insect with flattened abdomen

The Question: This is not the best picture, but can you tell what kind of insect this is? It has six legs, and two long antennae which are striped, black and brown. The end of the body kind of curls up.

Submitted by: Barbara, New York, USA

The Short Answer: This is the nymph stage of a leaf-footed bug, probably Acanthocephala terminalis. This species is a member of the Superfamily Coreoidea. Other members of this group are often called leatherbugs or squash bugs. I use the word “bug” here in the scientific sense, which is a specific order of insects, the Hemiptera. The Hemiptera are the “true bugs,” distinguished by having a mouth adapted for sucking. Most are plant suckers, including aphids, leafhoppers, and the leaf-footed bugs. But the order also includes insects such as bedbugs that get their sustenance from unfortunate animal victims.

Some leaf-footed bug species are considered to be agricultural pests because they damage crops. Like many of the Hemiptera, most leaf-footed bugs can produce smelly compounds when threatened, so it’s best to handle them gently. There is not a lot of information out there specifically about Acanthocephala terminalis, but there is a beautiful picture of a nymph that I think matches yours at

And here’s what that Acanthocephala terminalis nymph will look like when it’s all grown up:

If you are someone who likes to identify insects, spiders and other arthropods, is a great resource, by the way. You can post a picture there, and pretty quickly get an identification.

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