Two young Harlequin Bugs on a leaf.

Identifying Black and Orange Bugs in the Garden

Your yard is your sanctuary, but when hordes of black and orange bugs invade, it can feel like a scene from a horror movie. Not only can they damage your plants and garden, but they can also be a nuisance and pose a potential health risk to you and your family.

With over 900,000 different species of bugs worldwide, knowing which one is causing the problem can be challenging. Black and orange bugs are a diverse group of insects that can be found all over the world. These bugs come in various shapes and sizes, from the tiny and spiny Western Boxelder Bug to the colorful and striking Harlequin Bug. 

People sometimes get confused with the bug type as they look similar. So, it’s essential to pay attention to other physical characteristics, such as the shape of their bodies and the size of their antennae. Let’s discuss the five most common orange and black insect species that may invade your garden and look at their unique characteristics.

Key Pest Points:

• Typical orange and black bugs are Western Boxelder Bug, Harlequin Bug, and Milkweed Assassin Bug.

• Not all black and orange bugs are harmful to your yard, so identifying the bug is important before taking any prevention measures.

• Various organic and non-organic methods exist to control and prevent bugs from entering your home, such as using diatomaceous earth, insecticides, and sealing cracks and crevices.

A macro shot of two-lined spittlebug.

Two-lined Spittlebug

The two-lined spittlebug, also known as Prosapia Bicincta, is a tiny insect belonging to the Homoptera order. Adult spittlebugs are about 3/8 inch long, wider than leafhoppers, and have two bright red-orange lines on their forewings. Nymphs, which reside in spittle masses, are smaller and wingless, with white, yellow, or orange bodies and brown heads with red eyes. 

They feed on various plants, including crops, ornamental plants, and weeds, and can be found in grassy areas. During winter, the eggs are created and then hatched in the spring, and nymphs develop through four instars within a month. The spittle produced by nymphs protects them from drying out. 

They can have up to two generations per year. While spittlebugs are medically harmless, their immature stages can cause noticeable damage by producing frothy spittle masses around twigs and young leaves.

Closeup of the western boxelder bug.

Western Boxelder Bug

The Western Boxelder Bug, also known as Boisea Rubrolineata, is a common insect found in the Nearctic region, which includes North America and Northern Mexico. These bugs are typically black or dark brown with orange lines along the edges of their wings, and they are about .39 to .55 in length. 

They feed on the seeds, flowers, and leaves of boxelder trees and other plants. Western Boxelder Bugs may become a nuisance in the fall when they gather in large numbers in search of warm places to overwinter, often entering homes and buildings.

Harlequin bug on a green leaf.

Harlequin Bug

The Harlequin Bug, with the scientific name Murgantia Histrionica, is a colorful insect that belongs to the stink bug family. It is primarily found on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and is known for its distinctive black and red diamond-shaped patterns on its wings. 

These bugs feed on vegetable gardens, causing damage to crops. Harlequin bugs can overwinter as adults, and their populations can increase rapidly, making them significant pests for gardeners and farmers.

milkweed assassin bug eating a yellow aphid on a cherry laurel leaf.

Milkweed Assassin Bug

The Milkweed Assassin Bug, known as Zelus Longipes, is a predatory insect throughout North and South America. They are typically dark brown or black and bright red. They also have a long, curved proboscis used to inject venom into their prey and have a unique way of catching their victims called the “sticky trap strategy.”

These bugs are known for their ability to feed on various insects, including pest species, benefiting farmers and gardeners. Milkweed Assassin Bugs are often mistaken for Milkweed Bugs, but the main difference is that the Milkweed Assassins are carnivorous, while the Milkweed Bugs are herbivorous.

Jagged Ambush Bug on a white background.

Jagged Ambush Bug

The Jagged Ambush Bug, scientifically in the Phymata species, is a predatory insect found throughout the United States, South Canada, and Northern Mexico. They are typically less than 8 to 11 millimeters long and are known for their distinctive camouflage, which helps them blend in with the flowers they hide in while waiting to ambush their prey. 

These critters feed on various insects, including bees, flies, and caterpillars, and can be beneficial in controlling pest populations. However, they can also bite humans if provoked, causing pain and swelling.

Are Orange and Black Bugs Beneficial?

Depending on the species, orange and black bugs vary in their beneficial qualities. Some of these insects are vegetarians and feed on plant matter, while some are predators and can help keep pest insect populations under control. Here’s an overview of some of common orange and black insects and if they have beneficial qualities.

