Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


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Compiler and date details

15 February 2002


The Pyrrhocoridae or cotton stainers are a cosmopolitan family of pentatomomorphan bugs including about 33 genera and over 340 species (Schaefer & Ahmad 2000, Henry 2009). They are most diverse in the tropics and subtropics, with only a few species in the temperate regions of the world. The Pyrrhocoridae are represented in the Australian fauna by three genera, 11 species and eight subspecies.

Amyot & Serville (1843) first established the Pyrrhocoridae as a family-group. Stål (1870, 1874) included the Largidae as a subfamily within the Pyrrhocoridae, an arrangement which has received some support (Hussey 1929, Schmidt 1932, Stonedahl & Dolling 1991). Most recent workers now regard the Pyrrhocoridae and Largidae as distinct families (China 1954, Slater 1982, Carver et al. 1991, Schuh & Slater 1995). No subfamilial or tribal classification of the Pyrrhocoridae has acceptance. We follow no suprageneric classification in the Catalogue.

Lethierry & Severin (1894), Bergroth (1913) and Hussey (1929) catalogued the Pyrrhocoridae of the world. Regional catalogues include: Blöte (1931; various regions), Froeschner (1981; Ecuador, 2000; Panama), Henry (1988; Nearctic Region) and Kerzher (2001; Palaearctic region) Beccari & Gerini (1970) provided a catalogue of the genus Dysdercus. Regional taxonomic works include: Ahmad & Abbas (1986, 1987, 1994; India and Pakistan), Ahmad & Parveen (1990; India, Pakistan), Schaefer (1998; Brazil, 1999; Oriental Region) and Stehlik & Kerzhner (1999; Palaearctic and Oriental Regions).

Freeman (1947) revised the Old World species of Dysdercus Boisduval, including the description of the Australian species. Van Doesburg (1968) revised the New World species of Dysdercus Stehlik (1965) erected subgenera within Dysdercus, and these are utilised in the Catalogue.

Dysdercus is represented in Australia by five species, most of which are found in tropical Queensland or the Northern Territory. Dysdercus (Megadysdercus) Breddin is represented by two species: D. arillaceus Breddin and D. decussatus Boisduval; both occur in northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea, and the latter species extends through the Oriental Region and into China. Dysdercus (Paradysdercus) Stehlik is represented by three species, and D. (Paradysdercus) longiceps Breddin is endemic to northern tropical Australia. The pest species D. cingulatus (Fabricius) and D. sidae Montrouzier, each represented in Australia by the nominotypical subspecies, are mostly confined to tropical Australia, as well as occurring in Melanesia and the Oriental Region. Dysdercus sidae sidae Montrouzier also occurs in temperate eastern Australia. The two other subspecies, D. sidae australiensis Stehlik and D. sidae biguttatus (Walker), are endemic to Australia.

Dindymus Stål includes five described species in Australia, which are mostly confined to eastern Australia. Dindymus versicolor (Herrich-Schaeffer) is also found in South Australia and Tasmania. Dindymus circumcinctus Stål, D. minutus Blöte and D. pectoralis Schmidt are endemic to Australia. The other two Australian Dindymus species, D. ventralis Mayr and D. versicolor (Herrich-Schaeffer), are also found in the Philippines and New Zealand respectively.

Syncrotus Bergroth is represented by one species from tropical Queensland and is also known in Melanesia. This species is rare in collections. Lygaeus fuscipennis Guérin is of uncertain position within the family.

The Australian fauna requires taxonomic attention. Stehlik's (1965) description of Dysdercus sidae australiensis is the most recent addition to the literature.

Ahmad & Schaefer (1987), Schaefer & Ahmad (2000) and Schuh & Slater (1995) reviewed the biology of the family. Pyrrhocorids are primarily granivorous or fructivorous (Slater 1982). The majority of species are found on low plants. A few species in the Eastern Hemisphere are ground-dwelling and are thought to feed on fallen mature seeds. Schaefer & Ahmad (2000) speculated that the epigaeic habit is the plesiomorphic condition for the Pyrrhocoridae.

