What Do Firebugs Eat? Fiery Red Bugs Who Suck on Treeparts

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Firebugs are native to Europe, but they have recently made America their home. If you see one, you might wonder what do firebugs eat? We answer all your questions below.

European firebugs, also known as Pyrrocohoris apterus, are tiny red bugs native to Europe.

They are also found in parts of Siberia, Mongolia, India, China, and Salt Lake City in Utah. 

These red firebugs, sized between ¼ – ½ inches, mainly feed on seeds, especially seeds of mallow and linden plants. 

What Do Firebugs Eat
Firebug

What Are They?

Red firebugs are tiny bugs from the family Pyrrhocoridae, recognized by their bright red color and a black spotty pattern on their bodies and wings. 

Firebugs mature from eggs to nymphs to an adult through a simple metamorphosis.

Adult firebugs typically live for a year, but some can live up to two years. 

Female adult firebugs generally are slightly longer and wider than their male counterparts and lay around 40-80 eggs in their lifetime. 

Even though they start mating as early as within a week of emerging from their eggs, the female only lays eggs the following year.

This means firebugs have only one generation per year.  

What Do They Eat?

The firebug population primarily feeds on seeds from lime or linden and mallow trees. 

Like other bugs, these little creatures can also pierce and suck on the juice from their host through a stylet. 

They often gather in groups on plants, trees, and under leaf litter. 

What Eats Them?

The distinctly bright coloration of these firebugs may have resulted from evolution to avoid predators. It is known as aposematism, and other insects, such as ladybugs, also exhibit the same characteristics.

The red color of their bodies warns the predators to avoid attacking these tiny bugs.

However, despite this, red firebugs have a lot of predators in birds, mammals, amphibians, ants, and mites. 

Where Are They Found in North America?

In North America, they are found in Salt lake City, Utah. Though red firebugs are native to Europe, they first appeared in Utah around 2008. 

They arrived in Canada sometime around 2017. It’s possible they got transported with plant material from Europe or Asia. Since then, their population has been increasing.

However, it’s not a cause for concern because these are harmless pests and are not likely to attack or destroy local ecosystems. 

They also don’t host any kind of diseases. They mainly feed on seeds, have one generation per year, and have predators like birds, ants, etc. This makes the firebugs harmless insects. 

Are They Dangerous? 

Again, firebugs are not dangerous. Even though there have been some reports of predation on other insects, they are generally not known to attack humans or animals. 

They are tiny red and black insects that feed on seeds of lime and mallow trees. They also do not attack live plants, making them no risk to gardens or local ecosystems. 

Getting Rid of Them  

You can employ a few remedies to get rid of the red firebugs. Since these are true bugs, they can tolerate a lot of chemical insecticides. 

Instead, you can try drowning them by regularly spraying your garden with water. Most young bugs will quickly drown. 

Secondly, you can try spraying soapy water on these bugs. You can mix dishwashing liquid with water and directly spray it. It won’t have any residual effect once dry, but it will kill the bugs you sprayed on. 

You can seal and pack corners and cracks to prevent these bugs from entering your home. However, if they do enter, you can also vacuum them to get rid of them. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do firebugs eat grass?

Firebugs are known to feed on seeds and plants of mallow and lime. They can also suck juices from plants. 
There haven’t been any specific reports of firebugs feeding on grass. They only gather in grass or under leaves to avoid direct sun and seek shade.

Are red fire bugs harmful?

Red fire bugs are not harmful because neither do they bite humans or animals nor do they destroy gardens or ecosystems. 
They are just nuisance pests because they gather in large numbers under leaves or in the grass.

What do fire bugs eat?

Firebugs feed on the seeds of lime or linden and mallow plants. They also have a stylet, like other insects to suck juices from the plants. 
Even though there have been reports of predation on other insects, they aren’t bugs that attack or feed on other humans, animals, or live plants.

Can fire bugs bite?

No, fire bugs do not bite or attack. They are a nuisance pest because of their numbers. But they do not bite or sting or transmit any disease. 
Nor do they feed on plants and destroy ecosystems. They are actually no danger to humans at all, except for their nuisance.

Wrap Up 

Red firebugs, native to Europe and various parts of Asia, are now also found in North America and Canada. 

These striking red and black insects feed on seeds of lime and mallow plants and do not pose any risk to any local ecosystem. 

Thank you for reading.

Reader Emails

Fascinating firebugs have been a constant on our forums ever since they started showing up in the US. Many of our readers have reached out to us to understand what this bug is, what it does, what it eats, and more.

Here are a few samples – some alarmed, others just interested to know about these bugs. Do go through them!

Reader Emails

4713

Letter 1 – Mating Firebugs

 

Bug Love Hi Bugman! Thanks for the link 🙂 Here, as promised, some more pictures. This happened in front of my front door… I tried to locate that other bug species, but so far, I did not find the pics. I’ll let you know! Kind regards Jens Hi Jens, We love your photo of mating Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, a common species in continental Europe.

Letter 2 – Mating Fire Bugs from Belgium

 

Beetles in Brussels Our garden in Brussels, Belgium is full of these beetles. Can you tell us what they are? Thanks. Mike Hi Mike, These are not beetles. They are mating Fire Bugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus.

