Cotton Stainer is a type of insect known for damaging cotton crops by feeding on the plant’s seeds and leaving behind stains on the fibers. These pests, scientifically known as Dysdercus suturellus, were once considered the most destructive cotton pest in Florida, but their current impact has diminished, making them a minor pest in the southern region of the state 1.
Despite their reduced impact on cotton crops, it’s still important for cotton growers to be familiar with these insects. Cotton Stainer bugs not only impact the yield of the cotton plants but also the quality of the fibers, which can lead to a reduction in value due to the presence of stains on the cotton. Understanding their behavior and finding methods to prevent and control infestations is essential for maintaining healthy and high-quality cotton crops.
Understanding Cotton Stainers
Scientific Name and Genus Dysdercus
Cotton stainers are insects belonging to the Dysdercus genus, with the most important species being Dysdercus suturellus. They are called cotton stainers due to their feeding activities on cotton, which can stain the lint and reduce its value 1.
Physical Characteristics and Identification
Cotton stainers, also known as “red bugs”, have the following physical features:
- Bright red or orange body color
- Black, elongated marking on their wings
- Size: approximately 8-12 mm long 2
Cotton stainers are found in various regions, including:
- North America
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
They were historically the most destructive cotton pest in Florida, but are now considered a minor pest in the cotton industry3.
Life Cycle and Development
Eggs and Nymphs
Cotton stainers go through a life cycle that consists of eggs, nymphs, and adult stages. Female cotton stainers lay their eggs, which usually hatch within 7-10 days. Cotton stainer nymphs are generally red and go through five instars. Each instar stage takes about 21 to 35 days to complete development, depending on temperature differences source.
- Eggs: Hatch within 7-10 days
- Nymphs: Red, pass through five instars
The nymphs possess wing pads and abdominal segments that gradually develop as they progress through the instars. As the nymphs grow, they molt, shedding their exoskeleton and leaving behind a larger one to accommodate their increasing size.
Adults and Reproduction
Cotton stainer adults, like nymphs, are red, but they also have fully developed wings. The life cycle of a cotton stainer varies from about a month to three and a half months, primarily depending on temperature differences source.
Adults mate to reproduce, initiating another generation of cotton stainers. Proper management of cotton stainers ensures the quality and yield of the cotton crop.
A comparison table of life stages:
|Nymphs||Red||21 to 35 days per instar||No||No|
|Adults||Red||1 to 3.5 months total cycle||Yes||Yes|
To summarize some important points about cotton stainer’s lifecycle and development:
- Life cycle stages include eggs, nymphs, and adults
- Development duration is influenced by temperature differences
- Nymphs have wing pads and abdominal segments
- Adults have wings and reproduce
Host Plants and Damage
Cotton Bolls and Lint
Cotton Stainers, or Dysdercus suturellus, are known to infest cotton plants. They damage cotton bolls and lint by puncturing the developing bolls, causing the lint to become stained and discolored.
- Punctures result in weakened fibers
- Stained lint is less valuable
These insects can also cause damage to okra plants. They suck the sap from fruits, affecting their quality.
- Sap-sucking leads to deformed fruits
- Reduced quality of okra
Hibiscus and Other Hosts
Cotton Stainers also infest various ornamental and malvaceous plants like Hibiscus spp.
- Hibiscus damage is occasional but noticeable
- Most common in southern Florida and Cuba (source)
Other hosts include:
- Baobab tree
While Cotton Stainers were once a major pest in cotton production, they are now considered a minor pest, particularly in the southern part of Florida (source).
Comparison Table: Cotton Stainer Damage
|Host Plant||Type of Damage||Economic Impact|
|Cotton||Stained and weakened lint||Reduced value of cotton|
|Okra||Deformed fruits||Lower quality and yield|
|Hibiscus||Sap-sucking on ornamentals||Aesthetic damage|
|Other Hosts||Varied damage depending on plant||Minimal to moderate impact|
The various types of damage caused by Cotton Stainers can have different economic implications, with cotton bolls and lint being the most affected crop.
Detection and Monitoring
External Signs of Infestation
Cotton stainers, specifically Dysdercus suturellus, are known to cause damage to cotton crops. Some signs of infestation include:
- Punctured bolls
- Discolored seeds
- Oozing seeds
These insects pierce the bolls and feed on the seeds, which can result in reduced seed quality and stained lint.
Cotton stainers exhibit a few distinct behavioral patterns:
- Attracted to lights
- Aggregation near damaged bolls
- Diurnal activity
These insects are typically active during daylight hours and can be attracted to lights during the night. They show a preference for feeding on damaged or compromised bolls, resulting in aggregated groups around these areas.
Some important physical characteristics of cotton stainers include:
- Corium: The leathery part of the forewing covering the base of the membranous section
- Clavus: The triangular area located at the inner posterior edge of the hemelytra
- Scutellum: The large, triangular plate that covers part of the insect’s thorax
- Pronotum: The large plate located on the upper side of the thorax, just behind the head
- Antennal segment: A divided section on the antenna, usually four in number
- Beak: The long, slender mouthpart adapted for piercing and sucking
In conclusion, monitoring and detecting cotton stainer infestations can be crucial for maintaining cotton crop health. Identifying external signs and understanding their behavior can aid in the implementation of effective management strategies.
Natural Predators and Control
Assassin bugs are known to be efficient predators of cotton stainers. They use their strong beaks to pierce and inject toxins into their prey, paralyzing them. Some examples of assassin bugs that prey on cotton stainers include:
- Zelus spp.
- Pristhesancus spp.
Spiders are another group of natural predators that can help control cotton stainer populations. They use their webs, speed, and venom to capture and subdue their prey. Common spiders that prey on cotton stainers are:
- Wolf spiders (Lycosidae)
- Jumping spiders (Salticidae)
Birds are also known to feed on cotton stainers, especially when the insects are abundant in the field. Some bird species that prey on cotton stainers include:
Parasitic Flies and Other Insects
Parasitic flies, such as tachinid flies, can help control cotton stainer populations by laying their eggs on or inside the insects. The larvae then feed on the host, eventually causing its death. Other natural enemies of cotton stainers include ants, which can feed on their eggs, larvae, and adults.
Comparison table of natural predators:
|Predator||Attack Method||Example Species|
|Assassin Bugs||Beak to pierce and inject toxins||Zelus spp., Pristhesancus spp.|
|Spiders||Speed, web, and venom||Wolf spiders (Lycosidae), Jumping spiders (Salticidae)|
|Birds||Flight and beaks to pick cotton stainers||Blackbirds, Crows, Sparrows|
|Parasitic Flies||Lay eggs on or inside host||Tachinid flies|
Pros and cons of natural predators:
- Seasonal dependency
- Limited availability
- Can be affected by environmental factors
Integrated Pest Management
Cultural and Physical Control Measures
Cultural and physical control measures are essential components of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for cotton stainers (Dysdercus suturellus), a cotton pest primarily found in southern Florida. One significant control measure is sanitation, which involves removing plant debris, cotton waste, and overwintering sites to reduce pests’ breeding grounds. For example:
- Clearing plant debris and cotton waste
- Ensuring proper field sanitation
Another physical control method is the use of barriers such as chicken wire to prevent pests from accessing the cotton plants. Hand picking is also an option, especially for small-scale infestations.
Chemical Control Options
Chemical control options for cotton stainers include the use of insecticides, such as organophosphates or natural extracts like custard apple leaf extract, pyrethrum formulation, and black wattle extract. These insecticides can be more environmentally friendly and locally sourced in some cases. For example, in Tanzania, the custard apple leaf extract is an option.
Pros of using chemical control options:
- Effective in controlling cotton stainer populations
- Provides a faster solution compared to non-chemical methods
Cons of using chemical control options:
- Potential harm to non-target organisms
- May lead to pesticide resistance in pests
A comparison of cultural and physical control measures versus chemical control options:
|Cultural and Physical||Environmentally friendly, sustainable||May be slower and more time-consuming|
|Chemical Control Options||Fast and effective in controlling pests||Potential harm to non-target organisms, possible pesticide resistance|
In conclusion, implementing both cultural and physical control measures with chemical control options is crucial for a well-rounded Integrated Pest Management strategy to tackle cotton stainers’ infestations.
Cotton Stainers and Clothing
Dealing with Stains
Cotton stainers are pests that belong to the pyrrhocoridae family. They can cause stains on clothing, especially on cotton fabric. These stains primarily occur when the bugs puncture the seeds in the developing cotton bolls, causing a juice to exude that leaves a stain.
To deal with stains on clothes, follow these steps:
- Act fast: Treat the stain immediately to minimize its impact.
- Pre-treatment: Apply a stain remover or pre-treatment solution to the affected area.
For oil-based stains, you can also use:
- Dishwashing liquid
- Baking soda or cornstarch
Aside from stains, cotton stainers can also cause discoloration in clothing. This is primarily due to the bugs’ feeding activities.
Combatting discoloration may involve slightly different approaches, like:
- Preventive measures: Keep your clothing away from areas where cotton stainers are prevalent – e.g., stored cotton or agricultural sites.