Carnivory has been recorded in the Pyrrhocoridae (Ahmad & Schaefer 1987, Schaefer & Ahmad 2000). Schaefer (1997) argued that cannibalism evolved secondarily from phytophagous pyrrhocorid ancestors. Kershaw & Kirkaldy (1908) recorded Dindymus sanguineus (Fabricius) as an insect-feeder. Occasional predatory behaviour has been recorded for the following Australian species: D. sidae sidae feeding on pupae of the noctuid Earias huegeli Rogenhofer; D. versicolor feeding on dead larvae of the lymantriid Orgyia anartoides (Walker). Stahle (1981) found that D. versicolor feeds on animal protein under laboratory conditions. Steinbauer (1996) also found extra-phytophagous feeding for this species in the field. Schaefer (1999) reported that the Oriental genus Raxa Distant is predacious on a mimetic, but unrelated pyrrhocorid species.

Pyrrhocorids are commonly associated with plants belonging to the Malvaceae. Neotropical Dysdercus species have been recorded feeding on the ripe fruits and seeds of plant species belonging to the Bombacaceae (Adis & Froeschner 1982).

Species of Dysdercus are commonly referred to as cotton stainers, as they introduce staining fungi during feeding. They are known to have serious economic impacts and key features of the most important species have been summarised by Schaefer & Ahmad (2000). Ballard & Evans (1928) described the biology of Dysdercus sidae Montrouzier in considerable detail, describing the morphology and behaviour of the larvae and adults, and their host range—mostly involving plants in the Malvaceae and Sterculiaceae. They also reported this species as a vector of an internal boll-rot fungus.

Stahle (1979, 1981) described the immature stages and biology of Dindymus versicolor (Herrich-Schaffer). This species has been recorded as a minor pest in soft fruit orchards and has an extremely wide host range.

In Africa, a number of pyrrhocorid species occur in large colonies (Fuseini & Kumar 1975) and exhibit complex biology. In such cases there are reports of reduviids being both mimetic and predacious on pyrrhocorids within these species aggregations—possibly examples of aggressive mimicry (Schaefer 1999). Zrzavý (1994, 1995) and Zrzavý & Nedved (1997) reviewed the evolution of colour patterns in pyrrhocorid bugs.



Pyrrhocorids are medium to large insects, ranging in size from 8 to 30 mm. Species are mostly elongate, and often aposematically coloured, with striking patterns of yellow, red, black and white. The head is triangular and porrect and the bucculae are narrow. Ocelli are absent. The antennae and labium are 4-segmented, with the labium often extending well beyond the base of the abdomen. The pronotum is trapezoidal and the lateral margins are explanate. The scutellum is triangular. The external efferent system of the metathoracic glands are reduced. The hemelytral membrane has numerous reticulating veins. The abdominal trichobothria are present on segments II–VII, with three on III–VI, and two on VII. The aedeagus has three pairs of conjunctival appendages. The seventh abdominal sternum of the females is complete. The females have a reduced plate-like ovipositor. The larvae have dorsal abdominal gland openings between terga III/IV, IV/V, and V/VI. (Van Doesburg 1968; Slater 1982; Schuh & Slater 1995)


General References

Adis, J. & Froeschner, R.C. 1982. Notes on distribution of some Latin American cotton-stainers (Dysdercus: Pyrrhocoridae: Hemiptera), and remarks on the biology of Dysdercus urbahni Schmidt. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 95(2): 371-376

Ahmad, I. & Abbas, N. 1986. Pyrrhocoris group (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae: Pyrrhocorinae) with description of a new genus and a new species from Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and their relationships. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 18: 596-598

Ahmad, I. & Abbas, N. 1987. Redescription of a little known genus Pyrrhopeplus Stål (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae) from Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and its relationships. Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales 7: 149-153

Ahmad, I. & Abbas, N. 1994. A revision of the redbug genus Dindymus Stål (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae) from Indo-Pakistan subcontinent with cladistic relationship. Proceeding of the Pakistan Congress of Zoology 14: 69-82

