In advance, thank you so much for helping me to ID this insect. When I first caught one, I wondered if it might be a very large, red aphid, as it squished very easily. But looking at them closer, they remind me of stink bug nymphs, although I couldn’t find a picture online of any that were quite like these. I think these may be true bugs though.
These insects were found in Chester County, PA – (southeastern PA) in mid-May (after a very brutal winter and Very Late spring) on a Montauk Daisy that has damage to some of its leaves that I suspect was caused by these insects.
The insect is very small, about 3-4mm and bright red with what might be wings that are black. To the naked eye, just the red and black are apparent, but looking closely, there may be a white stripe down the center of each wing – or black patch – and in-between and right above the two black wings (or patches), it is yellow. I have only observed these insects crawling – so if the black patches are wings, either they are not fully developed or they do not use them very often.
The insects also vary in size, and accordingly, color. The smaller ones (2-3mm) are more red with just a little black, while the larger ones (3-4nm) are still mostly red but just with more black. I have included a picture of a smaller and larger one. You can see on the larger one that the abdomen (?) appears to be segmented, with black dots on either side of the center.
I hope I have provided enough detail – if you have any questions, though, please just let me know.
Your insect is the nymph or young stage of the four-lined plant bug. The damage on your daisies is exactly what happens when plant bugs suck the juices out of the tender shoots of the plants they feed on.
The lines that you can kind of see turn into distinct black and bright green stripes on the adult. The black smallish looking wings are indeed wing pads. They can not fly in the nymph stage, but when the insect becomes an adult the wings are fully developed and it can fly.
This insect overwinters as eggs inside the stems of the host plant and emerge in the spring. The nymphs go thru 5 stages before becoming an adult.
Both nymphs and adults prefer to feed on plants in the mint family (catnip, spearmint, peppermint, hyssop, oregano), but will also feed on a wide variety of plants including but not limited to thistle, dandelion, burdock, loosestrife, carnations, geranium, mums, snapdragons, daisies, phlox, lettuce, peas, cucumbers, etc.
They feed by sucking juices out of the plants leaving toxic saliva which distorts growing tips and leaves.
You can control this pest by spraying insecticidal soap following label directions. Then, this fall clear out all the dead foliage of the plants that were damaged, so if eggs are laid they are no longer in your garden.
This insect is found over most of North America esp the eastern and southern areas.
Thanks for all the great information and photos! Having photos of the insect and the damage is always beneficial.