- Color-safe bleach: Use color-safe bleach in your regular wash to minimize discoloration.
Comparison table: Dealing with Stains vs. Discoloration
|Dealing with Stains||Dealing with Discoloration|
|Cause||Cotton stainers puncturing developing cotton bolls||Feeding activities of the cotton stainers|
|Pre-treatment||Stain remover or pre-treatment solution||Color-safe bleach during wash|
|Duration||Acts fast||Preventive measures for long-term care|
Remember, cotton stainers can cause unsightly stains and discoloration on your clothing. Act fast and use appropriate treatments to minimize the impact and keep your clothes looking fresh and vibrant.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Red Bug: Introduced species spreading in California
Location: San Diego, CA
October 1, 2011 8:54 pm
These bugs have recently appeared in large amounts and are prolifically mating. It is late September and the weather has been hot and dry. I have recently planted a field of Protea flowers. Can you tell me what they are and if they will harm my plants?
The Red Bug, Scantius aegyptius, is a non-native introduced species that was first reported in California in 2009. According to the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research website: “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.“ That would indicate your Protea flowers are not in danger.
Letter 2 – Red Bug from Hong Kong
cool red beetle
Location: Hong Kong
May 6, 2012 1:27 am
Could not find anything on the net, but found your site! This beetle lives in Hong Kong. A handsome specimin, but what is it?
This is not a beetle, but rather a True Bug. More specifically it is a Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae. We located a matching photo on FlickR that was identified as the genus Cenaeus and then following that genus name, we found the BioDiversity Explorer post on the genus which identified the family. We also found a common name Fire Bug, but that name is used for many other species. We also found a posting in our archive from South Africa that we also believe is the genus Cenaeus.
Letter 3 – Predatory Red Bugs from India: Antilochus conqueberti
Subject: Help identify this beetle?! please
Location: Vellore, India ; Bangalore, India
July 29, 2015 6:44 am
Greetings Mr Bugman
I have come across this particular insect (which I assume is a Beetle) since my childhood . Unfortunately for me, it has been very hard to identify this bug because to my knowledge it is not known by any specific name in any of the Indian languages I speak. Add to this the fact that environment conservation and species identification takes a backseat in developing countries has made it hard for me to crosscheck with any National Database. I would like to know if this insect could be endemic to my country for I did not find any references to it any of the Google searches. Also, they mate during July – I have always found it intriguing to find a pair of them attached at their hinds ,walking busily with one walking backwards. I haven’t specifically noticed if the females and males are physiologically different. I found this site by chance and felt this would be a good place to have my curiosity quenched. I am attaching two recent photos of the insect. I must apologise as the pictures may not be of good quality. Thanks in advance.
PS: I have found this insect in South India, not the North
Signature: Varun Bharadwaj
These look like Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and in one of your images, it appears that one individual is eating another. Several years ago we posted an image of a predatory Red Bug from India that was eventually identified as Antilochus conqueberti. Members of this family are frequently found in multigenerational aggregations like the one you have included, and close inspection of that image reveals that there are several mating pairs among the crowd. To the best of our knowledge, this is an endemic species in India. Here is a FlickR image for comparison, but it is identified as Antilochus cocqueberti. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies site identifies this Pyrrhocorid predator as Antilochus conqueberti.
First things first – thank you so much for such a prompt response and I am sorry to have sent so many requests to an already overworked staff.
Now that I have the Family and Order of the insect ( Antilochus conqueberti), I am able to get more relevant results from Google Searches . From what I have found, it appears that this insect is spread across Yunnan of China and Thailand as well. The possibility that it is “cannibalistic” is simply shocking. I have come across references to it as being a pest in Cotton Crops and with studies being conducted to identify a potent insecticide for it.
I have also heard someone mention that it is poisonous. Any way to validate that claim? Also, are they capable of feeding on Humans?
Lastly, I have another picture of them aggregated in a mound. Would you guys be interested in it?
Hi again Varun,
At this time, we cannot verify if they are poisonous, but we doubt it. They do not suck human blood. The previous images you sent are sufficient.
Letter 4 – Mating True Bugs from South Africa: Cotton Stainers perhaps
Dear What’s That Bug
February 18, 2010
I’ve been finding these little beetles all over my garden during the last few months. Can you tell me what they are? They seem to like plants and when I dug up some mint recently there were loads of them in the soil around the roots.
Thanks for your help.
Cape Town South Africa
These are True Bugs, not beetles, and we believe they may be Cotton Stainers in the family Pyrrhocoridae. We found one photo that matches on a South African website, but the species is not identified. We also found reference to a South African Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus nigrofasciatus, but we have not had any luck finding a photo, but trying a web search of Cotton Stainer South Africa produced an image on Flickr.
Hi Daniel and Kate:
They do look like Cotton Stainers (also Red Bugs or Fire Bugs). I think they are likely in the genus Cenaeus, of which there are several species in South Africa. They appear to be a very close match to C. carnifex. You could also compare to photos provided at the Diversity Explorer and Zandvlei Trust web sites. Regards.
Letter 5 – Red Eggs from Australia are Assassin Bug Eggs
Subject: Red eggs?
Location: Wahroonga, NSW, Australia
January 20, 2016 8:54 pm
I work in bush regeneration near the headwaters of the Lane Cove River in NSW. We’re in a fairly rainy sort of area.
One of my colleagues sent me this picture of what appear to be red insect eggs. I searched through your egg posts for several pages, but the closest thing to these seemed to be ladybeetle eggs, however those are only yellow.
Unfortunately I don’t know what plant these eggs have been laid on. It actually looks like a weed.
Eggs can be very difficult to properly identify. The color looks like an exact match and the general shape is very close to this egg cluster pictured on Getty Images that is identified as a clutch of Stick Insect or Phasmid eggs. We have not been able to locate any other corroborating images.
Update: Assassin Bug Eggs
Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash, we researched Assassin Bug Eggs and we found this image that exactly matches on FlickR. No particular species is identified, but the eggs were found in Australia. BunyipCo supports that ID. Assassin Bugs are beneficial predators.
Letter 6 – Mediterranean Red Bug
Subject: What is this?
Location: California, Torrance
November 2, 2014 1:02 pm
These came out of nowhere. They have wings but don’t fly. They were found in the park next door and have migrated toward our house, but don’t seem to know where to go or what to do. They just mill about. They seem to avoid plants and keep to open areas.
Your insect is Scantius aegyptius, a non-native Red Bug in the family Red Bugs Pyrrhocoridae that was first detected in Southern California in 2009, according to BugGuide. It is native to the Mediterranean, so even though it does not have an official common name, we have been referring to it as a Mediterranean Red Bug. According to the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research: “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”
Letter 7 – Cotton Stainer Aggregation in Puerto Rico
small milkweed bugs or boxelder bugs? We can’t tell…
Your site has examples of each, but we can’t tell which is a better match for the participants in this rugby scrum last month on a beach in Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. It seems like the sheer number of bugs might mean boxelders (and there were other, similar-sized bunches nearby), but their markings don’t seem to be a match for either species… And which team is winning? Thanks!
Jim & Sandy
Hi Jim and Sandy,
Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae, are another species of Hemipteran that forms aggregations. They are found in the Southern States as well as tropical countries. Stainers are also known as Red Bugs and are in the family Pyrrhocoridae.
Letter 8 – Aggregation of Soapberry Bugs in South Africa
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!
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.
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.
Letter 9 – Red Bug Aggregation in Spain
Location: Andalucia Spain
January 6, 2011 12:27 pm
Hi there are lot of these beetles hibernating under the bark of trees where I live in the south of Spain. Can you tell me what they are please?
The only common name we can find for this species, Scantius aegyptius, is also the common name for the entire family they belong to, Pyrrhocoridae, and that common name is Red Bug. This Red Bug is native to the eastern Mediterranean, but in recent years it has been introduced to North America. The UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research has a marvelous page devoted to the species first documented in Orange County in Southern California in 2009. According to the site: “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.” The TrekNature website also has a very nice photo of this Red Bug. Red Bugs are not beetles. They are True Bugs in the order Hemiptera.
Letter 10 – Cotton Stainers from South Africa
Subject: Soapberry bugs
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
August 25, 2014 10:06 am
here’s the pictures of the bugs I found on the trunks of these trees. Some people have them in their gardens too, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else. This picture was taken at the start of the winter.
We disagree with your identification. We do not believe these are Soapberry Bugs in the subfamily Serinethinae, but rather Cotton Stainers or Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae. There are some similar looking images of Cotton Stainers in the genus Dysdercus on ISpot and there is an image on FlickR identified as Dysdercus nigrofasciatus. This note is also posted on ISpot: “D. nigrofasciatus and D. fasciatus are not synonyms. There are four species of Dysdercus occurring in South Africa: fasciatus, nigrofasciatus, intermedius and superstitiosus. the first three looks superficially similar, but there are clear differences, for example: the head of fasciatus is significantly longer than the head of nigrofasciatus, etc.” We are confident that the genus Dysdercus is correct, but we are uncertain of the species.
