Subject: Red Bugs in my new Garden
Location: South Africa
January 29, 2014 5:52 am
Hi! I’ve just moved into a new house and these mysterious red bugs are all over the garden. They don’t seem to be “dangerous” since they’ve crawled over me many times without biting me. They nest in crevices in the wall and the pavement and in shrubs. I can be wrong, but Im sure I’ve seen that they eat some of the plants. I have also seen them eat old figs that have fallen from the tree. It’s summer now, and I’ve only lived here since the beginning of summer – so I don’t know how prevalent they are during winter months. Thanks so much!
Signature: Philip

Aggregation of Red Bugs

Aggregation of Soapberry Bugs

Hi Philip,
Interestingly, these really are Red Bugs or Cotton Stainers in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and we believe they are both winged adults and wingless nymphs of 
Cenaeus carnifex.  You may verify that on South African Photographs.

Close up of Red Bugs

Close up of Soapberry Bugs

Correction:  Soapberry Bugs, not Red Bugs
May 3, 2014
We just received a comment from Scott Carroll correcting this identification.  It seems Soapberry Bug is a subfamily Serinethinae that includes our North American Boxelder Bugs and Red Shouldered Bugs.  We even located the Soapberry Bugs of the World website.

Cenaeus carnifex

Leptocoris mutilatus


Location: south Africa

18 Responses to Aggregation of Soapberry Bugs in South Africa

  1. These are soapberry bugs, rather than Cenaeus carnifex. The image on the site South African Photographs that you reference is for that ID is instead Leptocoris hexophthalmus. Those in these images are a little difficult to identify. The short winged adults, particularly that in the center of image 2 (which is take from image 1), is Leptocoris mutilatus. That just to its left may be of the other soaberry bug genus, Boisea, in this case Boisea fulcrata. It is tricky because there appears to be some mimicry among S. African soapberry bugs. The upper-most adult in image 1 might be L. hexophthalmus. All soapberry bugs depend on seeds of plants in the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), including Allophylus spp., Pappea capensis and Cardiospermum spp. (including invasive C. grandiflorum). So one of these plants or a relative is in or near Philip’s new garden. There are few host records for S. Africa, so we are always looking for good host photodocumentation from observant naturalists!

    • bugman says:

      Thanks so much for the correction Scott. We have updated the posting with the corrected information.

  2. Cindy du Plessis says:

    I have seen these in lots of little clusters before the winter began against the stems of trees in Pretoria South Africa. I can send pictures if anybody wants them. They also seem to have preferred only that specific tree.

  3. Wendy says:

    I hate these blasted soapberry bugs, please could you tell me how I can exterminate them forever as I get them in the thousands every year!!!

  4. Wendy says:

    I hate these blasted soapberry bugs, please could you tell me how I can exterminate them forever as I get them in the thousands every year!!!

  5. Allan says:

    Ive always called them Meat Bugs. Im located in East London on the Eastern Cape coast. They are carnivorous or omnivorous for sure. Some have black V shape markings some are just red.

  6. Tinus says:

    Lots of them in my trees, saw them feasting on 2 doves. So they are not dangerous at all?

  7. Vicky says:

    My son got bitten by one of the species of these last night they walk bum to bum and have green and red like native American markings on back … when they are small they are red… kissing bug?

  8. Julian says:

    Hi we live in a complex in Roodepoort Johannesburg South Africa and have had the same colony living in our complex for over 8 years in the same area. One of the resedants is now asking for them to be exterminated and we feel it is uncalled for especially as the cause no harm. What steps can we take to prevent this from happening. Can such a colony be protected by any South African laws?

  9. grant says:

    Do Boxelder bugs eat plants, what is there diet?

    • bugman says:

      According to Animal Diversity Web: “Boxelder bugs feed on boxelder trees, maple trees, and ash trees. Nymphs feed on the juices found inside the seeds of host plants. Adults eat the leaves, flowers, twigs, and seeds of host plants. Prior to the development of seeds, they eat low vegetation and old seeds found on the ground. Boxelder bugs may eat other boxelder bugs or eggs during molting. Fruits including apples, pears, peaches, plums, and grapes are eaten as well. Boxelder bugs have been reported eating dead insects such as cicadas or ground beetles.”

      • Boxelder bugs rely principally on the seeds, and to a lesser extent on the green new growth of the boxelder tree for their own growth and reproduction. The also sometimes use other maple species, especially where they are introduced rather than natives. Some southwestern US (and also presumably Mexican) boxelder bugs feed on seeds of the maple relative Soapberry tree. The bug’s sister species in India also feeds on soapberry seeds. All true hosts of soapberry bugs like the boxelder bug are in the Sopaberry plant family. From the other types of plants you list, the bugs will be mainly drinking sap or juice for hydration and perhaps sugar and micronutrients.Feeding on dead arthropods is something they do when the opportunity arises, but it likely plays a minor role in their life cycle.

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