The Q&A Archives: Black And Orange Insect

Question: I have found many black and orange insects (about the size of a potatoe bug) hanging on the flower of my Johnny Jump Ups and they are killing all my Johnny Jump Ups! I also have California Poppies and Lamb's Ear planted in the same flower bed and these insects do not appear to be attacking either of those two plants. After they are finished with the plant the plant looks very soggy and wilted. But I also have lady bugs in my garden and I am afraid if I spray an insecticide I will kill the lovely lady bugs. So first, I would like to know what the black and orange insect is and second, I would like to know how to kill them.

Answer: Without a more complete description of the insects, I can only offer some general advice. If the insects are alligator shaped, they are probably ladybug larva. Ladybugs lay eggs on plants that play host to aphids so that when the eggs hatch the immature larvae will have a ready source of food. Since you're finding the insects on just one specific plant in the flower bed, and it happens to be one that is often fed upon by aphids, I'd guess the insects are immature ladybugs and you're wise not to try to control them. If the insects are shield shaped, with a distinctive triangle on the back, you may be dealing with Harlequin Plant Bugs. These guys feed on flowers, stems, and leaves, often producing white or yellow blotches, which can turn mushy with age. Instead of spraying an insecticide and putting the beneficial ladybugs at risk, you can handpick the plant feeding bugs, and remove them from the garden. You can keep ahead of the population if you monitor your plants on a daily basis, picking off destructive insects as soon as you discover them.

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