InsectBeneficial or Non-beneficialReason
Two-lined SpittlebugNon-beneficialNymphs can cause damage to plants but are medically harmless.
Milkweed Assassin BugBeneficialPredatory insect that feeds on pest species, including flies and mosquitos.
California Bordered Plant BugNon-beneficialDoes not cause damage but can be a nuisance.
Orange Assassin BugBeneficialPredatory insect that feeds on pest species, including caterpillars and grasshoppers
Jagged Ambush BugBeneficialPredatory insect that feeds on a variety of pest species such as thrips, caterpillars and aphids
Cactus CoreidNon-beneficialFeeds on cactus sap, but does not cause significant damage to plants.
Speckled SharpshooterNon-beneficialCan transmit plant diseases to crops.
Conchuela BugNon-beneficialCan cause damage to crops in large numbers.
Ringed Assassin BugBeneficialPredatory insect that feeds on pest species, including caterpillars and grasshoppers.
Bagrada BugNon-beneficialCan cause damage to crops in large numbers.
Corsair Assassin BugBeneficialPredatory insect that feeds on pest species, including aphids.
Mountain Laurel Scarlet MiridNon-beneficialFeeds on plant sap, but does not cause significant damage to plants.
Western Boxelder BugNon-beneficialCan become a nuisance when they gather in large numbers in the fall.
Harlequin BugBeneficialFeeds on the stressed plants.

By understanding the characteristics of each insect, you can make an informed decision about how best to manage any critters that may be present in your garden. If the insect is beneficial, consider leaving it alone to help reduce pest populations. On the other hand, if the insect is non-beneficial, you may need to reduce their populations and protect your crops from damage.

How to Keep Orange and Black Bugs Out of Your Garden

Bugs can be a nuisance, especially during the colder months when they seek shelter in your home. And this is common as many other creatures do this to survive in severely cold weather. This section will discuss some effective organic and non-organic ways to keep orange and black bugs out of your property so that you can enjoy a pest-free house and yard.

Organic Methods

Organic methods are one of the best ways to control the presence of these pests in your garden. Some effective natural repellents include:

Seal All Cracks and Crevices

Start by thoroughly inspecting the exterior of your home and paying close attention to areas around windows, doors, and foundation. Seal any cracks, crevices, or gaps that you find with caulk, weatherstripping, or foam sealant. This will prevent the bugs from entering your home in the first place.

Remove Food Sources

Removing the potential sources can be an effective strategy for controlling bugs. You should also remove any other vegetation the bugs might feed on, such as weeds or overgrown shrubs. 

Use Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder made from fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. It works as a natural insecticide by breaking down the exoskeleton of insects and dehydrating them.

When applied to areas where bugs are present, diatomaceous earth can effectively control the population of bugs. It is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical insecticides.

However, it’s crucial to note that diatomaceous earth must be reapplied after rain or heavy moisture as it loses its effectiveness when wet. Additionally, care should be taken when applying diatomaceous earth as it can be harmful if inhaled. 

Use Neem Oil

Another organic method is the use of neem oil. This natural insecticide is derived from the seeds of the neem tree and can be applied to the exterior walls of homes, as well as to trees and other vegetation. Neem oil is safe for beneficial insects and doesn’t harm pets or humans.

Man with a hat, gloves, goggles and mask spraying insecticides to his plants in the garden.

Non-Organic Methods

If organic methods are ineffective, there are other non-organic ways to control the population of orange and black insects. These include: 

Use Insecticide

If sealing up cracks and removing food sources isn’t enough, you can use insecticide to keep the bugs away. Look for a product labeled for use against different small black and orange bugs and follow the instructions carefully. Be sure to apply the insecticide in areas where the bugs are likely to enter your home, such as around windows and doors. 

Vacuum Them Up

When bugs get inside your home, you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove them. Be sure to dispose of the bag or empty the canister outside, as the bugs can survive in the vacuum.


To avoid leaving a stain on surfaces, it is advised not to squash bugs using a flyswatter. Instead, using a vacuum is a more effective way to eliminate the bugs that have made their way indoors.

Spray Trees for Nymphs

Spraying trees for nymphs is another effective way to prevent black and orange bugs from entering your home. This method involves applying an insecticide to the trees where the bugs live and breed during the spring and summer months. The insecticide will kill the nymphs before they have a chance to mature and seek shelter in the fall.

Dealing with black and orange bugs in your yard and home can be challenging, but with the proper knowledge and strategies, preventing and controlling their infestations is possible. Understanding their behavior and habitats, using organic and non-toxic methods, and practicing good hygiene and sanitation are all key to reducing the impact of these bugs on your environment and health.


Will vinegar help to get rid of the bugs?

As a natural repellent, vinegar can help deter bugs. However, it may not eliminate their presence in your home, so it is best to use a more effective repellent strategy or contact a pest control company to help remove these unwanted pests.

Can you get rid of the bugs permanently?

Removing black and orange bugs permanently is difficult as they are attracted to warmth and may return to a location where they were previously overwintered. However, regular maintenance and preventative measures can help reduce their numbers and prevent them from entering your home.

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