I only snapped one shot of this super small tarnished plant bug hanging out on a wild snapdragon in my yard, so I sort of forgot about him until I was going through photos. But, what a good looking true bug indeed!
This little bug tears up plants like nothing else. In fact, half of the cultivated plants in the US are listed as host plants for this nasty dude and the tarnished plant bug has a range that includes all of the US, parts of Canada and most of Mexico. They generally attack the plant and cause limpy leaves, lack of budding and “bushines” (hey you! no laughing!). They like to suck out the sap of the plant for food and are thought to inject the plants with an ingestive juice to help speed up damage. The youngin’s hang out on the plants and cause damage, but the adults (like the one above) have wings and freely hop all about feeding and destroying, and eluding your pest control tactics. The bug destroys fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees and likes to feed especially on conifer seeds. The Tarnished Plant Bug is on the notorious list of one of the most damaging true bugs and is known to be a transmitter of plant diseases.
They do have some natural enemies (other true bugs, some beetles, parasitic wasps, spiders, etc) but none of these have been effective at controlling the population. Generally you need to rely on chemicals to quell an uprising in your garden, which is a total bummer.
The Tarnished Plant Bug above is likely an overwintered adult as they appear much darker than the younger summer bugs. The aphids are usually light green with dark spots and sometimes yellow. But, (har har) I actually thought this was just a pretty cockroach when I snapped the photo. Hey, I’m new around these parts and even after my stint in Miami cockroaches still aren’t familiar territory for me.