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.
Russell Brown
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

Aggregation of St. Andrew's Cotton Stainers
Aggregation of St. Andrew's Cotton Stainers

Dear Russell,
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.

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