Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Mystery Bug


Mysterious Red Bugs
Mysterious Red Bugs  
My son and I found these bugs in our front yard in Southern California.  He's afraid of them and thinks they are fire ants.  Even though I assured him they aren't fire ants, I don't actually know what they are.  I'm hoping you can make me identify them so I can take some of his fear away.  

They are small, red, 6 legs (that I can tell) and have tiny dots on their backs.  Thank you for any help you can be!

Dear Antonia - These are nymphs of a true bug (order Hemiptera), most likely a leaf-footed bug (family Coreidae) - see http://tinyurl.com/q8m7xo9 for an example. The majority of these bugs (such as yours) are plant feeders, but a few are predators on insects and other small arthropods. About the only other insects that could be mistaken for these are newly hatched nymphs of some assassin bugs, but once they have dispersed after hatching, they usually are solitary rather than occurring in groups.

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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