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!