What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Milkweed Tiki-bug
Location: Thousand Oaks, California
December 5, 2010 4:39 pm
I’m 93.62% sure this is a milkweed bug. What caught my eye was how the pattern looked just like a carved Tiki. Thought you’d enjoy the image.
Signature: Adriano

Red Bug

Dear Adriano,
This insect,
Pyrrhocoris apterus, is commonly called the Firebug and it is a Red Bug, not a Milkweed Bug.  It is a European species and you can read about it on British Bugs.  It has recently been reported from Utah on BugGuide, but your letter is the first indication we have that this European import has been found in California.

Adriano provides a correction
Thank you for pointing me in the right direction. After a bit of deeper searching, prompted by your reply, I think the bug is actually Scantius aegyptius – still in the family Pyrrhocoridae. Pyrrhocoris apterus and Scantius aegyptius are extremely similar. The most telling mark, I think, is that Pyrrhocoris apterus has an additional black spot on either side of the large triangular marking where in Scantius aegyptius they are missing.
Also, aegyptius is actually found in nearby Los Angeles County, according to CISR:
“Scantius aegyptius, an old world pyrrhocorid bug, native to the eastern Mediterranean region, was documented for the first time in North America in Orange County during June of 2009”.
So, this may be the first report from Ventura County. I’ll send a note of it to CISR.
Thanks so much for your help! And thanks for encouraging insect awareness!
All my best!

Thanks for the correction Adriano.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: California
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71 Responses to Old World Red Bug found in California

  1. David Jackson says:

    I found one here in bakersfield.

  2. Teya Walkker says:

    I have fund huge aggregations of these in Santa Ynez, and have reported it to the Center for Invasive Species along with a picture, so they can update the range of these bugs:

  3. Maria Peck says:

    How do we get rid of these pests? Our soil is covered in red there are so many. Please help!!!

    • bugman says:

      We do not provide extermination advice.

    • Cjarlie says:

      Are the ones you have causing any damage? I have quite a few, but they’re just there. They don’t come in the house, or mess with my fruit or flowers. Of course you don’t see termite causing any damage either. Just curious in Bakersfield.

  4. Papaya says:

    We also have them by the hundreds and may be even by thousands. They came down on us after the owner of the empty lot above us mowed their field. It took couple of weeks of research for us to figure out what they were. They come out around 9-10 am or later in the afternoons when it is not too hot to sun bathe on anything above the ground, especially on the walls of structure. They don’t seem to like the painted things like my wooden garden box but they seem to like the non-painted ones. Perhaps because they can’t stick to them as well because they seem to fall off very easily from the walls or any corner they are on. Non toxic bug spray doesn’t seem to work on them, but the soapy water drowns them. I am thinking of using “Skin So Soft”. For some reason my chickens don’t eat the bugs either. Leaving the carcasses of their friends doesn’t seem to discourage others from sun bathing in the same place. Since the temperature has been cooled they seems to be less active.
    Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • bugman says:

      Seems like these Old World Red Bugs are in Southern California to stay.

      • Venus Macia says:


  5. Robyn says:

    I’m in Ontario Canada and I have these bugs or well something very similar to them..I’m just wondering if they are poisonous and or harmful? Its winter and I’m finding them throughout and periodically inside my house. I have animals and I’m also wondering if they bite.? Thank you

    • bugman says:

      Many related species like the Eastern Boxelder Bug will hibernate indoors, and though they are a nuisance, they are not harmful.

  6. Sean and Ai says:

    We saw a bunch of them here in San Diego last weekend, Coronado Cays to be specific.
    We took pictures of them because we wanted to find out what they were, but we didn’t find anything in our insect book. The closest one by the look was milkweed bugs, and we finally found your article here:) We said, “that’s totally them!!”
    Great to know that they are not poisonous.

    Most of them were mating I guess, because they were walking around with their butts connected.

