Broad Headed Bug: Discover Their Intriguing World

The Broad Headed Bug is an intriguing insect that belongs to the family Alydidae.

These bugs are commonly found in various environments, such as forests, grasslands, and even urban areas.

Being true bugs, these creatures exhibit some fascinating features that make them stand out from other insects.

Broad Headed Bug
Broad Headed Bug

As their name suggests, Broad Headed Bugs have a distinctive wide head which sets them apart from similar insects.

They are also known for their elongated bodies and fairly large size, measuring around 1/4 to 1/2 inches in length.

Their unique appearance makes them easily distinguishable from other household bugs.

Some key characteristics of Broad Headed Bugs include:

  • Wide, triangular shape head
  • Elongated body with long antennae
  • Usually brown, gray, or black in color
  • Mostly found in warm climates and diverse habitats

Broad Headed Bug Classification

Family Alydidae

Broad-headed bugs are part of the Family Alydidae. These insects are characterized by:

  • Elongated body
  • Broad, rounded head
  • Long legs

They feed on seeds, mainly from plants belonging to the legume family.

Physical Characteristics

Antennae

The broad-headed bug possesses antennae used for sensing their environment. They are:

  • Typically long and slender
  • Crucial for detecting odors, vibrations, and temperature1

In comparison to other insects, broad-headed bugs can have either shorter or longer antennae depending on the species.

Mandibles

Broad-headed bugs have unique mouthparts called a beak-shaped mandible. For instance:

  • Adapted for piercing/sucking
  • Capable of sucking plant sap or animal blood

Flight

When it comes to flight, broad-headed bugs excel due to their wings:

  • Front pair of wings are partially hardened
  • Hind wings folded underneath to provide lift when flying2

Flight ability varies among species, with some being stronger fliers than others.

Vision

Broad-headed bugs rely on their compound eyes for vision. Characteristics include:

  • Composed of multiple photoreceptor units
  • Offering a broad range of vision, although less detailed than human eyes

Vision capabilities differ by species and their specific environmental needs.

Habitat and Distribution

Habitats

Broad Headed Bugs are commonly found in various habitats, such as:

  • Grasslands: They thrive in open areas with tall grasses and wildflowers.
  • Forests: Some species prefer the edges of forests or woodlands, where there’s ample vegetation.
  • Agricultural fields: They’re often spotted in crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat, feeding on plants and pests.

Regions

Broad Headed Bugs have a vast distribution encompassing multiple continents, including:

  • United States: These bugs are prevalent across North America, from the East Coast to the West Coast, and even in parts of Canada.
  • Australia: They’re also found in the diverse landscapes of Australia, from the coastal regions to the arid inland areas.

These bugs show a versatile preference for habitats, making them successful in thriving across different regions in the United States, North America, and Australia.

With this wide range of distribution, it is evident that Broad Headed Bugs can easily adapt to various environments.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Food

Broad-headed bugs are predominantly known for being predators of other insects, feeding mostly on:

  • Ants
  • Aphids
  • Small caterpillars

Occasionally, these bugs may also eat developing seeds of plants found in their habitats.

Mating and Reproduction

The reproductive process of broad-headed bugs typically occurs during the summer months.

Males and females engage in mating, after which the female lays eggs. Some important features of their reproduction process include:

  • Nymphs emerge from eggs
  • Gradual development through multiple molting stages
  • Transition from nymph to adult

Their short reproductive cycle makes it important for them to find suitable mates quickly, ensuring their species’ survival.

Immature Broadheaded Bug

Nesting

Unlike ants, which establish complex underground nests, the broad-headed bug exhibits a more simple nesting behavior.

They usually lay their eggs on the surface of plants, providing easy access for nymphs to food sources.

Eurinus, a genus of broad-headed bugs, are known for such behavior.

Interactions With Other Species

Predators

Broad Headed Bugs have several natural predators, such as:

  • Wasps: Some wasp species are known to target various types of bugs, including Broad Headed Bugs. They typically use their stingers to paralyze their prey.
  • Bees: Although bees mostly feed on nectar, some species occasionally prey on insects. Cases of them targeting bugs like the Broad-Headed Bug have been documented.

Prey

The Broad Headed Bug’s diet consists of smaller insects and various plant matter. Examples of their prey include:

  • Flies: These bugs use their sharp, beak-like mandibles to pierce the fly’s exoskeleton and feed on their insides.
  • Plant cells: Broad Headed Bugs also feed on plant juices obtained by breaking the plant cells with their specialized mouthparts.