Ahmad, I. & Parveen, R. 1990. A revision of the genus Ectatops Amyot and Serville (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae) from Indo-Pakistan subcontinent with a note on phylogeny. Proceeding of the Pakistan Congress of Zoology 10: 179-193

Ahmad, I. & Schaefer, C.W. 1987. Food plants and feeding biology of the Pyrrhocoroidea (Hemiptera). Phytophaga. Palermo 1: 75-92

Amyot, C.J.B. & Audinet-Serville, J.G. 1843. Histoire Naturelle des Insects. Hémiptères. Paris : Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret, Rue Hautefeuille 10 B13 676 pp.

Ballard, E. & Evans, M.G. 1928. Dysdercus sidae, Montr., in Queensland. Bulletin of Entomological Research 18: 405-432 pl. XIX

Beccari, F. & Gerini, V. 1970. Catalog delle Specie apartenenti al genere Dysdercus Boisduval (Rhynchota, Pyrrhocoridae). Revista di Agricolture Subtropicale e Tropicale 64: 20-72

Bergroth, E. 1913. Supplementum Catalogi Heteropterorum Bruxellensis II. Coreidae, Pyrrhocoridae, Colobathristidae, Neididae. Mémoires de la Société Entomologique de Belgique 22: 125-183

Blöte, H.C. 1931. Catalogue of the Pyrrhocoridae in the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie. Zoologische Mededelingen (Leiden) 14: 97-136

Carver, M., Gross, G.F. & Woodward, T.E. 1991. Hemiptera (bugs, leafhoppers, cicadas, aphids, scale insects, etc.) [with contributions by Cassis, G., Evans, J.W., Fletcher, M.J., Hill, L., Lansbury, I., Malipatil, M.B., Monteith, G.B., Moulds, M.S., Polhemus, J.T., Slater, J.A., Štys, P., Taylor, K.L., Weir, T.A. & Williams, D.J.]. pp. 429-509 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press Vol. 1 xiii 542 pp.

China, W.E. 1954. Notes on the nomenclature of the Pyrrhocoridae (Hemiptera Heteroptera). Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 90: 188-189

Freeman, P. 1947. A revision of the genus Dysdercus Boisduval (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae), excluding the American species. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 98: 373-424

Froeschner, R.C. 1981. Heteroptera or true bugs of Ecuador: a partial catalog. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 1981(322): iv 1-147

Froeschner, R.C. 2000. True Bugs (Heteroptera) of Panama: A synoptic catalog as a contribution to the study of Panamanian biodiversity. Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute 62: ii 1-393

Fuseini, B.A. & Kumar, R. 1975. Ecology of cotton stainers (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae) in southern Ghana. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society of London 7: 113-146

Henry, T.J. 1988. Pyrrhocoridae. pp. 613-615 in Henry, T.J. & Froeschner, R.C. (eds). Catalog of the Heteroptera, or True Bugs, of Canada and the Continental United States. Leiden : E.J. Brill xix 958 pp.

Hussey, R.F. 1929. Pyrrhocoridae. Fascicle III. pp. 1–144 in, General Catalogue of the Hemiptera. Northampton : Smith College.

Kershaw, J.C.W. & Kirkaldy, G.W. 1908. Biological notes on Oriental Hemiptera, no. 1. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 18: 596-598

Kerzhner, I.M. 2001. Family Pyrrhocoridae Amyot & Serville, 1843. pp. 248–258 in Aukema, B. & Rieger, C. (Eds.). Catalogue of the Heteroptera of the Palaearctic Region Vol. 4, Pentatomomorpha I. Amsterdam : The Netherlands Entomological Society Vol. 4 i-xiii, 346 pp.

Lethierry, L. & Severin, G. 1894. Catalogue Général des Hémiptères. Tome II. Hétéroptères Coreidae, Berytidae, Lygaeidae, Pyrrhocoridae. Bruxelles : F. Hayez 277 pp.

