Allentown. I drove truck delivering shingles and apparently stinkbugs, to many locations in Pa, NJ, DE, and MD on flat-bed trailers parked right next to the freight RR tracks. Other trucks went to much more widespread locations including Canada. Also, I delivered many stinkbugs to my house in the Poconos as I continued to find them inside thru most of the winter. What great hitchhikers they are! A mystery solved. No wonder I never saw one till I worked in Allentown. Now, back to the pictures. |
|William||Jun 04, 2008||Nice Pics!|
|M||Jun 10, 2008||I found a large 2-2 1/2 inch multi colored (iridesent) beetle in my yard what is is?|
|Caroline||Jul 06, 2008||Thanks! I wish there were more user-friendly ID pages like this on the net!|
|Pat||Jul 29, 2008||Love your excellent pictures and commentary. I'll use your site as a resource. |
|Kylie||Sep 21, 2008||I found the Red Milkweed Beetle on my window. I got him and I was afraid to let him live, so he died. I am keeping him though, they are cool!|
|Fox||Apr 27, 2009||Hi! Thank you so much for your website and helping me figure out what I have wandeirng around my garden (and in my home!!!!! GAH!) The brown marmorated stinkbug!
Thank you so much!|
|sarah and lynn||Feb 15, 2010||dear,rob we found a twice stabbed beetle on a pine cone.if you ever find one you should put it on your site.it is black with two orange spots.we thought it was a boy ladybug.from Sarah and Lynn
|Lee OBrassill||Mar 09, 2010||Found yor site to be very informative. It was a great aid in gathering info for my granddaughter's hortoculture essay. Thanks|
|Rose Jones||May 20, 2010||Gret range of creepy crawlies - nice to get the identification of some of them - lots of stinky bugs in my garden in the summer time.|
|Rebecca||Jun 28, 2010||Thanks so much, you helped me identify the red milkweed beetle.|
|Barbara||Jul 14, 2010||Thanks to you I **finally** know what the odd green things on my eggplant are: larvae of Plagiometriona clavata, the clavate tortoise beetle. |
|Martha||Nov 14, 2010||Love the pictures, nicely done. The information is very well delivered and sometimes quite funny. I learned a number of things, but I had a good chuckle or two as well...|
|Gerald Zabel||Dec 21, 2010||Found among my table napkins in mid december. Thought it was a boxelder bug except for two white spots on lower wing area. Identified it as common milkweed bug (western) (small). nice job you guys. Fascinating photos.|
|Jill||Jun 18, 2011||I'd like to ask a question. I have found this beetle-type insect for a project I have to do over the summer. I have to find 50 bugs. I'm really looking forward to it... anyway, I can't seem to identify this beetle. Can you help?? It almost looks like a flea but it's much bigger. And it is a brownish-red color. Thanks|
I'm afraid that's not enough information for me to attempt an identification - and I'm not very knowledgeable anyway. If you can get a photo, try asking for an ID at bugguide.net.
|Aday||Nov 26, 2011||Hi! very nice page! and very nice pictures! i am from Canary islands and i founds a bettle pink whick name i dont know XD i was searching something and found this page! see u ! :D|
|Cathy||Mar 04, 2012||Thanks for your photo of the Rove beetle larva - helped me ID one of my beetle larvae - doing an invertebrate study. Phitigraphs are stunning.|
|Marilyn||Apr 22, 2012||Outstanding pictures and information on the beetles & bugs. Helped me identify one that I was trying to to identify. Thank you for having this site available|
|Peggy||Jun 15, 2012||I found an unusual beetle on pine trees with several butterflies. It has long black and red or orange stiped antenae, 6 legs, wings with yellow on a black body that forms a cross. (Cross is black)|
|Becky||Dec 25, 2012||I have just noticed a small yellow beetle with black stripes cruising around my houseplants. It is currently on one of my African violets. It looks similar to a potato bug, but isn't as plump is smaller. It's about an 1/8" and has two antennas and 3 pairs of legs. I am wondering if it is a predatory critter I should keep around, or if it is something I should trap and dispose of. I have had problems with various flying gnats and am wondering if this little beetle is here to deal with the gnat issue. Thanks! |
I'm not at all a bug expert. The experts at bugguide.net are great at identifying insects of all kinds, but you'll need to have a picture to get their help.
|Lisa||Jun 28, 2013||Thank you for this site: great pictures and nice information. Enjoy your garden.|
|J Claire Champagne||Jul 10, 2014||I enjoyed perusing your pictures. I think of my yard and garden as an insect preserve and spend an inordinate amount of time photographing its inhabitants. Lovely to see a kindred spirit.|
|Donna||Apr 11, 2015||Thank you for helping me identify today's find... a false potato beetle here in Ohio|
|Allie C.||Sep 04, 2015||What a presentation of facts and humor. Thanks for the information.|
|Bob Adams||Jul 11, 2016||Thanks for the excellent photos and description. I found my beetle on your site. Red Milkweed Beetle on yes, a milkweed plant here in Somerville, Massachusetts. We've had a few invasive beetles here recently so I wanted to check.|
|Peter||Jul 26, 2017||Thanks, that was fun!|
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December 24, 2017