Adventures in Ethics and Science

I found this bug in the garden today, on my rainbow chard:


I couldn’t find it on my laminated chart of common bugs in my area (harmful or beneficial). Any idea what it might be?


Also, if anyone can recommend a good way to deal with hundreds of ants near a vegetable garden (where “good” involves not poisoning the people who will be eating the vegetables or the beneficial bugs, not setting things on fire, etc.), I would be thrilled to hear it.


  1. #1 Coturnix
    June 6, 2009

    Is it hunchbacked in profile? Some kind of assassin bug perhaps? I don’t know…I don’t even play an entomologist on TV…

  2. #2 chezjake
    June 6, 2009

    I’ve seen such bugs before, but never knew their names.

    As far as the ants are concerned, it would probably help to determine which ilk of ant they are. It’s possible that they might be the sort that chow down on the aphids which suck all the juicy goodness from some veggie crops.

    If it’s determined that these are non-desirable ants, then locating their hill/nest is necessary. Then, in late evening when they are mostly all home and bedding down for the night, use a sharp stick or other penetrating instrument to make many holes around the nest (at least a one foot diameter) and then soak the perforated area with one or more *very* soapy buckets of merciful deliverance.

  3. #3 Bob Carlson
    June 6, 2009

    Coreid bug, probably Anasa armigera. Compare this photo:

  4. #4 Coturnix
    June 6, 2009

    More like Anasa andresii, perhaps?

  5. #5 PalMD
    June 6, 2009

    it’s clearly a dachshund.

  6. #6 Jude
    June 6, 2009

    Whatever it is, it’s pretty. Should scientists call insects “bugs”? As for the ants, what possible harm are they doing? In other words, if it *isn’t* an invasive exotic, or a creature whose natural predators have been exterminated by us (e.g. earwhigs, who never lived in my area until all the toads were killed), leave ’em alone.

  7. #7 Susan B.
    June 6, 2009

    It’s definitely some kind of true bug; I would guess an assassin bug. Careful, a lot of true bugs have a reputation for giving a painful bite if mishandled, although they’re not venomous.

  8. #8 bill
    June 6, 2009

    Should scientists call insects “bugs”?

    They should if the insects in question actually are bugs (Heteroptera).

    My vote is for Centrocoris variegatus:

  9. #9 Janet D. Stemwedel
    June 6, 2009

    I’m OK calling bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial creatures “features”.

    As for the ants, I wouldn’t be bothered by them except for their war on my every attempt to grow melons. However, given their scorched-earth policy on melons, I need to at least encourage them to relocate.

  10. #10 DrugMonkey
    June 7, 2009

    Slugs are one thing…but Casa Free-Ride is going to war on ANTS??? Nice knowing ya….

  11. #11 Leslie
    June 7, 2009

    It looks almost like a kissing bug?

  12. #12 Stacy L. Mason
    June 7, 2009

    Try these guys They helped me identify a nice looking delta scarab beetle. Though they cropped the hell out of my picture on their site.

  13. #13 Scrabcake
    June 7, 2009

    Actually, I think that one is a true “bug” in the scientific sense.
    You could always look on
    I would guess yours is a stink bug. At least that is what we termed any non box-elder bug bugs that we found in the garden when I was a kid.

  14. #14 BShepard
    June 7, 2009

    I believe it is an ambush bug. They are in the same family as the assassin bugs.

  15. #15 Juniper Shoemaker
    June 7, 2009

    Slugs are one thing…but Casa Free-Ride is going to war on ANTS??? Nice knowing ya….

    Wait a minute, DM. Does this mean you’re down with the Argentine ants? Because it takes a peculiar saintliness– in the form of impenetrable skin, a strong stomach and an indifference to the plight of the poor indigenous species– to refrain from war on Argentine ants . . .


  16. #16 Bob Carlson
    June 7, 2009

    I think think Bill is probably right about it being Centrocoris variegatus. This URL records that species on a host plant of the genus Beta:

  17. #17 blf
    June 7, 2009

    I never had any reason to try and convince ants to move (only to stay outside and not come into the house), so I don’t know if this works, but it sounds promising: Find a creationist. Stuff him/her down the anthole. Creationists apparently taste bad—all that concentrated stupidity—so the ants evacuate en masse. But to find out the food supply has gone stupid and sour, they first have to nibble the creationist. Only problem is disposing of the bits that are left uneaten (or vomited back up); the compost pile is a possibility?

    Apologies if this sounds cruel to the ants. I had a bit of a run-in with an idiot earlier today and the idea of stuffing such idiots down a convenient anthill, plus a few beers, makes me feel a lot better.