Humans

Broad Headed Bugs interact with humans in several ways:

  • Wildlife: These bugs are part of natural ecosystems and contribute to the biodiversity of an area.
  • Allergic reactions: While not common, some people may experience an allergic reaction when coming into contact with Broad Headed Bugs, similar to reactions from other insects.
  • Venom: These bugs do not possess venom, making them less dangerous to humans compared to other insects with venomous bites or stings.
  • Agricultural Impact: In certain regions, Broad Headed Bugs have been observed feeding on crops, particularly those belonging to the legume family. While they do feed on plant juices, their impact is generally minimal and doesn’t cause significant damage to crops. However, farmers should be aware of their presence and monitor any potential increase in their population.
Broadheaded Bug

Managing Broad Headed Bugs

Identification

Broad headed bugs can be identified by their distinct characteristics:

  • Wider and flatter head compared to other bugs
  • Usually brightly colored bodies
  • Possess piercing-sucking mouthparts
  • Wings that rest flatly on their body

It is essential to be able to identify them correctly as there are multiple beneficial insects that look similar to broad headed bugs.

Treatment

If you suspect a broad headed bug infestation, using insecticides is a common treatment method. It’s essential to choose the right insecticide:

  • Look for products containing Beauveria bassiana or spinosad
  • Look for insecticides labeled specifically for broad headed bugs
  • Apply the insecticide as per manufacturer instructions
  • Reapply if needed, following the recommended waiting period

Preventative Measures

Taking preventative measures helps reduce the risk of broad headed bug infestations:

  • Regularly inspect plants for signs of infestation
  • Prune and dispose of infested plant material
  • Encourage natural predators, such as lady beetles and lacewings
  • Choose plants resistant to broad headed bugs

Combining treatment and preventative measures increases the likelihood of managing broad headed bugs effectively.

Here’s a comparison table of insecticides and preventative measures:

Method Pros Cons
Insecticides Fast and effective treatment May harm non-target organisms
Targets specific bug species May require multiple applications
Preventative Reduces risk of infestation May not eliminate existing infestation
Measures Encourages natural predators Requires regular monitoring

Seasonal Variation

Season

Broad Headed Bugs typically emerge during the summer months.

Their life cycle is closely tied to the warmer weather, leading to increased activity and feeding during this time.

Vegetation

Broad Headed Bugs are commonly found on plants from the Fabaceae family, such as Lespedeza.

These plants grow in fields and provide ample vegetation for the bugs to thrive.

Interesting Facts About Broad Headed Bugs

  1. Name Origin: The name “Broad Headed Bug” is derived from their distinctly wide head, which is broader than the pronotum, the plate-like structure covering the thorax.
  2. Mimicry: Some species of Broad Headed Bugs exhibit a form of mimicry where they resemble wasps or bees. This mimicry can deter potential predators from attacking them, thinking they might sting.
  3. Sound Production: Broad Headed Bugs are among the few insects that can produce a sound, a mechanism known as “stridulation.” They achieve this by rubbing parts of their body together, typically as a form of communication during mating rituals.
  4. Diverse Diet: While they primarily feed on plant juices, Broad Headed Bugs are also known to be opportunistic predators, feeding on smaller insects when the opportunity arises.
  5. Egg Guarding: Female Broad Headed Bugs exhibit a form of maternal care where they guard their eggs against potential predators. This behavior ensures a higher survival rate for their offspring.
  6. Adaptive Camouflage: Their typical brown, gray, or black coloration is not just for show. This coloration helps them blend into their surroundings, especially when they rest on tree barks or amidst fallen leaves.
Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Conclusion

Broad-headed bugs, belonging to the Alydidae family, are captivating insects with distinctive wide heads and elongated bodies.

Found in diverse habitats like forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields, they play a unique role in the ecosystem.

From their ancient classification under the Kingdom Animalia to their interactions with other species, these bugs showcase the intricate balance of nature.

Whether you’re observing them in the wild or managing them in your garden, understanding the broad-headed bug offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of insects.

