Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Summer/fall 2011, yet another drought, but still: Red-shouldered bugs!

I know it’s considered bad blogging form to apologize for a lapse in posts, but there was yet another summer/fall drought, and I kept waiting for it to end but it never did. It stopped raining. No rain = hardly any mushrooms. I lost my momentum. I kept hiking anyhow...

I even got a message from a Flickr mushroom/nature contact in Australia who noticed I hadn’t been uploading anything—she thought something had happened to me! I only know her from Flickr!

“Hello, I hope you don't mind me sending you this flickrmail... actually I'm just wondering where you are? You haven't posted anything since last October, and I hope you're ok and not terribly ill or anything. So anyway, happy new year, I hope we see you back again soon.”
Well, the past is the past, so let’s just jump back in the game! Get a load of THIS!

Red-shouldered bug on Goldenrain tree seed
Red-shouldered bug on goldenrain tree seed, late August
I was working on campus, and these bugs were all over the building and walkways for days and days. Tiny fat nymphs, breeding pairs, and everything in between, all around some goldenrain trees. At first I thought they were “just” box elder bugs, but it finally sunk in that they didn’t quite match. So I started bringing my camera in, got some photos, and did a proper ID check.

(Hi—there’s a lot of fun detail that shows up when you view these images larger, by clicking on them...)
Red-shouldered bug horiz crop
Above, Jadera haematoloma, nymphs and instars, all over Koelreuteria paniculata, just like they say they do.

They were crazy for the seeds, very active, and when disturbed (like when I suddenly loomed over them with my camera), they only ran off for a few seconds before hurrying back to eat more.

Red-shouldered bugs on goldenrain tree seedpod Red-shouldered bugs on crushed seed

So, in the course of learning about these bugs, I found out about goldenrain trees too, because just about every reference mentioned them in relation to the red-shouldered bugs, and I didn't know what tree it was anyway when I was picking up the 3-lobed seed pods and saying, “What the heck are these.” The trees are not native, they’re from Northern China, Japan & Korea, have “invasive potential”, introduced in the early 1800’s, Thomas Jefferson, blah blah.

Anyway these Red-shouldered bugs really go for goldenrain trees, and even though there can be seemingly-huge populations of them, no sources mentioned they do much actual damage. They feed on the fruits of lots of other trees, too.

Incidentally, I saw tiny white spikes on some of the seeds, which I would guess was some type of fungus...

Many red bug nymphs on seed
Above, a whole bunch of plump little nymphs on a goldenrain tree seed.

Below, more and more. I just thought they were awfully photogenic, creating really great compositions as they went about their lives.

Red-shouldered bug nymph and instars
Red-shouldered bugs on seed
If there’s tons of them around somebody’s house and there's little kids running around, and some of the bugs get squished, it can alarm parents who wonder what the heck all that red stuff is all over their kids! But they are harmless.

red-shouldered bugs on crushed goldenrain tree seed
I like the image above because you can see the insides of that one on the left! No idea what organ that is. If there’s any entomologists out there, please speak up! Really, click to view large, it's worth it.

Below, fat little nymphs and a breeding pair! Everything at once!

Red-shouldered bug nymphs and adult on seed

And finally, below, a Magritte-like composition, moody and surreal.

Seed  and bug shadows

All this just goes to show that there are fascinating tiny things everywhere.
And I will find them, and eventually show you.


  1. Cool! Thanks for sharing.
    I, too, was wondering what happened to you. We've had a ton of rain and more in the forecast. :-)

  2. Very interesting, I love it when you find out something new and then share it with us... thanks

  3. love those red bug images a lot, and i wasn't scared even once!