Letter 11 – Red Bugs from South Africa
Subject: Red Bug
Location: South Africa
March 23, 2015 2:45 am
Can you please identify these bugs. Notice one is different than the other. They are pairing most of the time. Regards.
Signature: Jannie du Plessis
You have a group of immature Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae and one winged adult. When we have more time, we will attempt a species identification for you, but meanwhile, you can browse iSpot for the correct identification. We believe these are Cotton Stainers.
Letter 12 – Mating Kapok Bugs from Viet Nam
Subject: Fire Bug
Location: VUng Tau, VIetnam
January 6, 2013 7:10 am
Is this a firebug, a cotton stainer or a red? It was found in Vung Tau, Vietnam feeding and mating on some rather large red seed pods with large black bean-like seeds inside of them. One strange thing is that the bugs are the exact same color as the seed pods. I’ve searched the Internet and have found similar bugs which are called fire bugs. However, there are some important differences. These bugs have completely red legs and the markings are unique. I attached 2 adult matings and 1 juvenile.
Signature: William Allen
The family Pyrrhocoridae is commonly called the Red Bug family, and the family includes the Cotton Stainers as well as the Firebugs, so Red Bugs is the more general family name that includes the other genera and species. With that said, we are having difficulty identifying your Red Bugs to the species level. We found some family members that are found in Viet Nam, but any with these exact markings are eluding us. Dindymus rubiginosus which we found on Bugs for Amateurs as well as FlickR lacks the spots. Pyrrhopeplus posthumus which we located on BiotaTaiwanica is a close match. The drawing of the wing pattern for Dysdercus cingulatus which we found on http://psybugs.biota.biodiv.tw/book/export/html/385 is pretty accurate, but once we found a photo of the insect on Forestry Images, the spots seem too high on the wings and the black triangular scutellum is missing on your specimens. Project Noah did not provide us with anything conclusive. After spending some time trying in vain to provide a species identification, we have decided to post you images and we hope one of our readers might be able to assist. We feel confident that you can use the general term Red Bug to describe your individuals which are in the family Pyrrhocoridae.
Update: September 27, 2015
We just received a comment today pointing us to a link to Farangs Gone Wild and the Kapok Bug, Probergrothius nigricornis, which appears to be the proper identification for these Red Bugs. Siam Insect Zoo & Museum also has images of the Kapok Bug that match.
Letter 13 – Immature Red Bug from Costa Rica
Subject: Guanacaste costa rica
Location: Nosara, guanacaste, costa rica
April 26, 2016 4:10 pm
This bug was rolling what looked like a small ball of dirt or dung very efficiently- almost dribbling it like a soccer ball.
Many of them were huddled in clusters. It was the afternoon on a dirt road.
This is an immature Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and it looks like this image posted to FlickR. We suspect the ball is actually a seed and the Red Bug is feeding from the seed. Like other insects in the order Hemiptera, the mouth is designed for piercing and sucking.
Letter 14 – Mediterranean Red Bug
Subject: Small beetle
Location: Aliso Viejo, California, USA
May 7, 2015 9:25 pm
This bug walked across our patio during the day, on a breezy spring day in Southern California. The bug is approximately 1/2 centimeter in length.
Thank you for your help! I believe this bug is a Mediterranean Red Bug. Is that correct?
Thank you, Daniel!
Letter 15 – Mediterranean Red Bug
Subject: What is this bug?
Location: San Fernando Valley, CA
August 19, 2016 9:23 am
Dear Mr. Bugman,
I found a lot of this bugs in on the wall coming up from the ground in my backyard. I normally do not see them. What is it?
The Mediterranean Red Bug, Scantius aegyptius, is an invasive species that was accidentally introduced into Southern California recently. We first found an individual in our Mount Washington, Los Angeles office grounds two years ago, but luckily we have not found another. According to BugGuide: “native to the Mediterranean, adventive in NA (first found 2009); established in so. CA.” According to the Center for Invasive Species Research: “Recently, another brightly colored, mostly seed feeding bug belonging to the family Pyrrhocoridae or ‘Red Bugs’ has become established in southern California and is drawing attention due to large aggregations of the bright red and black nymphs and adults feeding on annual broadleaf weeds in open space areas. 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. Reports of this insect from other southern California locations (i.e., Riverside County) suggest that this insect has been established for a year or more prior to these Orange County collections.” The site also states: “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.”
Letter 16 – Bug of the Month January 2015: Mediterranean Red Bug
Subject: ID Bug. please?
Location: Ventura County, CA
December 28, 2014 11:14 am
Hello. Happy New Year.
Can you ID this bug for us. They seem to be increasingly multiplying on our property in the
north end of the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. We grow some organic
fruits and want to make sure they are not a plant eating insect, or what we would have to do
in an organic way to handle them.
Though it is lacking an recognized common name on BugGuide, we have been calling the invasive exotic species Scantius aegyptius by the descriptive name Mediterranean Red Bug based on its site or origin and its common family name. According to the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside: “Recently, another brightly colored, mostly seed feeding bug belonging to the family Pyrrhocoridae or “Red Bugs” has become established in southern California and is drawing attention due to large aggregations of the bright red and black nymphs and adults feeding on annual broadleaf weeds in open space areas. 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. Reports of this insect from other southern California locations (i.e., Riverside County) suggest that this insect has been established for a year or more prior to these Orange County collections.” We suspect sightings of this Mediterranean Red Bug will be increasing in Southern California this winter, which makes your submission a very appropriate Bug of the Month for January 2015.
Letter 17 – Red Cotton Stainers in the Philippines
Subject: Can you please ID this assasin bug
Geographic location of the bug: Antipolo Philippines
Time: 06:02 AM EDT
Can you please identify what species of Assasin bug these guys are. I caught them on one of my Okra plants and they are adorable.
How you want your letter signed: Mohammad Mehdi Saatchi
Though it resembles an Assassin Bug and though it is classified in the same order as Assassin Bugs, this Red Cotton Stainer is actually a member of the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae. We verified your Red Cotton Stainer’s identity as Dysdercus cingulatus thanks to Project Noah.
Letter 18 – St. Andrew's Cotton Stainer aggregation
Red Insect with ‘shield’ markings
December 7, 2009
I saw these insects while on holiday. They stood out due to their impressive markings. I’d really like to know what they are.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
These are Cotton Stainers, most likely St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae. According to BugGuide, they are native to the West Indies. They are often found in large aggregations like this with winged adults and wingless nymphs. BugGuide also indicates: “The feeding activities of cotton stainers on cotton produce a stain on the lint which reduces its value. A few authorities have reported the stain comes from excrement of the bugs. However, most have stated that the stain primarily is a result of the bug puncturing the seeds in the developing bolls causing a juice to exude that leaves an indelible stain. Feeding by puncturing flower buds or young cotton bolls usually causes reduction in size, or the fruiting body may abort and drop to the ground.” – University of Florida.“
Letter 19 – Mating Red Banded Seed Eating Bugs from Australia
Subject: This had just appeared in our garden 2 weeks ago
Geographic location of the bug: Wangaratta, north east Victoria
Time: 09:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Thank you for your site. This bug appeared about 2 weeks ago and has the number has quickly increased since then.
How you want your letter signed: Michael
We were having trouble identifying your Seed Bugs from the family Lygaeidae, but we did locate a posting in our archives of a Red Banded Seed Eating Bug, Melanerythrus mactans, from almost ten years ago. Here is a FlickR image. According to the Atlas of Living Australia, its range is over most of the continent.
Letter 20 – Mediterranean Red Bug Aggregation in Southern California
Subject: Is this an elm seed bug? Found in Southern CA
Location: N Los Angeles County, Southern California
December 14, 2014 5:26 pm
Hi! I’ve been trying so hard to identify this bug, which just appeared in my back yard this year, maybe early summertime. I’m in north Los Angeles County (town is Littlerock), Southern CA. They’ve gone from lumbering in sort-of lines along the ground to huddling in large numbers around bushes and under wood or metal, to now huddling en masse in the crevices of one of my large chinese elm trees. I took pictures; they are black and red, similar it looks like in shape etc. to your photos of the elm seed bug, but the markings on my bugs seem a bit different. I have various birds living out back (goose, emu, peahen, guinea hen, and occasionally chickens) and am wondering if these bugs are beneficial to my plants and/or birds, or if they are harmful. So far they’re not in the house, but I’m a little worried that might change! I’d appreciate any help you can give me on identifying these cute little huddlers — hopefully they are the good kind! ( I have several more pictures, by the way – your site only allowed me 3 so I tried to pick out the best 3)
Signature: Heidi Brooks
These are Mediterranean Red Bugs, Scantius aegyptius, a species that was introduced to Southern California several years ago in about 2009 and it finds our climate to its liking, so it is proliferating. Here is what the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research states: “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.” Though they pose no immediate threat to crops, native plants or animals, the presence of a non-native species in large numbers can have significant effects on native species by displacing them in an ecosystem.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! I got your email this morning, plus responses on Facebook after I asked about these insects there as well. I have a British friend who lives in Germany and encounters these red “fire bugs” often in his walks through the woods. He sent me this link, where I learned more interesting info about them, and I’d like to pass it on to you. It’s a German site translated into English (thanks, Google), and while parts of the translation are a bit amusing, I did learn more about these little huddle-bugs:
My friend also said that he notices wasps hang around the red bugs, so not sure if they are tasty to the wasps (or vice-versa).