Footnotes

  1. https://entomology.wsu.edu/outreach/bug-info/
  2. https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74168.html

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about broad-headed bugs. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Broad Headed Bug

Biology Project
Location:  Ottawa, Canada
September 19, 2010 2:52 pm
Hello Bugman,
My name is Natascha and im currently in the middle of a biology project, due on the 27th of September. I have to collect 9 bugs in different taxonomic orders. I found a bug and i cannot identify it. I was hoping you could help. Its black with 6 legs. Thanks a bunch.
Signature:  Natascha

Broad Headed Bug

Hi Natascha,
Normally we have a policy about not doing homework for people, but there was something appealing about the tone of your letter, mainly that it was devoid of desperation, you still have ample time before your project is due, and it seems like you have been doing your own research, all speculation on our part, but nonetheless we have decided to assist you. 

We believe this to be a Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae, and it most closely resembles Alydus eurinus which is pictured on BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Ant Bug Nymph

Subject: Butt eyed ant
Location: Lilburn, Georgia
October 6, 2012 3:51 am
I found this guy on a weed that had grown up in my salvia bush. It had two spots on it’s butt that looked like eyes. Quiet a beautiful ant.
Signature: antwatcher’s sister

Ant Bug Nymph

Dear antwatcher’s sister,
Though this is not an Ant, your error is understandable.  This is an immature Broad Headed Bug in the genus
Alydus, and they are frequently called Ant Bugs since they are such effective ant mimics.  There are several fine photos on BugGuide.

Letter 3 – Ant Bug Nymph, AKA Broad Headed Bug

Subject: What is this thing?
Location: A wetland in Reynoldsburg, Ohio
October 7, 2012 2:35 pm
Me and two fellow students are doing a project concerning the insect life in our backyard wetland. We found this nifty-looking guy, but have no idea what it is. I’ve looked everywhere online, and asked in a bunch of other Q&A sites, and gotten nothing.

People keep saying it might be a velvet ant, but I know it’s not. It has a proboscis, long antenni, really long back legs, and you might not be able to see in the pictures, but it appears to have very small, possibly vestigial wings folded up on the back of its thorax.
Signature: Connor

Immature Ant Bug

Hi Conner,
This True Bug is a very effective ant mimic.  We believe it is an immature Ant Bug in the genus
Alydus, a group of Broad-Headed Bugs that are well represented on BugGuide

The BugGuide genus page mentions the common name Ant Bug.  We would not discount that it might be a nymph of a Black Damel Bug, Nabis subcoleoptratus, based on this photo on BugGuide , but we still favor the Broad Headed Bug.

Immature Broad-Headed Bug

Letter 4 – Immature Broad Headed Bug

Ant in armor
Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 1:03 PM
Hello,
I found this fellow about a month ago when I picked up a lawn sprinkler.  It looks a lot like an ant.  But it doesn’t have the clear narrowing between segments and looks almost like it is wearing a suit of armor.

Also, there was only one that I could find and behaved with more curiosity and intelligence that most ants.  I can’t seem to find anything quite like it on the web. Do you know what it is?
Dave
Oak Ridge, TN
PS: I hope repeats are OK.  I asked about an adult ant lion some months ago.

Broad Headed Bug nymph
Broad Headed Bug nymph

Hi Dave,
This is a new family for us.  Your insect is a True Bug known as a Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae

We believe it is the nymph of Megalotomus quinquespinosus which has no common name.  According to BugGuide, it feeds on the juices of plants, especially those in the pea family.

Letter 5 – Mystery Mexican Hemipteran is Broad Headed Bug

Mexican Hemiptera
I’m an Entomology undergrad at Sacramento State University, and have long been a fan of your site and the amazing images and advice you hot here… Bravo!

Anyway, I need to get this specimen’s ID narrowed down to at least family before my classes big collection inspection next Friday. It was collected last week, on a vacation to Mazatlan Mexico, dead under an exterior lamp, on a second story balcony, no more than 100 meters from the beach.

I believe it may be in the Berytidae due to the following characteristics: Ocelli present, three tarsal segments, 4 segmented beak (as far as I can tell). The antenna are shorter than I expect on a stilt bug, but any number of segments could have been broken off before it’s demise.

Anyway, if you could please take a look, and even send it along to anyone you might know who can give me a definitive ID to at least family, or even Genus or species if possible, it would be much appreciated. Gratefully,
Jared Morris

Hi Jared,
Judging from your analysis, you would be far more qualified with the identification than the couple of artists that run this site. We will post your image and see if Eric Eaton can supply any information, but he is rumored to be heading east on holiday.

