True Bugs

The Red-shouldered Bug

Red-shouldered bugs actually have red shoulders!

An afternoon walk usually involves having my “nose to the ground” checking for any interesting insect activity.

This particular bug was very lucky I was looking down or it may have been stepped on…it´s little life cut short by a size 8 sneaker!

The first thing I noticed was its beautiful coloring of bluish-black wings with red markings and red eyes.

Red-shouldered Bug vs. the Box Elder Bug

Red-shouldered Bug (Jadera haematoloma)

Red-shouldered Bug (Jadera haematoloma)

I thought I had come upon a Box Elder bug but after a bit of research, I realized this fellow was a Red-shouldered bug.

Box Elders have orange-red coloring along the edges of their wings whereas the Red-shouldered bug has red on its shoulders, its eyes, and under its wings.

You can really see the beautiful red coloring on female Red-shouldered bugs because they have shorter wings than the males and red behinds.

On average, females are larger than the males. Both bugs do not bite people. Unlike the Red-shouldered bug, the Box Elder produces an unpleasant odor when crushed.

Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata)

Box Elder Bug (Boisea trivittata)

Female Red-shouldered Bug

Red-shouldered Bug – Female

What is a True Bug?

Both Box Elder and Red-shouldered bugs are considered by Entomologist to be “true bugs.”

So what is a “true” bug? And if there are “true” bugs, does that mean there are “false” bugs? Well,maybe……………… ….. “all bugs are insects but not all insects are bugs.” The main difference between an insect and a bug is in their mouth.

Red-shouldered bug eating a fallen berry from a prive hedge

Red-shouldered bug eating a fallen berry from a privet hedge

(Notice the long proboscis – mouth part)

True Bugs are of the order Hemitera which share a common arrangement of sucking mouth parts.

Hemiptera comes from the Greek words hemi, meaning half, and pteron, meaning wing.

The wings of true bugs are hard near the base and membranous near the ends, giving the appearance of a half wing.

Check out this Gif image of a Red-shouldered bug:

Hemiptera also includes cicadas, aphids, hoppers, water bugs and yes, bed bugs! These are true bugs because they are able to suck using a mouth part called the proboscis. Most suck juices from seeds, fruits, and plants but *bed bugs feed on animals, which also includes humans!

Male Red-shouldered Bug

Red-shouldered Bug – Male (Note the longer wings)

Red-shouldered Bug A.K.A. Golden Raintree Bug

Another name for the Red-shouldered bug is “Golden Raintree Bug,” since it favors the leaves, stems, and developing seeds of the Golden Rain Tree.

Adults will overwinter inside the home by entering in through cracks and crevices. Come spring, when the weather gets warm, the female lays her eggs outside, near a tree or shrub (host).

Female and male Red-shouldered bugs mating

Female Red-shoulder bug (top) and male (bottom) mating.

These bugs can be seen along hedges such as a privet hedge and on sidewalks nearby, eating fallen berries or mating.

The Mating Ritual of the Red-Shouldered Bug

Watching Red Shouldered Bugs mate can be amusing; with seemingly no regard to privacy (or possible size 8 sneakers).

These two bugs connect their rears and walk forward and backward, taking turns leading one another. Females then deposit their eggs by a shrub or tree.

The nymphs are hatched completely red and grow into various stages over the summer until they obtain their blue-black wings.

Male and Female Red-shouldered nymphs mating back to back

Male Red-shouldered bug taking his turn to lead in the mating ritual.

Red-shouldered bugs are sometimes called “scentless plant bugs” because they don´t smell like stink bugs or other types of bugs.

If trapped indoors, these bugs can leave fecal matter which may stain walls, draperies, and furniture.

Newly hatched Red-shouldered nymph

Young Red-shouldered Bug Nymph

Feeding Young Red-Shouldered Bug Nymphs

Even Red-shouldered nymphs have the special mouth part that allows them to suck juices from plants, seeds, and fruits.

Both adults and nymphs cause little damage to the host; the only real evidence seen from their feeding activities is in the scarring or dimpling of fruit.

Older Red-shouldered nymph

Older Red-shouldered nymph has the beginning of its wings.

Red-shouldered bugs live throughout the United States and northern South America.

They adapt readily to feed on different hosts (plants or trees) depending on what grows in that particular part of the country.

Look for adults and nymphs this spring and summer meandering back and forth on the sidewalk – and watch your step!

Article and Photos by Donna Walker

* Bed bugs have become a real problem for travelers; many hotels are infested with them. For more information, please visit our page on Bed Bugs.

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