What is that black and orange bug in my garden?

4 bugs

The suggestions on a recent “what’s this bug? post on this blog made me realize how hard it was to tell apart several common garden bugs: the harlequin bug, the bagrada bug, the milkweed bug and the boxelder bug. They are all flattish, orange/red and black, under an inch long, and seem to always be mating.

After doing the research, I really wanted to see all the bugs side by side, so I made this picture and this simple reference chart. It is now my gift to you. You are welcome.

Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 6.05.25 PM

If you have any trouble reading this chart, I’ve made a pdf of it: click here. I couldn’t get WordPress to display a proper table without adding a plug in & …blah blah software misery…blah.

Also, to find out more about any pest, a good place to start is to type the bug’s name into google, and then “UC IPM” which is shorthand for University of California, Davis’s Integrated Pest Management Program.  They have tons of good information. It is California-based, but the advice tends to be applicable elsewhere. For more climate-specific advice, check your own local University Extension Services.

Final note:  Don’t mix up any of the above with baby ladybugs/ladybirds, which eat even more aphids than adult lady bugs. They look like this:

lady bug larva

all the pictures in this post courtesy of wikimedia commons.

Leave a comment


  1. We have boxelder bugs that come into the house in winter, and they freaked me out at first. I was glad to learn later that they aren’t anything to worry about. I prefer them to ants or roaches, at least.

  2. I was glad to see that the box elder beetle’s promiscuous habits made into the chart. 😀

  3. Bagrada bugs are the WORST. Only thing I have ever had that killed radishes (red and daikon). In spite of daily handpicking. My chickens love them, but the chickens will also kill the seedlings.

    We had them 2 years ago. They killed everything but carrots and scallions, and one chard survived but was deformed and never grew properly. We were gone last summer. This year I have 1 huge tomato plant (overwintered) and I am scared to plant anything else.

  4. Identification, Images, & Information
    For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
    For the United States & Canada

    We are an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures.

    We enjoy the opportunity to instill in others the fascination and appreciation that we share for the intricate lives of these oft-maligned creatures.


  5. Haha. I haven’t seen these for years, but when I was young my sister and I wondered why they were always “doing it”. We called them “orgy beetles”.

  6. I have never seen these bugs before and lived here all my life, they were in mounds all over the house and flying everywhere! I hate bugs ive been spider bit to many times! What will kill them? I sprayed soapy water on them but there everywhere,I got very sick and I believe the bugs did it! Im still having respiratory problems

  7. I found a black and orange looking beetle, has 2 long black , antenna, 4 black legs, 2 front legs, shell of the body is orange- what is it??? is it harmless, I NEED TO KNOW, I DO NOT WANT TO KILL IT BECAUSE IT MAY BE HELPFUL FOR THE GARDEN—PLEASE REPLY ASAP

    Thank You, Jean

  8. I found a beetle looking bug in my back yard. the body is orange, has 4 black legs, 2 front black legs, 1 1/2 inch antenna orange with black dots== what is it? I need to know if it is harmless so I can put it back in the garden– Please reply ASAP

  9. Yes it is the first photo oncopeltus fasciatus , and it is on the milkweed where the monarch eggs are laid. Will they eat the monarch eggs? If so I need to pick them off.

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