Plant-Insect Interaction: Helmeted squash bug on goldenrod

Leaf-footed bug (family Coreidae), specifically a helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator) sitting on goldenrod. Photographed 08/26/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

Leaf-footed bugs earn their name from the often broadly-flattened femurs on their hind legs, which can resemble leaves.  This feature is only mildly expressed with this species.

I was able to identify this insect as a helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator) thanks to the prominent white spur on the side of the thorax, just before the abdomen.  This is a diagnostic feature for this species.  It’s also characteristic of a male;  females only have a white spot in that location.

Side view of a helmeted squash bug showing the diagnostic white spur on the side of the thorax. Photographed 08/26/2010 near Clayton Michigan.

The vast majority of leaf-footed bugs suck the juices from plant tissues.  Whether or not this individual was feeding on the goldenrod (Solidago sp., Asteraceae) in the first photo, I can’t say for sure.  I know it wasn’t feeding on the unidentified plant in the second photo, since it fled to that location.  This nimble bug kept flying a short distance every time I got too close with my camera.  They seem to fly pretty well.

I doubt it was looking for any squash to eat; there weren’t any within a quarter mile of its location.  I think the name is somewhat generic for this type of bug, rather than an indicator of food preference.  These individuals apparently aren’t terribly specific about what they eat, so this specimen may have been sampling the local cuisine.

You can’t see this insect’s head in the first photo because of the prominent pronotum.  This would explain the common name helmeted squash bug.

Next year I’ll have to keep an eye out for the nymphs (immature forms) earlier in the season.  They’re all brightly colored and very spiky, and look really cool.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Organism Interactions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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