  7. Lisa and Emily says:

    Thanks for the info. Look like they have made a homestead in our backyard in Goleta. Hoping chickens would eat them, but sounds like that is not true… Any other ways to get rid of these little guys?

  8. Nydia says:

    We just purchased a home in West Palmdale and I’ve recently discovered quite a few in my patio area nearby some grape vines a few minutes ago. From a distance, I initially panicked as I thought they were baby black widows, but got a closer look and they seemed to move much quicker than a spider. I’m glad to know they are not harmful. That means i can leave them in peace. They are quite beautiful to me. Thanks for sharing this info!

  9. Tijuana BC. Mex. About 2 years ago I found quite a few, in my back yard, I’m glad to know they are not dangerous . But I would like to know how long do they live .

  10. Jill & Roger says:

    Hiking in the hills behind San Clemente, California on Memorial Day we came across thousands, maybe tens of thousands of these beetles. Mostly tiny babies and hundreds of adults breeding, scattered along the ground. Very similar to ladybugs hatching.
    If these are new to this area, they are here to stay!

  11. Terri says:

    We have them in California City . We have lived here for 10 years but this is this first year seeing these bugs. I have stepped on a few and hours later there is a whole bunch all over the dead ones.

  12. Denise says:

    We have thousands and thousands of them near Atascadero. I would like them gone!

  13. DNA says:

    Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles County! Ground is covered with them on horse ranch. They came in droves after fire-preparedness cutting of all growth around the barn. They styaed for about 3 weeks in huge numbers – the ground was moving…! They are beginning to subside, although still around in great numbers.

  14. Allison Wall says:

    We have them on our property in Lakeside, CA. Love that the internet makes it so easy to figure out what they are. Large nest in the ground!

  15. I also live in Lakeside and have them everywhere. They became very noticeable after the heavy rains we received in mid July. As long as they are not a threat, they can live in my yard. They are a little creepy though walking around attached like that.

  16. Cathy Sanchez says:

    We have found many in our backyard – Ventura, California!

  17. Bobby Sanchez says:

    They are attacking my sons dogs, carrying them off to …

  18. Mona OGe says:

    I live in Encanto, east of Downtown San Diego, CA. The back yard over half an acre is covered with these bugs. Never seen anything like them in the 35 years living in this house. Seem to only be eating? the weeds. Glad to know they are not toxic, but not happy about seeing so many of them.

    • bugman says:

      We are beginning to wonder if last year’s warmer than typical California winter is partially responsible for numerous outbreaks in the Southwest.

  19. AJ says:

    So glad I found your website!! I found a huge number of these in my backyard this morning. They really freaked me out a bit. I have no grass and very hard, dry soil in my backyard. But, in my front yard, I have a few trees, grass and nutrient rich soil. I’m wondering if the soil plays a factor in where they choose to nest? It would be great if they stay in one part of the yard. 🙂

  20. Melanie Corey says:

    I live in Shandon, Ca and they have been covering my 6 ft concrete perimeter wall around my property for days now and I am seeing them on my house and on my fruit trees. I have never seen them here before. Glad that they are not harmful to humans or animals. Can anyone tell me if they do any type of damage to things like my home or my fruit trees or gardens? I don’t want to spray them if they are just existing but if they tend to do any type of property damage I may have no choice. Would love some advice on this. They are very pretty insects to look at!

  21. Found them in

    Huntington Beach, CA

    Huntington Beach Community Garden

  22. Dianna says:

    They are in Julian, CA. Dozens of them are huddled in the nooks and crannies of my alder tree. Are they a threat to my trees?

  23. Katherine says:

    They are also in Silverado Canyon and San Juan Capistrano Southern California.

  24. Annabelle Perez says:

    We have them in Bakersfield, ca i see them when it’s really hot. In the back yard near my lemon trees . Hundreds of them. Are they harmful to my garden plants and herbs?