  18. #18 Danimal
    June 7, 2009

    While the bug looks slightly different then those we see on the East Coast, it look to me what we commonly call stink bugs. When squished they give off a smell. Images of various types can be found here. I could be wrong, I am not a bug expert. Perhaps asking Bug Girl would help.

  19. #19 Harold
    June 7, 2009

    As far as the ants go – I would suspect that they are a secondaty infestation resulting from the presence of aphids, which the ants “milk” for their honeydew. Eliminate the aphids and the ants will go away…maybe. Can you see where the ants are going? Can you acquire some ladybugs or other aphid predators?

  20. #20 Bob Carlson
    June 7, 2009

    Harold’s recommendation seems like a good one, but I suppose it may depend on the type of ant that is being observed. Janet might want to contact an ant expert like Alex Wild, who was, until recently, posting fabulous photos and articles on ants and ant biology on Photo Synthesis. His web site has a Contact link and is:

  21. #21 PA
    June 7, 2009

    We call those stink bugs. They leave a horrible smell if you pick them up, but so far I have gotten no bites. No idea if they are friends or pests, but they DO look cool.

  22. #22 Bob Carlson
    June 7, 2009

    This family is Coreidae, which are leaffooted bugs. The stinkbug family is Pentatomidae.

  23. #23 Laura
    June 8, 2009

    I’ve had decent luck using a paste of sugar, boric acid and water to get rid of my kitchen ants (the small black Argentine “sugar ants,” as we call them in the South). I’m led to believe it’s less toxic than commercial ant poisons. You can find lots of recipes on the internet for optimal ratios of the ingredients. I’m not sure if other bugs would eat it and be harmed, though. I’ve never seen anything but ants around my homemade baits.

  24. #24 Bing
    June 8, 2009

    I say we call you the discoverer of a new species and you get to name it.

  25. #25 Texas Reader
    June 8, 2009

    what type of camera and lens did you use? that’s a great photo!

    my knowledge of bugs:
    spiders (yeah, arachnids, i know)
    other bugs

  26. #26 ambivalent academic
    June 8, 2009

    It looks remarkably like (but not identical to) the “squash bugs” that are the bane of my garden. They are called squash bugs because they suck the sap out of any squash fruit (but they’ve also been going after my eggplants, tomatoes and peppers after they ravaged everything else. Also because you should squash them whenever you see them if you want to eat any of your fruits yourself. *Shakes fists at the universe*

  27. #27 Lee
    June 8, 2009

    “As for the ants, what possible harm are they doing? In other words, if it *isn’t* an invasive exotic, or a creature whose natural predators have been exterminated by us…, leave ’em alone.”

    If Dr. Free-Ride lives in or near San Jose, those ants are almost certainly invasive Argentine Ants – because in urban/suburban areas of the state, the Argentines have nearly completely replaced every native ant that existed. Warfare is appropriate – sometimes I feel that a nuclear option would be worth the collateral damage.

    “As far as the ants are concerned, it would probably help to determine which ilk of ant they are. It’s possible that they might be the sort that chow down on the aphids which suck all the juicy goodness from some veggie crops.”

    Argentine ants farm aphids. The ants protect them from predators, and feed on the honeydew the aphids secrete. Here in Oakland, when my citrus and roses get aphids, they quickly grow to damaging masses, and there is nothing I can do to reduce them for more than a day or two – except isolate the trunk of the tree/bush, and paint it with tanglefoot to isolate the Argentine ants from the canopy. As soon as I do, that aphid population starts to dwindle as the natural predators move in, and within a week or two, I end up with minor aphid presence, not enough to worry about.

    Of course, the ants are persistent,and will mass themselves enough at the tanglefoot that the dead bodies of the trapped ants form a bridge, and the ants reach the canopy again. I sometimes have to wash the tanglefoot and renew it daily.

    It also helps to track the ant trail back to the nest, and stick a couple good old fashioned ant baits into the nest opening.

  28. #28 travc
    June 9, 2009

    Interesting discussion, I did no know Argentine ants farm aphids…

    As for killing ant nests, many commercial baits work very well. You can deploy them sparingly in a very targeted manner (leave them out only for a short time on the feeding trails of a specific nest).

    Yeah, it isn’t so-called “organic” (I’ve got a pet peeve with using that word in that context… an organophosphate is organic damnit!) IMO, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using pesticides in a sparing fashion though. And you don’t get much more sparing than a few targeted bait traps.

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