What were these bugs that we called "bloodsuckers"?
November 7, 2009 1:40 PM   Subscribe

There is this insect/arachnid I remember from my childhood in Las Vegas. It had a body about the size of a raisin, only it was quite flat. They were red with black spots (larger than ladybugs, but flatter), and the kids in the neighborhood called them "bloodsuckers" for some reason. (I have no idea if they bit or not.) I don't remember them flying, but I could be wrong about that. What insects were they? Scientific name or common name is fine, anything I can use to find out more info.
posted by ErWenn to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Was it a kissing bug? Where I grew up in Arizona, they had red spots too, though the ones in these pictures don't have them. They leave a nasty bite mark, and like to hide underneath the bed, waiting for you to fall asleep... *shudder*
posted by diocletian at 1:43 PM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: Nope, not a kissing bug. Less elongated, less prominent legs, much less scary looking. They looked like what I would imagine a cartoon ladybug that got squashed flat would look like.

I shudder just looking at the pictures in that link. I'm glad we never had those.

Thanks, though.
posted by ErWenn at 1:50 PM on November 7, 2009

Something like one of these?
posted by SpringAquifer at 2:00 PM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: Could it be a boxelder bug?
posted by Snerd at 2:00 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: None of these seem quite right, but the picture of the small milkweed bug on the link that Snerd posted is closest. Definitely within the margin of error for 15-to-20-year-old childhood memories. Don't think they live in Nevada, though. It's definitely got the right bright red color and flat body...maybe it was squarer, but hard to tell.
posted by ErWenn at 2:21 PM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: You could try the www.whatsthatbug.com website.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 2:33 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sounds ike a boxelder bug to me, too.
posted by vytae at 3:08 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe a harlequin bug?
posted by amtho at 4:23 PM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: I'm guessing Western Box Elder bug too. They're flat, red and black, and all over the place in the desert southwest.
posted by TBAcceptor at 8:35 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could it be a ladybug pupa or larvae? I thought these were odd bugs I had never seen before, until I saw one shed its skin and become a garden-variety ladybug. (Pun intended.)
posted by turducken at 11:00 PM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for their suggestions. The only things that were close were the Western Boxelder bugs, but they didn't quite match my memory. Not quite red enough, and something about the pattern didn't sit right. Everything I see about the small milkweed bug (lygaeus kalmii) ,which I never would have found without the boxelder suggestions, looks just right. Even those white dots that are there on some of the pictures ring a bell. This picture now looks exactly like my memory of the bug.*

And apparently they do live in the Las Vegas area. They may have been much more common nearer to the edges of the urban area which explains why I only really remember them from my young childhood, as by the time I was in high school, the city had grown enough that we were no longer anywhere near the outskirts. At least one person thinks that many people have been calling the small milkweed bugs in Vegas boxelder bugs for years, though when you have a photo, you can really tell the difference.

I have no idea why we called them "bloodsuckers". They look nothing like any of the bugs that are called bloodsuckers, and they don't bite or sting.

Thanks to everyone who made a suggestion. I may never know with 100% certainty what kind of bug it was, but I have a pretty good idea now.

*My personal sense of due diligence insists that I note that my memory has clearly been slightly altered by the responses here as I was definitely remembering them as less oblong earlier. It's entirely possible that my memory of the presence of the white spots is not genuine and has been suggested by these pictures, but I'll probably never know.
posted by ErWenn at 7:28 AM on November 8, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, and thanks to notcomputersavvy06 for the useful link.
posted by ErWenn at 7:29 AM on November 8, 2009

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