June 11, 2012

UFI on the Bok Choy

Can you identify this beauty? A couple of weeks ago I discovered a bunch of orange, black and white ladybeetle-like bugs wandering around on a bok choy plant I'd left to dry out for seed collection. 

Unidentified Flying Insect on my bok choy

I thought maybe they were ladybug larvae in transition to full ladybugs, since they weren't moving around much and I'd seen larvae nearby. However, a week or two passed with no noticeable change in the appearance of these pretty insects, so now I'm thinking they might be something else.

Notice the white stripes on the side

They weren't present on the bok choy when it was green; only after it had gone to seed and was beginning to dry out. By that time the plant had attracted tons of aphids, which I didn't care about since I was no longer harvesting leaves from it. Ladybugs love aphids, so that's another reason I'm assuming these are some kind of ladybug or relative.

Bug has both orange and white spots on its back

Belly view

I know ladybugs can come in stripes, solids, varying numbers of dots, etc. and a Google search turned up charts filled with drawings of lots of different types, but nothing looked even close to the pattern on these guys (or dolls). I'm assuming they are good and so haven't disturbed them, but I suppose it's possible they're pests.

Hanging off the end of a bok choy seed pod

Any insect experts out there who know what this is? Any amateurs who want to take a guess? It's buggin' me not knowing.

UPDATE: Mystery solved! 


  1. Hey Saskia, I asked my dad (retired UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor) about your bug - he did not know the exact kind of bug it is, but suggested that it was probably in the Order of Hemipthera and is a “true bug” verses the Coleoptera Order that the lady bugs (beetles) are found.

    The “true bugs” have piercing mouth parts whereas the lady bug has chewing mouth parts. Also the “true bug” has a much thinner and softer top wing. These bugs usually cause indentations or hard spots on fruit and leaves. They can also cause a toxin that causes nuts or fruit to fall. However, sometimes they just suck sap out of stems. Most are pests of something. Many are fairly specific on what crops they feed on while others are not very particular.

    Hope this helps! Btw, love your Blog! - Marie

    1. Thanks, Marie! I remember the "true bug" distinction from an entomology class I took at UCD, but couldn't remember specifics. We did figure it out--it's a harlequin bug nymph, so as your dad thought, it's a pest that will suck the sap out of the stems of my plants. Bummer! Still pretty, though.

  2. Hey there, Saskia. This is a Harlequin Beetle. You can read more about them here: http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/hemipt/Murgantia.htm

    We have them in our yard all over our kale and collards. They are a pain! I usually go out and hand pick them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. The chickens won't even eat them (they must taste bad).

    Anyway, just thought I would pass this along in case you haven't found out what now you know.

    Happy Gardening!