    • bugman says:

      According to The Center for Invasive Species Research (CISR): “Damage: The literature contains very little information regarding the biology of S. aegyptius and Scantius species in general are not considered to be economically important species. In California, Scantius has been observed feeding on the developing seeds and stems of Knotweed (Polygonum spp.) and Malva (Malva parviflora). It is likely that S. aegyptius will feed on the seeds of several species of annual herbaceous plants.
      The most noticeable impact of S. aegyptius in California will likely be the presence of large numbers of nymphs and adults migrating from drying annual weeds into adjacent developed areas. These migrations consisting of thousands of individuals can be very conspicuous and lead to large aggregations on small patches of host plants causing concern to local residents who notice these obvious aggregations”

  25. Ken says:

    Confirmed in Paso Robles, CA. (10 miles N of Atascadero) They seem to like to nest in vacated gopher and vole holes. I dusted some with food grade DE which didn’t phase them…..I think they liked it. It looks and sounds like we need to get used to them, though I really don’t like them up around the house.

  26. Denise says:

    Found them only recently, thus summer, in my backyard in Newbury Park, CA (Ventura County)…and my chickens won’t eat them either. I thought it was weird because they pretty much eat anything that’s creepy crawly. Wonder if these bugs are harmless or harmful???

  27. LINDA JULIAN says:

    I was thankful to run across this web site . Live on a ranch in Coalinga, Ca. , had to find out what my new critters were. They are every where. Love to infest new growth tumble weeds. They are very new to the area.

    • bugman says:

      That is very interesting because despite the association of the tumbleweed with the American west, the plants are actually native to Eurasia. Perhaps the Old World Red Bug feeds on tumbleweed in its native land.

  28. Keren says:

    We have thousands in our back dirt lot behind our house here in Atascadero. All sizes and several connected together. I assume gettin down and dirty. Either way infesting our lot and starting to infect our shed. How do I get rid of them?? I also killed a VERY large black widow tonight. I thought I was moving from the Midwest to get away from bugs 🙂

    • Janine says:

      Spiders do not like peppermint. I spray around my house with a spray using Peppermint oil. Ants do not like it either.

    • Ken says:

      Hi Karen,
      Welcome to the area, I live in Paso Robles. We have lots of black widows. My wife and I go on “hunts” about 2-3 times a year after dark with flashlights & spider spray. After a couple of years the breeding cycle breaks and there’s a lot fewer “blackies”. We also have the red bugs and I’ve been fighting them off with some food grade diatomacious earth (powder). I didn’t think it was working but it just takes a while and they leave. Good luck.

  29. Janine says:

    I have been seeing them here in Harbison Canyon in the foothills of San Diego. They have made a nest in my front walk way.

  30. Wendy McClellan says:

    I just video taped a colony of this bug today….August 27th 2016…..in Minnesota!

  31. Tom says:

    They are clustered around new growth tumble weeds on my backyard hillside above Ventura high school. Interestingly the ant trails I used to have around that area have disappeared and been replaced with trails of these red bugs instead!

    • bugman says:

      Though it seems to be symbolic of the American West, the tumbleweed is actually an Old World species and it may be a native food source for the Old World Red Bugs.

  32. Papaya says:

    They came down from the hill behind our house I Shadow Hills, Ca. like last year. They are dry dying weeds, plants. When they came down to my patio I started to step on them killing them and left the evidence. Next day I repeated. If ourse I couldn’t kill them all because they were so many. About the third day they no longer came down. I don’t know where they went but I haven’t seen them since then. Weired.

  33. Tessa L. Horan says:

    So I live in Fresno County, in a tiny town called San Joaquin. I think we are starting to get thousands of these little bugs all over our yard. And both our front and back yard are dead so they are everywhere and they honestly scare me. I know they are harmless but I’m afraid to walk outside because they might crawl all over my feet. Anyways, it’s not really comforting to know that they are appearing not just in Southern California, but now in the Central Valley. But thanks for all your comforting comments!