Schaefer, C.W. 1997. The origin of secondary carnivory from herbivory in Heteroptera (Hemiptera). pp. 229-239 in Raman, A. (ed.). Ecology and Evolution of Plant Feeding Insects in Natural and Man-made Environments. New Delhi : National Institute of Ecology.

Schaefer, C.W. 1998. Notes on some Dysdercus from Brazil (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae). Anais de Sociedade Entomológica do Brasil 27(3): 485-488

Schaefer, C.W. 1999. Review of Raxa (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 92(1): 14-19

Schaefer, C.W. & Ahmad, I. 2000. Cotton Stainers and their Relatives (Pyrrhocoroidea: Pyrrhocoridae and Largidae). pp. 271-307 in Schaefer, C.W. & Panizzi, A.R. (eds). Heteroptera of Economic Importance. Boca Raton : CRC Press 828 pp.

Schmidt, E. 1932. Zur Kenntnis der Familie Pyrrhocoridae Fieber (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Teil II. Wiener Entomologische Zeitung 49: 236-281, 328

Schuh, R.T. & Slater, J.A. 1995. True Bugs of the World (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Classification and Natural History. Ithaca : Cornell University Press xii 336 pp.

Slater, J.A. 1982. Hemiptera. pp. 417-447 in Parker, S.P. (ed.). Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. New York : McGraw Hill Book Co.

Stahle, P.P. 1979. The immature stages of the harlequin bug, Dindymus versicolor (Herrich-Schaeffer) (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 18: 271-276

Stahle, P.P. 1981. Food preference in the harlequin bug Dindymus versicolor (Herrich-Schaffer) (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae), a minor pest of fruit in south eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 6: 375-382

Stål, C. 1870. Enumeratio Hemipterorum. Bidrag till en förteckning öfver aller hittills kända Hemiptera, jemte systematiska meddelanden. 1. Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Nya Handlingar, Stockholm n.f. 9(1): 1-232

Stål, C. 1874. Enumeratio Hemipterorum. Bidrag till en förteckning öfver aller hittills kända Hemiptera, jemte systematiska meddelanden. 4. Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Nya Handlingar, Stockholm n.f. 12(1): 1-186

Stehlik, J. & Kernzhner, I.M. 1999. On taxonomy and distribution of some Palaearctic and Oriental Largidae and Pyrrhocoridae (Heteroptera). Zoosystematica Rossica 8(1): 121-128

Stehlik, J.L. 1965. Pyrrhocoridae and Largidae collected by E.S. Brown on Solomon Islands (Heteroptera). Acta Musei Moraviae, Scientiae biologicae (Brno) 50: 253-291 pls I-VIII

Steinbauer, M.J. 1996. Notes on extra-phytophagous food sources of Gelonus tasmanicus (Le Guillou) (Hemiptera: Coreidae) and Dindymus versicolor (Herrich-Schaeffer) (Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae). Australian Entomological Magazine 23(4): 121-124

Stonedahl, G.M. & Dolling, W.R. 1991. Heteroptera identification: a reference guide, with special emphasis on economic groups. Journal of Natural History 25: 1027-1066

Van Doesburg, P.H., Jr 1968. A Revision of the New World Species of Dysdercus Guérin-Méneville (Heteroptera, Pyrrhocoridae). Leiden : E.J. Brill ix 214 pp.

Zrzavý, J. 1994. Red bugs and the origin of mimetic complexes (Heteroptera: Pyrrhocoridae: Neotropical Dysdercus spp.). Oikos 69: 346-352

Zrzavý, J. 1995. Morphological organisation of abdominal colour patterns in pyrrhocorid bugs (Hemiptera-Heteroptera: Pentatomomorpha). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 33: 3-8

Zrzavý, J. & Nedved, O. 1997. Phylogeny of the New World Dysdercus (Insecta: Hemiptera: Pyrrhocoridae) and Evolution of their Colour Patterns. Cladistics 13: 109-123


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
15-Aug-2012 15-Aug-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)