Pyrrhocoris apterus Heteroptera:Pyrrhocoridae Fire Bug

Fire Bug picture 1 Fire Bug picture 2 C.I. distribution

Pyrrhocoris apterus distribution

This insect has been known for over 150 years in Guernsey. However, for much of this time it appeared only sporadically. The population has increased greatly in the last decade and it is now one of the commonest bugs in the island. It is a bug (Hemiptera:Heteroptera), distinguished from a beetle (Coleoptera) by its sucking mouth parts and its development where a baby bug hatches from the egg. Beetles have larval and pupal stages in their life history.

The Fire Bug eats the seeds of Lime trees and of Mallow species and can be found throughout the year in clusters under these plants or running over the ground. Sometimes it eats the seeds of other plants, presumably when the population is high and mallow seeds are scarce. The first picture shows it eating ragwort seeds. In spite of its latin name which means "wingless fire bug" winged individuals that can fly are occasionally found. In England this species is only regularly found on one small island, the Oarstone, off Torquay, though a population was found recently in Sussex.
The lack of records from Jersey in the map is probably due to under-recording. There is a 19th century record from Herm, but it has not been found in Sark or Alderney.

Other similar red and black species

It Guernsey it can be confused with another red and black bug of about the same size and shape Corizus hyoscyami, with the differently shaped shield bug Eurydema ornata and with the much smaller non-British Hovarthiolus superbus. In N.W. France there are various other red and black bugs including Melanocoryphus albopunctatus, Lygaeus equestris and Graphosoma lineatum. Pictures of all these are here which should help in the recognition of these species.

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