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Non-native Mating Red Bugs in California - Scantius aegyptius

Non-native Mating Red Bugs in California - Scantius aegyptius
Webb Canyon , ~2000 ft. altitude, Los Angeles County, California, USA
July 4, 2009
My neighbor told me she had been seeing these pretty "ladybugs" which were all red with a black hourglass pattern crawling out of a patch of ground behind her house. I told her they were most likely Small Milkweed Bug, as this is a very common bug on our property. When I stopped by the next day to check them out, I was quite shocked to find something entirely new for me. I was even more surprised when I saw Peter Bryant's post later that night. I will confess that at first I really thought that they were rhyparochromids of some kind and also that my population was slightly different in color and pattern. However, Peter's images have gone on to be correctly identified as the pyrrhocorid Scantius aegyptius and I now believe that is what I have photographed as well. My initial confusion stemmed from the fact that most of the images I took were of this pair of mating adults and (as can be seen in this photo) the black wings are missing on one, giving it a much redder appearance overall.

Peter found his population "feeding on seeds of Malva in an otherwise very dry habitat; often retreating into cracks in the ground". On my property, the location was a dry area of ground adjacent to a horse pasture where there used to be a large number of cheeseweed plants (Malva sp.) growing, before the area was weed-whacked due to brush abatement policies. I observed and photographed a small number of mating adults and juveniles attempting to stay hidden from the searing midday sun by taking shelter under the remnants of what I believe was a Mustard plant.

Peter's images are certainly of much higher quality than mine, but I'm posting these images in hopes of getting verification for the species ID, and also to add the record of their existence in Los Angeles County, as the arrival of this exotic to the U.S. is apparently very recent.

Please also see these related posts:

Moved from Scantius aegyptius.

Moved from True Bugs.

ID confirmed by Dr. Rosser W. Garrison via e-mail.

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