Unidentified predatory red bug/beetle
Thu, Jan 8, 2009 at 3:29 AM
This bug (beetle?) appeared about five years ago in our rural, coastal area (Cintsa, East London, South Africa) and has been terrorizing the undergrowth ever since. Individuals patrol paths and garden areas, seeking prey. Groups participate in the kill, biting or stinging the victim repeatedly until it stops moving. They will then sit on the prey, presumably feeding, sometimes for the rest of the day. They have been observed attacking and feeding on centipedes, spiders and caterpillars (particularly the large black caterpillars that feed on African plum trees – see image).
They are red/orange with darker areas around where wings should be. They appear to have a pointed snout. We have observed them clustering under cover in larger groups overnight.
Cintsa, East London, South Africa
You just made us late for work. We really wanted to identify your predatory red Hemipteran nymphs as well as the Saturniid Caterpillar they are feeding upon, but our internet connection is so slow right now, we need more time. We are posting this as unidentified right now, but we are confident we will be able to assist you in a proper identification either alone or with the assistance of our readership. The Hemipterans don’t look like Assassin Bugs, which would be a likely candidate.
Update:Predatory Red Hemipteran Nymphs feeding on Unknown Saturniid Caterpillar
Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 2:20 PM
I think the predatory bugs are probably immature assassin bugs of some kind, but I am out on a limb even with that. The Saturniid caterpillar looks like Imbrasia wahlbergi . An adult of this spectacular species appeared on WTB previously (Saturniid Moth from South Africa: Imbrasia wahlbergi – May 7th, 2007). Regards.
Thanks for the ID on the Imbrasia wahlbergi Caterpillar Karl. As we wrote to Dave this morning, we were running late for work. As things played out, we got to LACC to teach about 6 minutes before class started. We were going to search the World’s Greatest Saturniidae Site which contains the Kirby Wolfe link you provided. We will have to spend some time researching the Hemipteran nymphs now. They behave like Assassin Bugs, but don’t look like Assassin Bugs. Perhaps they are Predatory Stink Bugs, but they don’t look like Stink Bugs either. They actually resemble plant eating Hemipterans. We have run several images in the past of social feeding Assassin Bugs that feed on Millipedes, Ectrichodia crux, but these individuals look different if our memory serves us correctly.
Update from Eric Eaton
Sayturday, January 10, 2009
The hemipterans are likely in the family Lygaeidae. Many (most?) of the Heteroptera are opportunistic scavengers or predators. I once saw two small milkweed bugs feeding on a dead honeybee, for example. But, the bugs in the image are nymphs, so no way to be certain for sure (though I think it is safe to rule out assassin bugs).
Update from Dave: January 11, 2009
Thanks, bug masters! Apologies for the omission of some info. Length is around 8-12mm, and it was a millipede they were eating, not a centipede. The millipede assassin bugs look pretty close, but they’re a little too red, and the bugs in question don’t have the third black spot on their back. I think you nailed the caterpillar – thanks again.
I’ll get the search going to find the adults.