  34. Flo Martin says:

    found bunches of these beauties on my milkweed plants in Costa Mesa this past week. All the Monarch butterfly caterpillars are GONE…waaaah!

  35. Ray says:

    Hi everybody , I found about 300 of these on my Apricot Tree yesterday in Los Alamos ( Santa Ynez Valley) They are living right along side Ants. P.S. are Black Widows are so large here we could put one on a leash and walk it to the Post Office. I go around the outside of the house twice a week after dark with a flashlight and bug spray.

  36. mike says:

    All over Sonoma county, saw them today in Sebastopol

  37. danny says:

    Great info, they are so distinctive I had to look up what they were. I live in Poway and I have seen about 20 of them without looking in approx a months time.

  38. Nanci H says:

    Inundated with them today in Simi Valley (east Ventura County)! Moved a dog crate I had left out of the storage shed overnight and there were just huge numbers of these critters! Looked to me like they were coming out of a hole in the ground. After reading this series of posts, I can see now that soapy water is going to be on my list for tomorrow!! Do these hurt trees or plants? We are redoing the yard right now and I would hate to have everything we are putting in be ruined! Anyone? Buehler?? Thanks!!

    • Gary M says:

      Also in Simi Valley. First time I’v seen these in my yard which at the current time is mostly dirt. Lots of adults and seems like 50 times more little red ones without the black markings. They seem to be congregated at the base of the Malva and Marestail weeds I was pulling. Soapy water seem to kill some of them, but lots still alive.

  39. gthomson says:

    Had these crawling all over a big section in my back yard in Corona, Ca today. The area is mulched. But I just worked on the are next to it yesterday – mowing/weedeating a bunch of mallow and malva weeds . So that must have disturbed their homes and got them moving. Was worried they’d get my veggies, but it sounds like they mostly like a couple of specific weeds – hopefully they’ll find more of those elsewhere.

  40. Charles Taylor says:

    I live in Kern County, CA just north of Bakersfield in the Oildale area. It’s July 2017 and I’ve lived in the same house for 34 years and today is the first time I’ve seen them. They appeared to be migrating from dry and dead weeds. The one thing that is recently different is that our property watering has been regulated because of drought conditions. Long story short. I just stopped watering and my front and back yards are yellow with dead areas, of course weeds thrive. I’m hoping they’ll go for the weeds that make goat-head stickers, if there are any left. Before I read up on them I tried several things. Someone wrote use soapy water, I just used regular water and that left a lot of dead behind.

  41. Tony G says:

    As posted on another page, we have a ton of them in our yard in Mission Viejo. Going to do some weeding then try to sweep them up and spray with soapy water.

  42. Eric J Berger says:

    I reported these Egyptian cotton bugs on Daves Garden in 2012. Found them in Potrero Ca. Bugs are gregarious and nothing seems to eat them. They do no damage that I saw.

  43. Sean says:

    I have hundreds of them in Tulare county California

  44. Nanci says:

    I had a ton of them last summer (2017) here in Simi Valley (Ventura County) and we also had a ton of foxtails. In order to get rid of the foxtails, we used a blowtorch (yes, they were that thick) and would you believe that the bugs lived through that!!! Crazy!!

  45. Jan Tomas says:

    Just recently someone from southern Philippines found this in their backyard and posted in facebook..they have spotted this many times.

  46. Cjarlie says:

    Does anybody know if they are edible?

  47. Michelle says:

    My garden area is covered in them all over the ground, there is some Little Mallow growing all over out there. I just noticed them today, they have never been here before. I live in Lake Isabella, CA 93240 east of Bakersfield. I thought maybe the infestation had something to do with the big fire we had here in June 2016. Everybody behind us is scraping their properties down to dirt, now it is turning into a dust bowl around here…I don’t think that is a very wise thing to do. Could it be from that? Or they just show up randomly? Thank you…

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