The link you provided is for a Firebug, a different species in the same family. Again, your species is Scantius aegyptius and you can find more information on BugGuide. When we first posted images of the Mediterranean Red Bug in 2010, we also incorrectly identified it as a very similar looking Firebug.
Wow! I didn’t notice that – the markings are so specific, with a triangle and 2 dots, I thought they were the same bug. I’ll have to do a little more research then, I think. It’s been difficult to find much about these insects, but at least I know that they don’t seem harmful to my plants or people. Thanks again — your responses mean a lot to me!
Letter 21 – Cotton Stainer
This insect is very colourful. Thought this might add to the awesome collection u have. would you pls identify it?
Hi Again Ibrahim,
This is a Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus cingulatus, and here is a marvelous old illustration from a book on insects from India. There is a nice photo of a mating pair of Red Cotton Bugs on the Forestry Images website. The species, a member of the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae, is also represented on several postage stamps on this website, including this beautiful 2007 stamp from Malaysia. Then we found the photo of the stamp block on this blog.
When we originally decided to post a stamp, because we love beautiful stamps, we thought this stamp represented the correct species. Cysdercus cingulatus was not the insect represented on it, but rather a member of the same genus. The markings are a bit different, most noticeably the black triangular scutellum that is evident on your insect. This gorgeous stamp originated in the British Indian Ocean Territory in 1976.
Letter 22 – Cotton Stainers from Antigua
Bugs of the caribean Island Antigua
these bugs i found on the carribean Island Antigua. I think it belongs to the Pyrrhocoridae.
Hi again Christian,
We agree with you that these true bugs are in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae.
Update: January 22, 2017
St Andrew’s Cross Cotton StainersThanks to a comment, we are confident that these are , a species we have identified on our site numerous times since this posting.
Letter 23 – Red Bugs from India: Probergrothius sanguinolens
Subject: Identify the bug
Location: Hyderabad (A.P) INDIA
March 26, 2013 2:51 am
Hello Sir, Pls identify the bug… And give me the classification also.
Thank u sir.
How sad that in India you have been dehumanized into a 12 digit number for identification purposes. Our own American nine digit identification numbers are also used for identity purposes, but to avoid identity thieves, we do not freely publish that information. These are Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae. We found a link on India Nature Watch that identifies it as a Stainer Bug, but no species name.
Letter 24 – Probably Red Bug from Malaysia
Subject: species of the bug
Location: West Malaysia
February 13, 2015 12:26 pm
Hello, I would be very thankful if anyone could tell me what is this bug, I found this red bug with a small red head and colorful yellow and black dots on the back next to my door (West Malaysia).
Signature: thank you
It is appropriate to refer to this insect as a Red Bug because it is a True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera and because it is red, and we believe it is also a member of the family Pyrrhocoridae, commonly called the Red Bugs. This matching image on FlickR is in agreement with our supposition. At this time, we cannot provide a more specific identification.
Letter 25 – St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers from Turks and Caicos
Subject: Pretty Turk’s and Caicos Insect
Location: Turks and Caicos
December 1, 2015 7:52 am
Can you tell me what this insect is? We found them in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. Is it a Turk’s Red Cap?
Though many islands have endemic species, we believe your Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae are St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae, a species reported from West Indies according to BugGuide. Many insects in the family are known to form large aggregations of both adults and nymphs as pictured in your image. Adults have wings and nymphs do not. Turk’s Red Cap may be a local name, but when we researched that all we found were numerous references to a plant in the genus Malvaviscus as pictured on Almost Eden.
Wow, thank you so much for the help!
Letter 26 – Immature Red Bug from Togo
Subject: Fun red bug of Togo
Geographic location of the bug: Sokodé, Togo
Time: 10:25 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this red bug in Togo which fascinates me. Can you identify it, please?
How you want your letter signed: Jerry Day
Your image is really great, but we are not going to be able to provide you more than a very general identification. This is an immature Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and we suspect it is probably a Cotton Stainer in the genus Dysdercus.
Letter 27 – Two Spotted Cotton Stainers from Costa Rica
Subject: Red bugs
Location: Sardinal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
January 21, 2014 12:52 pm
I’ve been trying to find the right name of this species. I found out that they are red bugs in different stages but what about the second picture with the pale ones? Are they adult of the same species? Thanks in advance.
We are very happy you provided two images because only one of the images includes winged adults and immature nymphs can be notoriously difficult to identify to the species level. You actually correctly identified these Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae. Bugs in this family frequently form aggregations like the one you documented. We did a bit of searching, and we have matched the adult individuals in your photo to the Two Spotted Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus bimaculatus, pictured on BugGuide.
Thanks, I really appreciate your help. I’m a bird photographer and I practically know nothing about bugs.
Letter 28 – Predatory, Cannibalistic Red Bug from India: Antilochus conqueberti
Red Beetle Bug
Location: Dandeli, North Karnataka, India
July 1, 2011 3:15 am
Can you identify the Bug and the prey in this picture. The Picture was shot at Dandeli Forest, in North Karnataka, India.
Signature: Bhavesh Shah
In our opinion, the predator and prey look like the same species, or at least closely related species. We cannot even be certain that this is an instance of predation, because some normally plant feeding True Bugs can be opportunistic, and they will feed upon the fluids of the dead bodies of insects without actually preying upon them. We will need to do additional research to try to determine the identity of this Bug. There is a very similar looking insect identified as a Cotton Stainer that can be viewed by scrolling down this Rings of Silver website. The Cotton Stainers pictured on this site also look similar, but with an additional black mark.
Update: January 20, 2015
We just received a comment indicating that this is a predatory Red Bug Antilochus conqueberti, and we found images that match on this site. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies has published a paper on this predatory Red Bug.
Letter 29 – Mating Cotton Stainers in South Africa
Subject: red bugs
Location: Gauteng, Kempton Park
May 18, 2016 4:50 am
Hi, we live in Kempton Park and have noticed on our pavement trees these red bugs. Can you please advise what they are and if they are problematic to surrounding areas. They are on the tree trunks and in the grass at the Base of the tree. Thank you.
Judging by the mating pair in the center of your image, there will soon be even more Red Bugs at the base of this tree. They really are Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae, and thanks to iSpot, we have identified them as Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus fasciatus. Though they are aggregating on the trees, we do not believe they are damaging the trees. They may be feeding on the seeds of the trees, like the individuals in this iSpot image.
Thank you for taking the time out to have a look like this.
Letter 30 – St Andrews Cotton Stainer from Dominican Republic
Subject: Plague of red flying insects
Location: San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic
March 14, 2016 7:15 pm
Help! I have a plague of these red beetley insects coming into my new apartment. There are about 30+ that have entered. They fly and they seem drawn to people. I live in the Dominican Republic in a new apartment building surrounded by sugarcane farms. It’s sugar cane harvest season right now and they’re burning a lot of the fields. Help! I need to know how to keep them out of my house!
This is a St Andrews Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus andreae, and you can find out more information on American Insects where it states: “In the West Indies this species develops on the seeds of the Portia tree (Thespesia populnea), a member of the mallow family that grows along the shoreline. The bugs can also develop on cotton, and in fact Dr. Harold Grau and his associates at Christopher Newport University have demonstrated that the species grows larger on cotton than on Thespesia populnea.”
Letter 31 – African Cotton Stainer from Botswana
Subject: Red Beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Botswana
Time: 05:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi. I saw this interesting beetle (?) while on safari in the Savute region of Botswana in March, 2018. It is about 2cm long. Is it a variation of an assassin bug?
How you want your letter signed: Hugh Scarth
This is not a Beetle. Taxonomically it is a True Bug in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae, and we believe we properly identified it as an African Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus fasciatus, on iNaturalist.
Terrific. Thank you for your reply. Hugh
Letter 32 – Aggregation of St. Andrew's Cotton Stainer
Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 6:22 PM
While visiting Andros Island, Bahamas, I snapped a photo of what my friend called “Love Bugs”. That must be a common name. What is their true name?
Fresh Creek, Andros Island, Bahamas
We have never heard of the St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus andreae , referred to as a Love Bug. While there are some mating pairs in this large aggregation, procreation is not the primary reason many True Bugs, including the St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainer, form aggregations. According to BugGuide, the species is found in Florida and the West Indies.
Letter 33 – Cotton Stainer
What’s that witchdoctor doing on the insect’s back?
Please ID this weird insect that I shot in our garden.I stay in Palm Meadows
http://www.adarshdevelopers.com/projects/palmmeadows/palm_location.html in Bangalore.
We checked with Eric Eaton who identified this insect as a member of the Cotton Stainer Family Pyrrhocoridae which are common in the tropics and the South. One species, Dysdercus suturellus is very injurious to cotton by piercing the stems and bolls with its beak and sucking the sap. The greatest damage is done by staining the cotton with its excrement.
