The firebug ( Pyrrhocoris apterus ) is a native species of bug, the name of which comes from its bright red shield. In spring, when the sun shines longer again, large numbers of the firebugs come out of their burrows in the ground (usually under leaves or pieces of bark) to wake up from their winter dormancy on warmed-up places such as stones or tree trunks.
Firebugs: harmful, dangerous, or poisonous?
Firebugs rarely have natural enemies. With birds, they are at the bottom of the menu because they have a very bitter taste and their warning color also indicates that they want to be left alone.
The animals are not poisonous and do not spray any caustic liquids. If you touch them, however, they can give off a foul-smelling secretion in case of danger.
They ingest their food in liquid form through a proboscis. For food intake, their proboscis bores a hole in the shell of fallen seeds or fruits, leaving behind a decomposing secretion and then sucking in the resulting nutrient-rich juice.
Firebugs prefer the linden ( Tilia ) and mallow family (Malvaceae), especially hollyhocks ( Alcea rosea ) and the shrub marshmallow ( Hibiscus syriacus ). But dead insects are also occasionally used as a source of food.
In general, firebugs are not considered a threat to plant health. With a particularly high incidence of the fiery red annoyance, however, it can lead to increased damage to the buds of your beloved rose plants. That usually remains – thank God – but the exception.
Firebugs in the garden: fight or not?
There is usually no need to fight firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus). They cannot sting people and there is no other danger from them. Only if you touch and irritate them, but they remove the foul-smelling secretion.
If individual firebugs get lost in the house, it is easy to catch them with a piece of paper and an upturned glass and to carry them out again.
Often, however, they appear in large numbers, which can be quite annoying in the long run (they are therefore sometimes referred to as “nuisances”). If, for example, they gather on house walls or on terraces on sunny days or besieging entire bushes in the garden, then you might want to break up such a “gathering” from time to time.
The use of chemical agents or natural contact insecticides is still not recommended. If you try to get rid of firebugs with the help of chemicals, you also endanger other beneficial insects in the garden.
A natural but effective means of fighting firebugs is a mixture of half a liter of water and one to two tablespoons of dish soap. Both are put in a spray bottle. The nests or collections are sprayed with it so that the animals perish within a short time. But even this “home remedy” must be used carefully and purposefully.
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If you want to spare the animals, but still want to compliment them from your garden, then only a broom and dustpan and a place far away from the garden will help. However, if there are mallow trees (Malvaceae ) and linden trees ( Tilia ) in your garden, you will almost certainly be visited by firebugs again soon.
Firebugs: profile of an important insect
The firebug ( Pyrrhocoris apterus ) is a native species of bug. It is distributed almost everywhere in Europe and also in large parts of Asia with over 300 species.
It is popularly referred to as a cobbler or fire beetle, although it is actually not a beetle. Its distinctive color, consisting of a bright red shield with a black pattern and a blackhead, probably gave it its name.
Your body reaches a length of up to 12 millimeters. Firebugs feed on seeds (preferably linden ( tilia ) seeds). Your mouth tool is a proboscis with which you pierce the seeds, release a decomposing secretion, and then suck out the juice. Other dead insects are also on their menu.
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The firebugs hibernate protected on the ground under stones, bark, or leaves. On warm and sunny spring days from mid-March, they come out of their winter quarters and come together in large groups. Usually, mating takes place in April and May. Copulation can take several hours to days. A female firebug mates with several males. The males try to prolong the copulation period as long as possible so that no competitor can mate with the same female afterward. That is why you can often see two firebugs hanging together for a seemingly endless time.
Shortly after mating, the females lay between 60 and 80 eggs under stones or leaves. The hatched larvae molt five times until they are fully grown. Only one new generation is trained each year, with an average lifespan of 14 months. If the temperatures drop to -15 ° C or even below in very cold winters, many animals do not survive.