What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

infestation of red/black bugs in neighborhood
April 17, 2010
for the last two months we have had an infestation of black and red bugs in our lawns on our entire street. i thought they were boxelder, but looking at your pictures, they are different. i can’t find a picture anywhere on the internet like these. they live in the lawn and if you stand and look down at the lawn, it appears the entire lawn is moving they are so plentiful. hitting a stump, thousands immediately ran out. they were covering a part of the garden so thick all you could see is red. they are in every crack in the sidewalk and every square inch of the lawn. they don’t appear to be able to fly. you can see them mating constantly which looks somewhat like the pics of the boxelder bugs mating. please help identify these! ps there do not appear to be ma ny spiders out there this year. are they eating those? will they ruin the lawns?
desperate for help
salt lake city, utah

Firebug

Dear desperate,
This is a European species, Pyrrhocoris apterus, commonly called a Firebug.  We have numerous images posted to our site from parts of Europe, but this is the first report we have gotten from North America.  Out of curiosity, we checked BugGuide, and several photos of Firebugs were sent in March 2010 from Utah, and considering the details of your letter, the Invasive Exotic Firebug is already established in Salt Lake City.  You should probably contact the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding this outbreak.  We will copy Stephanie Dubon at
npag@aphis.usda.gov regarding this unusual sighting.

thank you so much for your quick reply.  you guys are awesome! i notified the aphis like you suggested.  sonja

Reply from APHIS
Dear Daniel,
I don’t believe anyone has shared Stephanie’s news with you, so please allow me. Stephanie accepted a new job with the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) in Rome, Italy.  …   All of us here miss her, personally and professionally!
Meanwhile, your emails are still reaching our group through this email (NPAG@aphis.usda.gov), and are much appreciated. I hope that you will continue to think of us when you receive information about new pest species in the US.
Best regards,
Christie Bertone
Entomologist
USDA-APHIS-PPQ-CPHST-PERAL

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32 Responses to New Invasive Exotic Species: Firebug found in Utah!!!

  1. birdlover says:

    We’ve found a massive infestation of these Firebugs here in Huntington Beach, CA. This is in Orange County near the ocean. The description matches everything posted here. What should we do? They’re pretty much everywhere. Thanks!

    • bugman says:

      Dear birdlover,
      Here is the information we recently received from the USDA: “Right now the best thing for people to do is to try and get the actual specimen and submit it to their state department of agriculture or to contact their county extension agency.”

    • char says:

      I built a garden in back yard, and bought several trucks of compost, and now have these beetles everywhere. Need to know how to get rid of them with out pesticides.

      • bugman says:

        We do not provide extermination advice. These are not beetles, but rather True Bugs. According to BugGuide, they feed on “on mallows (Malva, Malvaceae) an[d] linden (Tilia, Tiliaceae),” so eliminating these plants from your garden would eliminate the Firebugs as they would no longer have a food source.

  2. char says:

    I also have these all over my yard ..

  3. Jean says:

    I just came across a mass amount of these bugs in my barnyard. I can’t find where it describes much about them. Do they bite like fire ants? Are they harmful to livestock? Or pets? We live in rural Atascadero, Calif.. we’re in an “epic” drought. NOTHING is growing here so I don’t know what has attracted them. I found them nesting in abandoned ground squirrel holes.

  4. Bob Hunt says:

    We’ve had the firebugs in Modjeska Canyon (Eastern Orange County, CA) for several years, and this year they’re in our yard in the hundreds, perhaps thousands. Turn over something lying on the ground and you’re likely to see a dappled red carpet of them spreading out looking for new cover. Was able to report it to USDA thanks to the email you have posted above.

  5. Chris says:

    Thank you for your site! I live in Pennsylvania just outside city limits. These Lil buggers are ALL over our property! They are squeezing their way in thru our windows n screens. The outside of our home is a kind of wood siding…they are loving it . They migrated from our trash cans. You can literally look down and follow the sea of red heading from one side to the other. We have flying adults and crawling larvae. Oh yay! I will forward an email as suggested to the department of agriculture. Thank you again for solving the mystery.

  6. hannah says:

    Does anyone know if the Firebug eats trees? I’ve seen a Cedar of Lebanon that’s infested with them and want to know if anything can be done to protect the tree. The tree is in Geneva and was planted in the 1800’s and is huge – but the trunk of the tree is being attacked and the beetles are living induced the bark. Hope someone can advise so that this tree can be saved!

