Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Swarms of Firebugs

Not pyromaniacs, but Pyrrhocoris apterus, at least that is what my research seems to indicate. These bugs were forming huge clusters on the brick walkway and on available plants. The trick was to avoid stepping on them during the move.

As far as I can tell they are firebugs. This is close to their mating season.

Circle of Life.

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The Virtual Ranger said...

Firebug maybe, but Pyrrhocoris apterus I think not. That particular species of flightless bug is a European one, and looks different to the fascinating creatures you have on your plants. The peril of common names is that they can refer to more than one species, and I suspect that's what's happened here. As I know little of US entomology I can't really speculate on what you have there, other than that it is certainly a hemipteran of some sort.

Richard Koehler said...

I should have read more carefully that Pyrrhocoris apterus is a European bug. Your suggestion of a hemipteran led me to a picture of a ground bug (Lygaeus kalmii, of Order Hemiptera - Suborder Heteroptera) which are extant in North America. They subsist on plant juices which almost makes me want to spray to get rid of them, but live and let live I say. The plants looked fine.

I am glad I asked the question. See, you can learn something on the internet.

whirdly said...

I'm going to have to vote for boxelder bugs (Leptocoris trivittatus). According to Wikipedia, the adults are about 12.5 mm long with a dark brown or black coloration, relieved by red wing veins and markings on the abodomen. Nymphs and immature bugs are bright red. The mainly feed on the Boxelder tree (Acer negundo) although there were none in the area.

Richard Koehler said...

I think whirdly has finally cracked the code, though goodness knows whirdly saw the things first, has some expertise in the horticultural area, and could have clued us in before my two erroneous stabs at the answer. Boxelder Bug it is. The picture of the life cycle at the previous link clinched it for me because it shows immature bugs with almost half of their bodies red like are in my picture.

Leptocoris trivittatus or Boisea trivittata, both names are used. Though there are no Boxelder trees in the area, there are maples. The boxelder bug is also called the Maple Bug and will sometimes attack maples and ash trees.