Here is Eric’s much awaited answer: “The heteropteran (Hemipteran) in question is a very atypical broad-headed bug, perhaps in the genus Stenocoris, in the family Alydidae for certain.”

Letter 6 – Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Bug i have never seen before.
Location:  Nashville, TN
September 10, 2010 4:09 pm
hello,
i found this bug outside i thought looked pretty cool. never seen one before though.
it is brown, with 2 white spots in the middle, and 4 black squares on the back side. oh and the back is curved upwards.
Signature:  Josh

Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Hi Josh,
This is an immature True Bug, but we are not certain what family it belongs to, though we have narrowed it down to two choices.  Our first choice is that it may be an immature Damsel Bug in the family Nabidae, based on some photos posted to BugGuide

Our second choice it that it may be a Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae, also based on a photo posted to BugGuide.  Perhaps one of our readers can confirm one of our two suppositions.  We are also going to request assistance from Eric Eaton.

Eric Eaton Responds
Daniel:
Definitely the nymph of a broadheaded bug, Alydidae.
Eric

hello! thanks for the super fast response. i love finding bugs ive never seen before. bugs are awesome!

Letter 7 – Broad Headed Bug

A wrapping at my chamber window
Location: Costal Connecitut
July 4, 2011 11:26 pm
Hello there. Humid summer nights in Connecticut are often less than pleasant. Especially during the evening when all the flying beetles come out.
Still, I must imagine I must have it a lot better here than some people do elsewhere.

I guess the best way to describe me is as a creeped-out observer. I finds insets fascinating on some level but I am also very creeped out by many of them.
I heard tapping over near my window on the second floor. I figured it might be flying beetles.

I know the the few silverfish that seem to periodically live in the old window are silent runners. Still I went over to the window to close it and what did I find but this black mystery bug. I managed to take a few pictures. I hope they help.

Something tells me it was beetles tapping at the window but my curiosity always gets the better of me.
I hope you can help.
Signature: Max

Broad Headed Bug

Hi Max,
This is a Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae, most likely
Alydus eurinus based on images posted to BugGuide.  They feed on the juices of plants, so you don’t need to worry if they should gain admission to your room. 

We could not locate any information about them being attracted to lights at night, but we did learn that they are sometimes called Ant Bugs because the immature nymphs mimic ants.

Thank you! That’s a relief.
You run a great website. I look forward to being a frequent reader/supporter.
-Max

Letter 8 – Broad Headed Bug

Subject: Wingless wasp?
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
October 27, 2012 7:21 pm
Hello
I saw this insect working its way up a cedar tree outside the job. Thought it was an ant at first yet it appears to have some type of wing structure on its back. Not sure what it is.

My guess would be a wingless wasp. It resembles a velvet ant minus the velvet. Feel free to post if you find this insect interesting.
Thanks
-Calvin
Signature: Calvin

Broad Headed Bug

Dear Calvin,
This is an immature Broad Headed Bug which is believed to mimic the appearance of an Ant.  Ants are in the same insect order as Wasps, Hymenoptera.  Your confusion makes perfect sense. 

Immature Broad Headed Bugs effectively mimic Ants.  Broad Headed Bugs are often called Ant Bugs.  Here is a photo from BugGuide of an immature Broad Headed Bug in the genus Alydus.

Letter 9 – Broad Headed Bug

Subject: Beetle Perhaps
Location: East Central Florida
January 2, 2013 2:14 pm
Found this bug on a necklace pod plant. Central east Florida. He is about 1 inch long
Signature: Ken Pichon

Broad Headed Bug

Dear Ken,
This is a Broad Headed Bug in the genus
Hyalymenus, possibly Hyalymenus longispinus which is pictured on BugGuide and which is endemic to Florida according to BugGuide

Though there are no photos available of the other two species, BugGuide notes:  “3 spp. restricted to FL (H. longispinus, H. notatus, H. potens).”

Letter 10 – Broad-Headed Bug

Subject: bug on beans
Location: NW Florida USA
July 2, 2016 7:49 am
Hi, trying to id this bug. They are on my beans. Can’t tell what they are doing. They fly easily. I’m in NW Florida. Thanks!
Signature: Pam

Broadheaded Bug
Broad-Headed Bug

Dear Pam,
We identified your Broad-Headed Bugs as
 Hyalymenus longispinus thanks to this image on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “One of three spp. of Hyalymenus endemic to FL, two other spp. occur in southwest.”