Letter 34 – Cotton Stainer
A bug with white cross on maroon colored back, with black and white strips on the bottom.
I found this bug which I have never seen before in my house. I wonder if it has anything to do with my son’s fever. He is only 4yrs old and running a fever of 102.92 Fahrenheit. Could you please identify for me if it is dangerous or poisonous? Thanks!
The Cotton Stainer is not responsible for your son’s fever.
Letter 35 – Cotton Stainer
What kind of bug is this? Some sort long horn beetle? A friend has them in front of their house and has been wanting to know what it is
This is a very nice photo of a Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus suturellus. Cotton Stainers are Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae.
Letter 36 – Cotton Stainer Aggregation
I’ve told so many people about WTB……really a great site…I keep meaning to find the photo I have of the red stainer? orgy I took in Puerto Rico. I felt a bit bad watching them, but then was strangely impressed by their group prowess! Here is the bug orgy photo from Puerto Rico I promised.
Your Cotton Stainer Bug photo is more correctly an aggregation, as there are adults and nymphs together. Bugs are not pedophiles and do not mate with immature brethren.
perhaps aggregation is correct, but its not nearly as saucy as a bug orgy!….I guess nymphs are never sexually mature in the insecta? Interestingly, I give lots of talks around NJ about butterflies to various groups and I am often asked what sex caterpillars are. It took me a long time to find out that they actually have undeveloped sexual organs and that in some cases they can even be felt thru the skin….This is a perfect example of why I find the insects so damn exciting…no matter how much we know, individually or cumulatively, we just dont know anything at all, they are so darn diverse, there is just so much to learn….Dave
Letter 37 – Cotton Stainer Bug
Cotton Stainer Bugs?
I am from Singapore and I found these bugs on the cotton plant. The nymphs at bright red without any markings. Please kindly help to identify. Thanks!
Hi Yueat Tin,
This sure does appear to be one of the species of insects known as Cotton Stainers. They are in the Red Bug Family Pyrrhocoridae.
Letter 38 – Whitecrossed Seed Bug
Location: South San Francisco, CA
January 29, 2014 9:34 pm
I like to send flowers to my girlfriend (email photos), as I come across many nice landscapes while I’m in the field. Today these yellow daisies caught my eye, and the colorful insect made it all the more interesting. Thanks to your site, and the rest of the web, I believe this to be a type of cotton stainer in the Pyrrhocoridae Family.
The last few weeks have been unseasonably warm with almost no rain. We had a dry cold snap in December. Today was cloudy, cool and misty. Is this insect usually found in Northern California?
We agree that this appears to be a Cotton Stainer in the genus Dysdercus, and we have not been able to locate any information confirming them occurring in California. According to BugGuide’s data, there are some species found in Arizona, including the Two Spotted Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus bimaculatus, but this is most definitely not that species. The Texas Entomology page Checklist of North American Cotton Stainers does contain sightings in California. With so much global travel, it is possible this was a recent introduction.
Correction May 3, 2014: Whitecrossed Seed Bug
Thanks to a comment from Scott Carroll, we have updated the posting to include the correction on this Whitecrossed Seed Bug, Neacoryphus bicrucis, which is pictured on BugGuide.
Letter 39 – Cotton Stainer from Cuba
March 22, 2017 4:50 am
Please could you help me ID this beetle we found , whilst on holiday in Cuba
Signature: Lynne Demaine
This is not a Beetle, but rather a True Bug. This is a Cotton Stainer in the genus Dysdercus, and we believe it is Dysdercus sanguinarius based on this En Advisor Travel site.
Many thanks – that is brilliant and so quick too!
The fact it is not a beetle explains why my attempts to ID it failed miserably!
Letter 40 – Cotton Stainer from Hong Kong
Subject: Hong Kong Beauty bug
Location: Stanley, Hong Kong
September 25, 2014 3:58 pm
Recently moved to HK, and found this in my Hibiscus yesterday, 24 Sept. It is the tail end of summer, about 33C. About 1 inch long. We are quite close to the beach, although this bug appeared on a plant that I recently purchased and moved here from Kowloon. I have had the plant about 3 weeks.
Would love to know what it is, and if I should remove it to another plant to spare my garden. (There is a nearby undeveloped, jungley lot for the bug to emigrate to.)
This is a Cotton Stainer or Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae and we located a matching image on FlickR that is identified as Dysdercus cingulatus. We then found a reference where it is called a Hong Kong Stink Bug and the information: “Found mating and feeding on Ipomea on September 11, 2002 at Braemar Hill, North Point, and on Hibiscus.on August 10, 2003 at Pak Tam Chung, Sai Kung, Hong Kong SAR.” The latter link is not very accurate as the family is listed incorrectly. It is also pictured on iNaturalist.
Letter 41 – Cotton Stainer from India
Subject: What type of Beetle
Location: Noida, U.P. India
December 10, 2016 8:35 pm
Your site has been very helpful in most cases. Kindly assist in identifying the attached image of Beetle, it was tiny and slim.
The reason you have had trouble identifying this Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus cingulatus, is because it is a True Bug in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae, and not a beetle. The Cotton Stainer is pictured on Biodiversity India. Current Biotica has a scholarly article that states: “The red cotton bug, Dysdercus cingulatus Fab is an important pest damaging okra in India. Both adults and nymphs feed on developing fruits and affect the crop yield and quality of fruits.” As an aside, we are fascinated that the city Noida is an anagram for India.
Thanks so much,is it also called ‘Red Cotton Bug’ ?
That is correct.
Letter 42 – Cotton Stainers
I stumbled across your site while trying to find out what these little critters are called. I vaguely remember being told as a child that they are firebugs. The ones that look alike were all over the place being naughty. The smaller ones with less distinctive designs were just stumbling around. These were spotted under a shady tree on the side of a salt water canal in Miami Beach–around noon today. Thanks for the cool site!
Thanks for contributing a new species to our site. These are Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae. They are True Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae, the Red Bugs. They are found in Florida and the West Indies. The common name comes from the fact that they would actually stain cotton while feeding, ruining the quality of the product.
Letter 43 – Cotton Stainers
Subject: red bugs
Location: Sarasota , Florida
December 28, 2013 9:35 am
I’m writing from Sarasota, Florida. In June my neighbour put out some leftover dog food after her little dog died. A few days later there were all this beautiful red and black bugs in various stages crawling around it. They didn’t it the dog food, they went away from it. Even crawling up a tree. What are they?
The True Bugs in the photo are immature, wingless Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus suturellus, and winged adults. In addition to cotton, the Cotton Stainers will also feed on other plants including hibiscus and orange trees, according to bugGuide. Cotton Stainers, like other True Bugs, have mouths designed to pierce and suck, and it is possible that they were attracted to the moisture in the pet food.
Thank you so much for this information.
Have a wonderful New Year!
Letter 44 – Cotton Stainers
Subject: Can you ID this beauty in Miami,FL ?
Location: Miami Florida
Date: December 16, 2017 12:26 PM
I could sent a picture of this lovely geometric designed red,black and white outlined elongated bug for identification ?
These Cotton Stainers sometimes form aggregations with both winged adults and immature nymphs as your image documents.
Letter 45 – Cotton Stainers
Subject: What are these bugs?
Geographic location of the bug: North Central Florida
Time: 12:30 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I know not what you are, but if you are damaging my althea bushes, I will get rid of you.
How you want your letter signed: Althea flower lover
Dear Althea flower lover,
Interesting, your digital files are titled “red bug” and these are indeed Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae. More specifically, these are Cotton Stainers, and your documentation includes an image of winged adults and an image of a wingless nymph. According to BugGuide: “found on many plants, incl. cotton, hibiscus, oranges, etc.” and “a pest of cotton; ‘Feeding on the cotton bolls stains them an indelible yellow as plant sap seeps out of the puncture wound, and microorganisms and fungus grows at the site. The feeding habit also damages the fibres by cutting them, and affects the growth of the cotton boll.'” The damage to cotton occurs because of the staining that renders the cotton unusable. We are not certain if their feeding significantly damages other plants, including your Althea or Rose of Sharon, a member of the hibiscus family.
Letter 46 – Cotton Stainers from South Africa
Subject: What bug is this
Geographic location of the bug: Randburg
Time: 02:02 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi there
I have these bugs crawling on and around my front wall, including the electricity meter. Are they Soapberry or Cotton Stainer bugs, or something completely different? Are they hazardous to the garden or pets, and how best would you recommend getting rid of them, or preventing them? Thanks
How you want your letter signed: Gareth, Randburg
Is Randburg in South Africa? In our opinion, these are Cotton Stainers in the genus Dysdercus. They might be Dysdercus nigrofasciatus which is pictured on FlickR, or possibly Dysdercus fasciatus which is pictured on Project Noah. There are reported to be several similar looking species in South Africa. We do not provide extermination advice.
Letter 47 – Red Bug from India
Help with insect Id Dear Mr.Bugman,
I came across this bug in South India.Body about 1.5 cms in length.Any help in identification is appreciated. Regards,
This is a Hemipteran or True Bug in the order Hemiptera. It is probably in the family Pyrrhocoridae, the Red Bugs. Some members of this family are known as Stainers.