  7. Emil says:

    Guys, I am from Eurasian Continent. These bugs are not harmful to humans or animals, but they plant their eggs inside plants and their larvae will feed on juices of a plant. They don’t prefer any specific plant. They will probably won’t be able to kill a big tree, but they will damage vegetables and greens in your kitchen garden for sure. If you are growing grapes or cabbage you might wanna try to control their population on your property. The adult insect is harmless, its the larvae that you should be worried about. To get rid of the pest using organic methods try: 1. Spray ash dissolved in water solution, 2. Onion peals infusion, 3. Solution of mustard dissolved in water. Find mixing proportions that work for you with trial and error. Peace.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for providing control tips. We have one correction: the immature stage are known as nymphs, not larvae. Nymphs resemble the adults, though they are smaller and wingless. Insects with larvae undergo complete metamorphosis, and progress from a wormlike larva, that after pupation emerges as a drastically different looking winged adult.

  8. jan says:

    I believe I have these bugs in NH also – at least they look like the photo. Seem to be congregating on my blueberries.

  9. Dave says:

    I went blueberry picking in Kinderhook, NY last weekend, and I saw some of these bugs there. They stood out to me with their color and markings, as I’ve never seen them before. They were crawling on the ground under the blueberry bushes… I sure hope they don’t eat the blueberries! It bothers me that we have yet another invasive species in our area. My lilies were devastated this summer by another invasive species… the red lily beetle.

  10. Laurel says:

    These things have taken over my backyard! We’ve had chickens for years, which has really cut down on things like earwigs, spiders, snails, ants, and flies, but my girls don’t think these red bugs are good eats. I really want to get rid of this infestation, but I don’t want to hurt my chickens. I will try some of what has been suggested (1/2 C soap to 1 gal water, mustard in water, etc) and hopefully let everyone know how it goes, but if anyone else has suggestions, please advise!

    • Mindy Ericksen says:

      Laurel, any luck? I have the same issue with these all over & my chickens not eating them. I don’t want to use pesticides, but really want to make a dent in the population in my yard.

      • Laurel says:

        Yes! I just realized I may need to reply directly to your post in order for you to see mine (because I just provided a lengthy post about what I did and it worked WELL). Read my post just below this one.

  11. Laurel says:

    Yes! I looked up several people who’ve had success using plain water mixed with a bit of dishsoap (can be name brand or not). Put it in a squirt bottle or pump and apply directly on the firebugs. In fact, this actually works on any bug! I’ve now used it on spiders, flies, even seen a guy going at some wasps on a youtube video and it takes’em right out.

    What’s happening is insects of all sorts generally breathe through their skin, and this soap mixture instantly covers over their body, causing them to suffocate. Dead and dead. It’s amazing! Kills them in a mere minute or two. Talk about empowering 😉 …

    Use enough soap in the water (I’ve seen recipes that recommend plus or minus 1/4 C to a gallon proportion) that it will coat over the whole bug. BTW, doesn’t work to squirt down your yard, preventatively. This is a contact-only gig. Doesn’t kill eggs (so they do come back), so you’ve got to be diligent in getting them via direct contact and then keep going out and doing it until you can get their numbers down.

    But it does work WELL and is safe to use around pets or anything else! I like that part the very best (because I love my chickens and don’t want to endanger them, nor my kids or anything else).

    Good luck. I hope this helps!

  12. Moira says:

    I’m from New Jersey and I have seen these firebugs the last three years. The make tiny holes in my blanketflower, Shasta daisies, and lavender. They seem to disappear in July. This year they’ve done more damage than in the past. I read somewhere that they were only noted in Utah but after hours of researching this bug and three years of wondering what it is, I found these photos to tell me it’s definitely a fire bug here in my New Jersey garden. I’ll try spraying with soapy water.

    • bugman says:

      We suspect you encountered a different species, because to the best of our knowledge, the Firebug is still only reported from Utah in North America. Please send images using the Ask What’s That Bug? link on our site. Be forewarned that we will be away from the office between June 8 and 19 and during that time, we will not be responding to any mail.

  13. Brandon Ramos says:

    Just wanted to report that I found a nest of these this morning. My Dad parked his truck on the dirt and a lot of those critters started crawling out. We are in Orange, part of Orange County, California. They are all over our dirt. We did our best to control them.

  14. Enrique Garcia says:

    Hi and so glad for all this great info. We were very concerned and have them all over our backyard in the grass. I’m from Lake Elsinore Calif.. And will be trying the soap and water..

    • bugman says:

      To the best of our knowledge, the Firebug has not been established in California. A new invasive species, the Mediterranean Red Bug, is common in Southern California.

      • Rebecca says:

        Yep, we are in Ventura, California and we have the Mediterranean Red Bug ALL over our front and back yards!! I’m going to try the water and dish soap solution to get rid of them. My grass looks like it is a crawling sea of red!

  15. Laurel says:

    I’m so glad to hear the treatment is working! The dish soap is supposedly good for your greens as well (helps penetrate the soil and open up plant follicles or something like that) so it’s a double benefit. Good luck, everyone! Let’s stop this crazy spread! 😮

  16. sherry j padilla says:

    Need to know how I can get rid og these little critters as they are taking over my yard and do they harm trees? Need help

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