Broadheaded Bugs
Broad-Headed Bugs

Letter 11 – Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Subject: New Ant in Yard
Location: Rio Grande Valley, TX
July 16, 2013 2:31 pm
Hello,
I live in South Texas (rio grande valley), and have noticed a colony of ants I have never seen before. They showed up in our garden (lots of mulch, cucumbers, sweet potato’s, papaya plants, banana plants, etc.), and have very distinct characteristics.

They move very quick, I could swear I saw one jump, and their abdomens do an odd bouncing up and down when they approach another ant from their colony. It almost looks like they chase one another sometimes. Their antenna have a white tip, but they are otherwise black.
Signature: Brandon

Broad Headed Bug Nymph
Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Dear Brandon,
While this is not an Ant, it is a very convincing ant mimic.  We believe it is an immature Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae.  According to BugGuide:  “nymphs are often ant mimics” and they feed “primarily on Fabaceae (often on seeds).” 

Do you have beans or peas in your garden?  Your photo is not very sharp and it might also be an immature Damsel Bug which is a predatory species.

Daniel,
Thanks for the response! After looking at google search photos I believe you are correct. That explains the peculiar behavior. I’d point out that it does look like a whole colony of them.

Also the only seeds in this area are our sunflower plants. No beans or peas. Ill try and get a better resolution photo for you soon if they are still there. Thanks for your help.
Brandon

Letter 12 – Immature Broad Headed Bug

Subject: Can’t Identify
Location: austin texas
November 29, 2015 10:26 am
I have a beetle/ant like insect on a wandering jew plant. They stay in one spot & barely move. Neat little bug but after a long jnternet search couldn’t figurenout what it was. Any help would be appreciated in quenching my interest. Thanks.
Signature: Shane from Texas

Broad Headed Bug Nymph
Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Dear Shane,
This is an immature Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae.  According to BugGuide, Broad Headed Bugs are : “All phytophagous; Alydinae feed primarily on Fabaceae (often on seeds); Micreletrynae, mainly on grasses.” 

Though we cannot provide you with a species name, we did find a visual match to this “not yet identified nymph” on BugGuide.

Letter 13 – Immature Broad Headed Bug

Subject:  Found on play equipment
Geographic location of the bug:  Del City, Oklahoma
Date: 10/20/2017
Time: 04:02 PM EDT
Please help me identify this bug. It was on my kids play toys. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen. I’ve been through an insect identification. I’m lost on what it could be
How you want your letter signed:  Very Thankful, Angie

Immature Broad Headed Bug

Dear Angie,
This is an immature Broad Headed Bug in the family Alydidae, and there are many similar looking, unidentified nymphs pictured on BugGuide.

Broad Headed Bug Nymph

Letter 14 – Immature Broadheaded Bug mimics Ant

Subject: Please identify this ant
Location: Dallas TX 75227
October 13, 2016 8:10 pm
Hi, I spotted this guy on my crape myrtle this morning. It has long legs, horns on its thorax, and a bumpy abdomen. What is it?
Signature: Kristine

Immature Broadheaded Bug
Immature Broadheaded Bug

Dear Kristine,
Though it looks like an Ant, this is actually an immature True Bug in the family Alydidae, the Broad Headed Bugs.  It looks like this immature
Alydus nymph pictured on BugGuide.  There is also a nice image on Fotolog.

Immature Broadheaded Bug
Immature Broadheaded Bug

Wow!! Thank you! That explains why I was unable to find it in any ant identification guides.
Kristine

Immature Broadheaded Bug
Immature Broadheaded Bug

Letter 15 – Two Broad-Headed Bugs from Singapore including Bean Bug

Couple of Brown Bugs
Location: Singapore
March 8, 2011 9:27 am
Hi there,
I remember asking this a couple of days here, maybe my question did not push through this site. Anyways, I found a couple of brown colored bugs, one in a park, another during our macro photo session with some friends here in Singapore. Nobody could rightly identify them. Maybe you would know them, guys. Thanks a lot.
Signature: Giovanni

Bean Bug

Hi Giovanni,
In our opinion, both of your insects look like Broad-Headed Bugs in the family Alydidae.  You may compare your images to photos of North American species posted to BugGuide.

Update:  April 8, 2013
Thanks to David who provided a comment with an identification of the Soybean Pod Bug or Bean Bug,
Riptortus linearis, one of the Broad Headed Bugs.  We verified that on Nature.edu.tw and on FlickR.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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