Letter 3 – Mating Firebugs in the Ukraine

 

Subject: Ukrainian Beetle Location: 150km south of Kiev, Ukraine August 2, 2012 6:21 am Saw lots and lots of these on a recent (July) trip to Ukraine, obviously during mating season! My dad thinks it is some sort of tiger beetle, but only having books of UK beetles, we are unable to get any closer in our identification. Signature: Thank you! Mel
Mating Firebugs
Hi Mel, These are mating Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, and they are True Bugs, not Beetles.  They are very rare in the UK, but the British Bugs website does have a page devoted to Firebugs. Thanks very much for such a prompt reply! Out of 350,000 species in the world, you nailed it in a few hours! Regards, Mel

Letter 4 – Nymph from Cyprus: Spilostethus pandurus

 

Subject: Bug identification Location: Northern Cyprus April 24, 2014 11:58 pm We are having an infestation of red bugs here in Cyprus, they range from small to about 10mm in length, any idea thank you. Des Roberts Signature: Des
Immature Red Bug, we believe
Immature Red Bug, we believe
Hi Des, We found a matching image on a Natural History Museum forum, but it is identified as a Seed Bug in the genus Lygaeus, and we don’t agree with that.  We believe this is an immature Red Bug or Firebug in the family Pyrrocoridae, and this image from Cyprus on FlickR has a few nymphs that look very similar to the one in your image.  Maybe Curious Girl who is a frequent contributor to our site can provide some information. Update:  April 29, 2014 Curious girl provided a lenghty comment that ended in the identification of Spilostethus pandurus.  See this FlickR image of a nymph.  It is in the Seed Bug family Lygaeidae.  See image of adult here.

Letter 5 – Mating Firebugs from Spain

 

Subject: Red beetle Location: Ayora, Valencia, Spain September 10, 2015 5:15 am Please can you tell me about this bug, we now have thousands of them around our fruit and veg plants. The plants are not doing very well. Signature: JANET
Mating Firebugs
Mating Firebugs
Dear JANET, These are Firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, and though you have cropped out one individual in your image, you have captured a mating pair, which helps to explain the large aggregation you are experiencing.  See NatureWatch where it states:  “They are frequently observed to form aggregations, especially as immature forms, with from tens to perhaps a hundred individuals.” Wow,  Big thank you Daniel for getting back to me with an answer to “what is my Bug?” So quickly.    I had spent many hours looking on the internet trying to identify my growing population of red bugs, with no joy.  At least now, I know, it is not a beetle and I am sure it is what is eating all my fruits and veg.  Regards Janet

Reader Emails

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 – Mating Fire Bugs

 

whats this bug? Hello Guys, Great to find your site as I have a find the bug question! We have recently been to France where our parents have bought a house, they are keen gardeners and have found the bugs attached all over the place! There are two pics one of the bugs in normal state but also one of them I suspect mating! Really the ground in certain areas appears to be moving where there are so many! Due to the number of them I suspect they are similar to the lady birds we have in England but would like to know if they are helpful to the garden as well as the name etc. Thanks for your help on this, I look forward to hearing from you. Regards Kate Mills Hi Kate, Nice photo of mating Fire Bugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, a common species in continental Europe.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Firebugs

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Curious Girl
    April 29, 2014 3:24 pm

    Well, lol… this is so funny for me seeing my name on several levels. For one I sent you a picture a couple weeks ago requesting help with the ID of what I thought were the newly hatched babies of this particular bug — however, now I think those were shield bug babies — but heard nothing so thought perhaps you were tired of my contributions. I guess if I am the Cypriot expert then I am not able to count on you for this one. :^)

    The second reason this is so funny is that the adult of this bug is indeed the first bug I took a picture of in Cyprus last year and the picture turned out so well I was inspired to take more and more even returning to Cyprus to take still more. And I thought they were Box Elder bugs at first, then Fire bugs, then Milkweed bugs.

    And indeed I have pictures of many stages of this species (mostly from this year). It is not a Fire bug. Those are indeed all over Cyprus too but are about half the size, maybe even smaller, than this species (in fact the adult Firebug is smaller than the instar of this stage in the picture above). Be assured there are many different kinds of true bugs here, including the look-a-like to the firebug, Rhopalidae; Corizus hyoscyami, and many of them are very interesting in their coloring and patterns. I saw several today, including of all the above. Indeed there is a version that seems to live on Oleander (Caenocoris nerii). These are all very much Mediterranean/Middle Eastern.

    It would be nice to know too which area of Cyprus the picture above is from as I am in North Cyprus myself at the moment.

    However, these bugs (including the Fire and Corizus hyoscyami) seem to be all over the island in great numbers (though it seemed as if there was even more last year). A Greek Cypriot who saw a picture of one I took much like the one above told me that in Greek they have a name opposite of “Ladybug” as in “Gentleman bug” or similar (I guess because it looks like a fancy tuxedo suit). I will have to ask again.

    Anyway, this is Spilostethus pandurus ground bug and the instars do not much look like the adults. The adults fly around from place to place looking like large red bees. I had one buzz me in the face in Karpaz near the monastery on the tip of the island. But, they are harmless and do not seem to do much damage to plants either. Unlike many of the other species mentioned above though, the adults do not seem to hang out with the younger generations.

    So that’s what I know. Thanks for inspiring me to search out and learn more.

    Reply
    • Wow. Thanks so much Curious Girl. We need to hunt up a few links an update the posting.

      Reply
    • If you are able, can you send that image of the adult since it is not represented on our site? Seems photos of nymphs are rather scarce on the internet.
      P.S. We will also check our mail for the image you indicate we overlooked.

      Reply

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