Fire bugs – also known as Pyrrhocoris apterus – are a group of insects that are often mistaken for dangerous because of their bright red color. In this article, we’ll clarify the truth about fire bugs – not fire beetles, as they’re also often called: are they actually a nuisance or even beneficial? 

What are fire bugs? 

Fire bugs are a group of insects found in many parts of the world. They are usually between one to two inches long and have a bright red color that may be patterned with black or dark spots. Although they may look threatening at first glance, fire bugs are harmless to humans. They are usually herbivores and feed on flowers, fruits and seeds. In some cases, they may also eat small insects and mites. With this, they virtually clean up your garden and are more industrious than you might think! 

Can fire bugs bite? 

One myth about fire bugs is that they can bite. While they are able to sting with their mouthparts to suck plant juices, they are not aggressive insects and will rarely attempt to sting humans. However, if accidentally touched or squeezed, they can secrete an unpleasant secretion. This has a strong, unpleasant aroma, but is not poisonous or dangerous. 

The benefits 

These little crawlers play an important role in our ecosystem by serving as pollinators and herbivores. They also help keep pests at bay by attracting beneficial insects like spiders and ladybugs. These then help reduce populations of harmful insects. Fire bugs can also serve as an indicator of environmental conditions. They are very sensitive to changes in the environment and can serve as a sign that something is wrong with the ecosystem. For example, if the population of fire bugs in your garden suddenly decreases, it may indicate that there is a problem with the air or water quality. 

Fire bugs aren’t ruining your garden! 

Fire bugs have a varied diet. Although they occasionally suck on insect eggs and dead insects, their main food source is dead flower debris and falling seeds. They live primarily on the ground but can also be found in the herb layer or on tree trunks. Fire bugs prefer certain plants such as linden and mallow, especially hollyhocks and the shrub marshmallow. However, they do not usually destroy flowers and plants in the process! 

Relocate the little bugs 

Even though they are not harmful, too many fire bugs can be perceived as a bit of a nuisance. If you want to relocate the bugs, you have the following options: 

  • Collect the little critters in a bucket and release the population in another location.
  • The bugs feel especially comfortable in corners and cracks. If you want them to leave your patio, simply place a pile of wood in another corner of the garden.
  • Spread chipped wood or brushwood from the balsam fir as a mulch material around the garden in areas where the insects usually cluster in the spring.
  • Best of all, just let the fire bug live its life in your beautiful garden in peace! It won’t hurt anyone, and, by the way, it will keep your lawn clean.