Letter 48 – Red Nymph from Borneo
Subject: Red insect from Sarawak, Borneo.
Location: Sarawak, Borneo
February 17, 2016 11:19 pm
So I was wanting to find out what this insect was called. Spotted him in Mulu NP in Sarawak.
This is an immature True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera. We will attempt to make a more specific identification, however immature nymphs can be difficult to identify.
Letter 49 – Redbugs
Hi Mr. Bugman,
I’ve just visited your website for the first time and thought that I’d submit a critter for identification.
I found these little red and black "beetle" looking critters on my Arbiacola plants out in the back yard in the shade. There were about 20 or so of them sort of hearded together. Later I went back and took this photo in hopes of identifying them. They’re poised on my Pentas that are near the Arbiacola plants and surrounded with ferns. These little bugs are about the size of the tip of my finger…not to big at all. I don’t believe them to be the typical "Lady Bug" though they do somewhat resemble them.
I really enjoyed my visit on your site….thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us "buggies" …you’ve got "buggies" instead of "groupies" 😉 I’m a musician.
They are not beetles, but True Bugs, Hemipterans. We couldn’t give you an exact identification, so I contacted Weiping at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. He wrote this reply: “Sorry to answer you late. The picture you attached should be immature Hemiptera. It is hard to identify the specimen in immature stage. Probably, you ask the sender to pay attention on the bugs. I am sure the adults should be coming soon.” I actually thought I might be able to give you something more concrete. There is a Family of True Bugs known as Red Bugs or Stainers, Pyrrhocoridae. They are described by Borror and Delong as “elongate oval bugs that are usually brightly marked with red and black. … They are phytophagous and gregarious.” In other words, they are ravenous plant pests. They are common in the South and it appears as though you are from Florida.
Letter 50 – Unknown Red True Bug from Borneo
Subject: Red insect from Borneo rainforest Sarawak
Location: Sarawak, Borneo
November 4, 2012 7:18 am
I shot this gorgeous insect recently in Sarawak, but sadly have no idea what it is. I do hope that you can help. This was shot in secondary forest, though near to primary forest at the end of the dry season. It was during the day.
Signature: louise murray
This is some species of True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, but we cannot determine the family based on the angle of your photo. We did find a matching photo, # 1566-1074713 on Superstock (scroll down), though we don’t trust the Boxelder Bug identification, though it might be in the same family Rhopalidae, the Plant Bugs.
Letter 51 – Giant Red Bug from India
Geographic location of the bug: Assam, India
Time: 06:11 AM EDT
Please identify the insect
How you want your letter signed: Don’t know
We believe we have correctly identified your insect as a female Giant Red Bug, Macrocheraia grandis, thanks to Insects in Indian Agroecosystems, and the site includes this nice image of a pair, with the female on the left. According to Revolvy: “The abdomen of the male is long and extends well beyond the wingtip.” Jungle Dragon also has a nice image and iNaturalist only has images of male Giant Red Bugs, a phenomenon that is consistent on the internet. Images of female Giant Red Bugs like the one you submitted are not as common.
Letter 52 – Probably Red Bugs or Bordered Plant Bugs from Singapore
Subject: Mating pair
May 18, 2014 3:01 am
I was wondering if you could help me with an ID for this mating pair. I found them in rainforest habitat on the trunk of a tree. They’d shuffle to the opposite side of the trunk when I approached them with my camera. They look like little mouse heads 🙂
Our first thought is that these might be mating Big Eyed Bugs in the family Geocoridae, based on images posted to BugGuide of North American species. We will try to get a second opinion. Do you by chance have an image that shows the antennae? That can often be a helpful identification feature. If we are correct, this is a new subcategory for our site.
Eric Eaton provides some input
Oh, lord, I have no idea. Maybe Rhopalidae for family? That is at best an educated guess. I really don’t do well outside of North America for most things.
I’ve attached another photo (and Flickr link) of the same pair but from a slightly different angle. You can see the antennae a bit better on the left bug. Let me know if this helps with your identification.
Thank you Daniel.
By the way you might want to bookmark this site below. It has IDs for a lot of South East Asia insects that you might encounter from whatsthatbug.com subscribers.
Letter 53 – Red Cotton Bug nymph
Subject: Greetings from Nepal
Location: Chitwan National Park, Nepal
January 23, 2014 7:39 pm
Bugman, my daughter Kryss Castle and I are at Machan Paradise Resort
in Chitwan National Park. Today on an early morning jungle walk we found a Red Cotton Bug. By the way, we also saw a one-horned Rhino just 30 feet away. But we know where your heart lies!
Thanks so much for submitting your lovely photograph. We researched Red Cotton Bug and discovered a photo on the Marc Anderson PHotography site, further identified as Dysdercus cingulatus, that was also taken in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, but we don’t believe that identification is entirely correct based on the images also identified as Dysdercus cingulatus on Csiro. We do believe your bug is also in the Red Bug or Stainer Family Pyrrhocoridae along with Dysdercus cingulatus, which is substantiated by the photo of your bug entitled “Infested” by Joe Hastings on FlickR. Continued research led us to a Red Cotton Bug on FlickR identified as Dysdercus koenigii, also from Chitwan National Park, Nepal and posted by Patrick. We found additional examples of Dysdercus koenigii on PBase and called a Red Cotton Bug or a Silk Cotton Bug. The Krishisewa Agriculture Information Hub of okra pests pictures an adult and nymph Red Cotton Bug, Dysdercus koenigii, and indicates: “Life-history: The eggs are laid in clusters of 80-100 in cracks of the soil or dry leaves near the plants. The nymphs hatch out in about 7 days and become adults in 40-85 days. The red coloured nymphs are marked by a row of 3 black spots in the middle of the abdomen and 3 white spots on either margin of it. Damage: Both nymphs and adults suck the leaf and fruit sap. The plants become weak and stunted, the leaves and fruits may curl up.” The black head on your individual does not appear on the nymph pictured on Krishisewa. Project Noah calls a similar looking bug the Cotton Stainer Bug, Dysdercus koenigii.
Letter 54 – Aggregation of Mediterranean Red Bugs
Subject: Help with bug ID
Location: San Diego county
November 4, 2014 7:28 am
Hi, I was wondering if you could help me ID these guys. I’m in San Diego county. They have been around for a couple of months but are starting to clump up like this now. They don’t seem to eat any plants that I care about, so I’m just curious.
This is an exotic, invasive, Mediterranean Red Bug, Scantius aegyptius, aggregation. According to The Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside: “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.”
Great to know. Thanks so much for your help. They haven’t caused any trouble, unlike the dreaded Bagrada bug that has been gobbling up all my crops.
Have a good night.
Those African Painted Bugs, Bagrada hilaris, are a big problem to California crops.
I have been covering all my fall brassicas with row cover and burying the edges completely with dirt to seal the tunnels. This seems to work to keep the Bagrada bugs away until the weather gets cold. A lot more work, but without doing that they devour everything.
Thanks again for your help. Glad the Mediterranean Red Bug isn’t interested in eating my crops too.
Letter 55 – Aggregation of Mediterranean Red Bugs
Subject: Cluster of Bugs
Geographic location of the bug: San Pedro, CA
Time: 01:30 AM EDT
I was walking my dog on a path by the ocean and noticed a large isolated collection of bright red bugs I don’t recall ever seeing in my life despite living in this general area all my life.
How you want your letter signed: curious dog walker
Dear curious dog walker,
These are Mediterranean Red Bugs, an invasive species that was recently introduced to Southern California. They generally get noticed when they form large aggregations of both adult and immature individuals.
Letter 56 – Aggregation of Red Bug Nymphs in Mexico
Subject: Red bug aggregation
Location: Lake Chapala, Mexico
November 8, 2014 10:12 am
I was hiking in the Sierra Travesaño north of Lake Chapala last spring. It was near the end of the dry season and there were many individuals and small aggregations of these red bugs along the trail (oak forest at about 6,000 ft). Do you know what they are?
Signature: J. Cross
Dear J. Cross,
We are not certain if you called these Red Bugs because of the color or if you actually realized that they are in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae. They appear to be immature nymphs, and immature specimens can be very difficult to identify conclusively.
Thanks for your quick reply. They looked a bit like aggregations of boxelder and red shoulder bugs from back East, but enough different that I wasn’t certain. I was pretty sure they were hemipterans, but I didn’t know there was a Red Bug family.
Letter 57 – Immature Red Bug from Mozambique
Subject: What is this thing?
July 7, 2016 9:42 pm
I was in Mozambique Africa June 10-15 this year and saw this bug. It was about 1/2 an inch long maybe more. We were driving from Tofo to Beliene and stopped on the side of the road. I thought it looked interesting and took a picture. Do you know what it might be?
Signature: – Liz
Our suspicion that this is an immature Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae was confirmed when we located this matching image on iNaturalist, but alas, it is not identified to the species level.
Letter 58 – Mating Pale Red Bugs from Panama
Subject: Panamese bugs
Location: Bastimentos, Panama
October 13, 2014 6:10 am
These two bugs were photographed in Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro province, Panama in february 2012.
