Assassin bug or squash bug? ...Or something else?
April 26, 2006 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Garden pest/beneficial id needed of these little nymphs - squash bug or assassin bug? Or something else? Lots of pictures inside.

A few days ago, I noticed this large squash bug near my watermelon for the first time, and I squashed it (haha, no pun intended). Then yesterday, I noticed several of these little nymphs, immediately assumed they were baby squash bugs, and sprayed them with insecticidal soap blends. Those sprays did not seem to kill a single one, despite that I sprayed the bugs directly. Here is closeup#1 and closeup#2 of the nymphs.

Then I thought, maybe they're actually assassin bug nymphs? I've been checking the undersides of the watermelon leaves and have seen nothing resembling squash bug eggs. They closely resemble this picture and this picture I found through a Google search of Assassin bug nymphs.

By contrast, these squash bug nymphs don't seem to look anything like the bugs on my watermelon.

I wonder though, because I only saw this assassin bug once, briefly, a few weeks ago, about 12 feet away on my tomatoes! If it laid eggs, doesn't that mean it established a home? Wouldn't I see it more often? I inspect my garden every day, and often at night with a flashlight.

At this point, I am pretty sure they're assassin bug nymphs... But what the heck, I'll post this anyway. I'm not totally sure, because a few days ago, this baby watermelon fell off the stem, the underside of it chewed up (as if it had been bored into by something). If those nymphs are not responsible then something is (any ideas?).

Also, bonus points to anyone with advice on how to control these little stinkers (stink bugs) on my tomato. Repeated garlic/insecticidal/cayenne/pyrethrum sprays haven't seemed to do much, or at least not that I noticed.

Note: I am in Central Florida (Southeast US for those who don't know)... a very humid, hot climate, though not like Miami.
posted by mojabunni to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Looks like a Repipta taurus.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:47 PM on April 26, 2006

Unless you're a tomato farmer, why not just pick off the stink bugs--a few per day? Spraying is an endless cycle because you're killing or discouraging the predators. Don't expect any balance to come back for at least five years. After that, you will have fewer problems than when you sprayed.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:01 PM on April 26, 2006

Yeah, the nymphs are almost definitely assassin bugs.
posted by musicinmybrain at 8:32 PM on April 26, 2006

Unless you're a tomato farmer, why not just pick off the stink bugs

They are on the tomatoes :( And that is the only place I see them. They've already put some damage on the first (largest) tomato growing on the plant. And unfortunately, this is my first time doing this and although the garden goes well, the biggest mistake I made was planting everything way too close together... So where the stink bugs usually are, my hands cannot really reach through to grab very well (the plant they like is in the center of a cage surrounded by cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, and 2 pepper plants). But otherwise I'll give it a shot.

Maybe since they're stink bugs, they're not scared off by the stink of the garlic-cayenne repellent... Anyone know if assassin bugs eat stink bugs? That would be nice.
posted by mojabunni at 9:08 PM on April 26, 2006

What's That Bug?
posted by oxonium at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2006

I've had these stink bugs on my lemon tree. I caught one and took it up to the local nursery and was advised that there is no spray. With a stick, I had to hit the branches to shake them off, or flick the more stubborn ones off one by one into a bucket of water. Laborious but it works.
posted by tellurian at 9:40 PM on April 26, 2006

#mojabunni: few days ago, this baby watermelon fell off the stem, the underside of it chewed up (as if it had been bored into by something).

Curbit babys (squash, mellons) often fall off the stem - maybe because the plant has decided that it is trying to produce too many of them. And sometimes they swell up even when they have not been fertilized and then drop off.

After a baby is dead then "wood lice"/"pillbugs" (or others) will start eating the soil side - You really need to distinguish between "bugs killed my plant" vs "bugs ate my dead plant".

If you really think your viable curbits are being attacked from the ground then put them up on platforms. Easy is to use the cheap wooden crates that clemintins are shipped in.

When I lived in LA, I had a pumpkin plant that started taking over my yard. So I picked up the vines and placed the ends on my 1 storey kitchen extension. They seemed to do well up there and my roof grew 6 nice pumpkins.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:48 PM on April 26, 2006

Put some of those big frogs you've got down there in your garden....
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:16 PM on April 26, 2006

In addition to MonkeySaltedNuts comment: there are separate male and female flowers on cucurbits. Often if you only have one or two plants there won't be male and female flowers open at the same time. Without open male flowers the female flowers won't be pollinated. Unpollinated female flowers may start to produce a small fruit but it will wither and fall off the vine without pollination.

(You'll notice female flowers will have a swelling at the base from which the fruit arises. Male flowers have slender stems. Of course the flowers will also have the appropriate sex bits - male : female :: stamens : pistil)
posted by TimeFactor at 10:28 PM on April 26, 2006

Unless you're a tomato farmer
I know they're on your tomatoes. I meant unless you have acres of them, It's as easy to pick them off as buy, mix spray, clean equipment, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:07 AM on April 27, 2006

I would just like to say that as these nymphs have grown, I discovered that they are in fact NOT assassin bugs, but leaf-footed bugs!!!!! I had to kill them all, which was sad because for over a month I thought these little things were "on my side."

Here is a picture of leaf-footed bug nymphs, which look EXACTLY like the nymphs I had growing on my watermelon, and remarkably similar to assassin bug nymphs.

And this is what the adult looked like once it was full-grown.

Those pics are from this site.

You'll notice the leaf-like shape of the hind legs, hence the name leaf-footed bug. I think those MAY have contributed to my watermelons falling off a lot. When they moved to the zucchini, the zucchinis started turning yellow/brown and never maturing either. Of course, now new little green zucchinis are forming. Now I am pretty sure I've killed them all off, so hopefully something will happen with the watermelon!
posted by mojabunni at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2006

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