It’s the folk terminology that means something like “tiny creeping critter,” and can refer to anything from a beetle to a spider to a moth larva to a rhinovirus to a human toddler.
But there’s a kind of bug belonging to a group of bugs called “true bugs.” I love the sound of that. They are not false bugs. They are a kind of bug more closely aligned to the essence of what is a bug. If you’re into Greek philosophy, I suppose they’re platonic bugs.
In phylogenetic terms, true bugs are their own order, called Hemiptera, which includes Cicadas and the flower head guerrilla warrior, the Assassin Bug. There are many bugs in this order, so often the suborder Heteroptera are designated the true bugs. The true bug I met last week is in this suborder, classified in the family Coreidae, the Leaf Footed Bugs.
I suppose their feet look kind of like leaves.
Or rather parts of the rear legs do. Sorta. They flare out a bit. Honestly the name didn’t impress me as particularly apt, until researching them online turned up some pictures of genera from the tropics. Those suckers got some broad and undeniably leafy flanges off their feet. Google can show you what I mean.
Typically I see bugs like this in the summer vegetable garden,
right as our butternut squash vines are beginning to fruit up. LFBs are fruit eaters, especially young developing fruit, and it’s common to find colonies of nymphs and adults clustered in the floppy squash blossoms, or chewing on the tender stems of new squash.
There’s a species that moves into my house when the temperature drops in the fall, and they wander around all winter, usually on their own, like tiny, drunken robot bugs, jerkily marching across windowsills or up the wall.
I found this bug on a small plate of apple slices set out for my daughter’s snack on a January afternoon. They do fly lazily about the room sometimes, and I suppose that’s how it ascended to the top of the apple pile. As a fruit-sucker, I don’t know if it was attracted to the apples, or if it plopped there at random.
They never seem at their best in the winter, often sluggish or limpy.
This one was looking rough, as you can see in the photos. Its main issue seems to be lint, which my house is full of. I think that’s what the stringy fuzz is. Maybe it’s a kind of mold or fungus, or some other pathology. But mostly it just looks like carpet fuzz and dust bunnies to me.
I kept this bug in a covered dish with an apple slice for a couple of days while I waited for some time to photograph it. When I was done I took it to where I’m overwintering some houseplants in a corner of the kitchen. I never mind these seasonal roommates when I come across them, and I hope it can last through until Spring.
By refusing to pointlessly squash it like most of my neighbors would, I hope in my own way to be “true” to these house guests.