Are they Disdercus species or do they belong to another Pyrrhocoridae genus or maybe Hypselonotus?
Thanks in advance for your advice.
Several years ago, we mistakenly identified Hypselonotus atratus as a Cotton Stainer, but in your case, we believe you really do have a Cotton Stainer or Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae. It looks very much like Dysdercus concinnus, which is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide, the Pale Red Bug ranges as far south as South America.
Letter 59 – Mediterranean Red Bug found in Mount Washington
Found scuttling across the back patio.
September 20, 2014
We identified this Red Bug on BugGuide as Scantius aegyptius. We will attempt to capture an image tomorrow.
Letter 60 – Pale Red Bug
Costa Rican beetle?
March 28, 2010
I found this bug in Costa Rica, although it was in a park that mirrors the various ecosystems in Costa Rica, so the exact location won’t be much help.
Costa Rica, San Jose, InBioParque
Hi Again Jenny,
Thank you so much for sending your identification requests individually. It makes it much easier for us to post responses and archive postings that way. This is not a beetle. This is a Pale Red Bug or Turk’s Cap Red Bug, Dysdercus concinnus. It is one of the Cotton Stainers. According to BugGuide: “Range Rio Grande Valley, Texas south to Columbia per Distant (1880-1893). Food Mallows, often on Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)“
Letter 61 – Pale Red Bugs Mating
Id help needed – pretty bugs!
November 21, 2009
I photographed these bugs on butterfly holiday in the USA in Nov 2006. There were seen at the Westlaco Valley Nature reserve in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas. As I live in England I don’t have any suitable field guides and wondered if someone can Id these for me.
This is a new species for our website, but we quickly identified your mating Pale Red Bugs or Turk’s Cap Bugs, Dysdercus concinnus, on BugGuide. The Rio Grande Valley in Texas is the northernmost reach of the range of the species which is found in Central America south to Columbia.
Letter 62 – Red Bug
red bug taking over my yard
October 10, 2009
This bug is invading my yard. They are multipiling like crazy. So far they are just eating weeds. But what happens when they run out. I have chickens they wont eat them, and for that reason Idont want to use poisons. I believe this is a new bug to this area and I think its going to take over.
Interestingly, these really are Red Bugs. The species, Scantius aegyptius, is not native, and according to BugGuide, has only been reported from California. It does not have a common name, but is in the family Pyrrhocoridae, the Red Bugs. The UC Riverside Website lists its origin as the Mediterranean. The UC Riverside Website states: “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. Reports of this insect from other southern California locations (i.e., Riverside County) suggest that this insect has been established for a year or more prior to these Orange County collections.” The website also indicates: “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.“
Letter 63 – Red Bug from India
Subject: I need help identifying this bug
Location: Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, north india
September 29, 2016 5:58 am
Hi bugman, I came across this tiny during my travels in north India. Could you please help me identify it? Thank you!!
Signature: With love
Letter 64 – Red Bug: Introduced species in California
Subject: Red bug on concrete
Location: Southern California
July 10, 2013 1:11 pm
What insect is this? I live in Southern Ca and its on my concrete.
This really is a Red Bug, Scantius aegyptius, a nonnative species originally reported in California in 2009. They seem to be spreading in the state.
Letter 65 – Cotton Stainer from South Africa is Welwitschia Bug
Subject: South African Bug
Location: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
March 7, 2013 12:24 am
We spotted this bug while on a walking safari in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe last September. The first image I’m uploading to you is the photo we took of the bug. Using Google Images, I found the second image which shows a mating pair of the bugs and was taken at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Many thanks!
Thank you for letting us know that only one of the photos was taken by you since we cannot post the other due to copyright infringement. Alas, we have already spent our allotted time updating the site this morning and we cannot do the research to try to identify your True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, but we will do further research later. In the meantime, perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide a species identification while we are off teaching and otherwise furthering the education of others.
Thank you, Daniel. It is helpful to know that the insect we photographed belongs to the suborder Heteroptera rather than the order Coleoptera. That helps to narrow my search which I will continue while waiting to hear more from you.
Update: March 9, 2013
Thanks to Cesar Crash because he pointed out that we already have an example in our archives of this Cotton Stainer, Odontopus sexpunctatus, which is commonly called the Welwitschia Bug according to Andy Cowley.
Letter 66 – Immature Cotton Stainers from India
Are these insects Beetles ?
January 3, 2010
I spotted these insects jointly gathered in
a backside of a small plant leaf.
Thane, Maharashtra, India
Dear Hari Iyer,
These are not beetles, but rather True Bugs in the order Hemiptera. They are immature specimens that will become winged adults. We are not certain of the species.
Update and Correction from Eric Eaton
January 9, 2010
The unknown immature true bugs from India are nymphs of “cotton stainers” in the genus Dysdercus, family Pyrrhocoridae. Nice pictures.
Letter 67 – Red Bug from Costa Rica
Subject: Bug/Beetle from Costa Rica
Location: Central Costa Rica
January 13, 2014 8:37 pm
can you ID this red-headed guy I photographed at night in Costa Rica? Thank you very much again!
Our initial attempts to identify this red headed True Bug did not prove successful, but it does remind us of a red headed Coreid Bug, Hypselonotus atratus, that we just posted. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck with this one.
Karl Provides an identification
Hi Daniel and Frank:
Coreid bugs nearly always have prominent ocelli, the simple eyes on the top of the head, and much denser wing venation. This is actually a Cotton Stainer or Red Bug (Pyrrhocoridae: Pyrrhocorinae), probably Dysdercus obscuratus. The species has a very wide distribution (Texas to Peru) and is highly variable in appearance. Here is one more image posted on flickr. Regards. Karl
Thank you so much, Daniel! Please forward my thanks to Karl, if you have the time.
just warning you Frank: I will be away for a week and not posting. Please don’t resume sending photos until January 22. Your photos are quite beautiful.
Thanks for the warning, Daniel! Have a good trip and you can count on getting more pictures from me after Jan. 22nd. You and your site are quite amazing!
January 21, 2014
bring them on.
Letter 68 – Cotton Stainers from Namibia
Location: Namibia, Southern Africa
November 20, 2011 2:29 pm
Can you please help identify these shield bugs. They are on the seed cone of Welwitschia mirabilis. The picture was taken at10.50a.m. on 19th April 2011 by the C39 roadside west of Khorixas in Namibia.April was unusually wet in Namibia.
Signature: Roger Pinkney.
We aren’t entirely convinced that these True Bugs are Shield Bugs. They may be in another Hemipteran family. We will try to determine their identity.
Thanks Karl. They aren’t very red for being a Red Bug.
Letter 69 – Mating Welwitschia Bugs from Namibia
Subject: Unknown bug in Africa, Namibia
Geographic location of the bug: Impalila Island, Namibia Coordinates: -17.7747615 25.1709266
Time: 07:44 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you identify this insect. I have searched for many hours and could not find a match on the web. See the photo.
It was photographed at this location: https://www.google.com/maps/
How you want your letter signed: Robert Zinn
These are mating Red Bugs in the family Pyrrhocoridae and we identified them as Welwitschia Bugs, Probergrothius angolensis, thanks to FlickR Hiveminer and Stanford EDU. The species is also pictured on iNaturalist.
It appears that this bug should really identified as Probergrothius sexpunctatus on your website. It is commonly misidentified as Probergrothius angolensis.
I base this on the content of the Naturalist site link you provided and the Similar Species tab on that page. You may want to correct your website entry.
Thank you for your time in identifying the bug.
Thanks for catching that Robert. We will also link to the iNaturalist page. We try our best to be as accurate as possible, and with DNA analysis becoming the latest tool for scientists to use in separating species, many changes are occurring in taxonomic classification. We have no entomological background, so many postings on our site likely contain identification errors. At least we had the genus correct and we were able to steer you in the direction of the identification you requested.
Letter 70 – Unknown Predatory Red Hemipteran Nymphs feeding on Imbrasia wahlbergi Caterpillar in South Africa
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.
Letter 71 – French Red Black Shieldbugs Mating
you might wish to put this one on your website of bug loves & lives. I capturerd these two in France, South of the town of Bergerac. Cheers,
If we didn’t have to go to work today to grade final projects, we would love to stay online until we identified your mating Hemipterans, but we decided to try anyways. A search of “red black striped hemipteran europe” took us to a PDF document on the Red-Black Shieldbug, Graphosoma lineatum.
Letter 72 – Immature Cotton Stainer
Found in the Everglades
August 8, 2009
Can you identify this bug? This photo was taken in July in the Florida Everglades. We see them occasionally on the plants but have not been able to identify it.
Dear Everglades adventurer,
This is an immature Cotton Stainer in the genus Dysdercus, most probably Dysdercus suturellus. You can see additional images on BugGuide.
Letter 73 – Immature True Bugs from South Africa might be Cotton Stainers
Subject: Red nymphs clustered? Which bug?
Geographic location of the bug: Waterberg, Limpopo, South Africa
Time: 05:32 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi there, we found this insects in our reserve at Lapalala Wilderness and would like to know which species to add it to our newsletter. However, we seem to struggle to find out and receive contradicting answers from different people. Maybe you can help?
How you want your letter signed: Anne
These are immature True Bugs and nymphs can be very difficult to identify with certainty. We believe these are immature Cotton Stainers in the family Pyrrhocoridae, but since there are no adults present, we cannot be certain. Members of the family are sometimes called Red Bugs.
Letter 74 – Mating Cotton Stainers
Sorry to hear your so swamped. But that means you’re very popular. Love the site, visit it regularly and have posted pic’s in the past. I have been through all the beetle pages and have not found one with the color pattern of the one included. If I did miss it sorry, at least it can be a picture for the bug love pages if nothing else. Picture taken Nov. 2, 2006 in Central Florida (Sebring). Thanks for providing a great web site.
The reason you could not locate these mating Cotton Stainers on the beetle pages is that they are Hemipterans, or True Bugs. Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus suturellus, are relatively common in the southern states and were once considered a significant agricultural pest on cotton before growing practices changed which controlled the numbers. The Cotton Stainer is also known as a Red Bug.
Letter 75 – Mating Cotton Stainers
I live in Fort Myers, Florida. Today I was at Caloosahatchie Regional Park and was photographing butterflies when I saw movement on a plant. When I zoomed in, I realized it was two insects, hooked together like Love Bugs do, but they had a lot more red on them than Love Bugs, and they had an interesting pattern on their backs. What bug is that? Thanks in advance,
These are mating Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus suturellus. BugGuide cites the University of Florida as the source of the explanation of the common name: “The feeding activities of cotton stainers on cotton produce a stain on the lint which reduces its value. A few authorities have reported the stain comes from excrement of the bugs. However, most have stated that the stain primarily is a result of the bug puncturing the seeds in the developing bolls causing a juice to exude that leaves an indelible stain. Feeding by puncturing flower buds or young cotton bolls usually causes reduction in size, or the fruiting body may abort and drop to the ground.”
Letter 76 – Mating Cotton Stainers
Subject: Please identify this insect
Location: Southeast Florida – Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge
December 26, 2012 12:36 pm
I photographed these 2 red insects (with black wings) at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Florida (Palm Beach County).
What are they?
Signature: Robert Goldman
These are very nice photos of mating Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus suturellus. According to BugGuide: “found on many plants, incl. cotton, hibiscus, oranges, etc” and it is a “a pest of cotton; ‘Feeding on the cotton bolls stains them an indelible yellow as plant sap seeps out of the puncture wound, and microorganisms and fungus grows at the site. The feeding habit also damages the fibres by cutting them, and affects the growth of the cotton boll.'”
Hey Daniel. Thank you for the very prompt reply to my request. Glad you like the photos. Interesting identification. We don’t have much of a cotton crop here in South Florida.
If you would like to see more of my work, I invite you to connect with my Blair Photography page at
Letter 77 – Mating Cotton Stainers
Subject: Bug that looks like it’s in a Marching Band
Geographic location of the bug: Clearwater Florida
Time: 03:08 PM EDT
Hi Bugman I shot this COOL! looking bug yesterday. It looks like it’s in a Marching Band Outfit. Would it be possible for you to identify for me? Thanks Again Very Much!
How you want your letter signed: Brent Hansen
Hi Bugman – Thanks Again Very Much!!! for your identification – It’s a really Cool looking bug. Have a Great Day! Brent
Letter 78 – Pale Cotton Stainer Nymph from Australia
Bug in Backyard
Location: Penrith, NSW Australia
April 3, 2011 12:12 am
I found a whole bunch (about 50-100) of these bugs on the wooded surround of my backyard water feature. Is this bug going to be a problem? How do i get rid of it? Should i get rid of it a certain way?
Signature: Thanks! Ben
This is an immature True Bug and many nymphs are difficult to distinguish from one another. Your insect has a strong resemblance to an immature Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus suturellus, a species found in North America and profiled on BugGuide. The Brisbane Insect Website indicates that a member of the genus is found in Australia, the Pale Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus sidae, but no photos of the nymph are pictured. Nymphs undergo five molts before becoming adults, and each, though similar to the previous, is slightly different. The immature Pale Cotton Stainer pictured on the Queensland Government website appears to be an earlier instar than the individual in your photograph, as the wingpads are smaller. A photo of an immature Pale Cotton Stainer that looks quite similar to your specimen can be seen on the Infonet-biovision webpage on Cotton pests by scrolling down the page. As we stated originally, immature True Bugs are difficult to positively identify, and this may be another member of the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae or even a member of a different family. Many True Bugs form large aggregations of immature as well as mature individuals, and they can get quite plentiful at times.
Letter 79 – Red Cotton Bug from India
Greetings from India !
I shot this tiny (about 1.5 cms) insect yesterday nar Bangalore City, South India. Whould you be able to identify it for me? regards,
This is a Red Cotton Bug, Dysdercus cingulatus. We located some information online, regarding this Hemipteran in the family Pyrrhocoridae, the Red Bugs.
very many thanks … do you encourage more queries like this? I plan to shoot a lot more macro this year and I am doing this for science and have no problem in anyone using the images for any non-commercial work .. regards
Letter 80 – Saint Andrew's Cotton Stainer
Caribbean, crawling, red body, white stripes with some black
May 5, 2010
We have never seen these insects, but this year, there are _thousands_ and seem to reproduce with no obvious predator. Some eat downed fruit from a large Seaside Mahoe tree (sometimes called a seaside hibiscus), others seem to be eating dead plant material (example: a small dead palm plant about 3 feet tall), but some are seemingly eating live plant leaves.
There seem to be two variants:
(A) one flatter one with a red body and a white “collar” and an “X” marking on the dorsal side. It almost looks like an old foot soldier uniform from the 18th century.
(B) a more rounded one with a red body and several white stripes.
Caribbean (Anguilla, British West Indies)
You have Saint Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Cysdercus andreae, both winged adults and wingless nymphs. The pair in the center of you one photo is mating. According to Bugguide: “The feeding activities of cotton stainers on cotton produce a stain on the lint which reduces its value. A few authorities have reported the stain comes from excrement of the bugs. However, most have stated that the stain primarily is a result of the bug puncturing the seeds in the developing bolls causing a juice to exude that leaves an indelible stain. Feeding by puncturing flower buds or young cotton bolls usually causes reduction in size, or the fruiting body may abort and drop to the ground. – University of Florida.“
Thank you! It’s a perfect answer, as we have a fruiting tree that dropped fruit. The stainers were all over the fruit, but also on a dead palm and some other _live_ plants. The live plants and the fact that these things can reproduce like crazy had us worried. (I have never seen so many end-to-end joined things before. They don’t have to work hard to pick up mates…)
Hopefully they have predators (birds, lizards, and (ahem) roaming wild chickens). if so I would assume they’d be controlled naturally. What _does_ eat them?
A great, great answer, in a fabulously short timeframe. Many thanks!
Letter 81 – Saint Andrews Cotton Stainer Bug
Tropical Assassin bug?
Greetings: Can you help with the Genus and species ID of these bugs? Photo taken near Nassau, Bahamas in October 2007. Thanks
This is the Saint Andrews Cotton Stainer Bug, Dysdercus andreae. It is not an Assassin Bug, but a True Bug in the Red Bug family Pyrrhocoridae.
Letter 82 – St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainer
Subject: Katydid Question
Location: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
March 2, 2014 6:23 pm
Just have a few bug questions. Wondering what these are, theres a katydid, a spider and a pile of these cool red beetles. Common name and genuis-species would be nice too if possible. Thanks!
We were surprised that we received two identification requests from the British Virgin Islands on the same day, and we can’t help but to wonder if there was some local publicity that led you to our site. For the purposes of organizing our archives, we like for each posting to contain a single species, or if there are multiple species, for them to be classified similarly. For that reason we are only posting your “cool red beetles” which are actually St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae, a species of Red Bug in the family Pyrrhocoridae and classified as True Bugs and not Beetles. There are several mating pairs evident in your photo. See BugGuide for verification of our identification. Please resend your other identification requests individually using our standard submission form by clicking the Ask What’s That Bug? link and please provide any important background information on the sightings.
Letter 83 – St. Andrew's Cotton Stainer from the Virgin Islands
Virgin Island’s Bug
Location: Virgin Island
July 26, 2010 9:58 pm
Found these while on a trip to the Virgin Islands. The only name we found from a local was ’love bugs.’ I can only assume given by their orgy like piles. I was wondering what these little guys were. They had such a beautiful color I had to photograph.
In a side note, I live in southern Ohio and get all sorts of bugs inside. I hate the idea of using chemicals to kill them. Do you have any suggestions for deterrents for your common bugs? I once heard crab apples worked on spiders?
The winged adults and wingless nymphs of many True Bugs, including the St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae, in your photo form large aggregations. Though mating does occur in these situations, the aggregations are thought to help the survival of the species because of the safety in numbers syndrome. We have heard that folks in Ohio use ripe Osage Oranges to deter insects, but we cannot confirm that it works.