The firebug, a species of true bugs (Hemiptera), has several nicknames (*amongst Slovaks). While some call it a “tram” or “ambulance” for its striking red color, others named it a gravedigger since it often basks on memorials beyond the cemetery gates. It’s no wonder that with so many popular names, the proper scientific name is often forgotten.
It is said that when they appear, spring is definitely here. As a diner, the firebug is not picky. If possible, it will choose sweet juices of linden, locust, or mallow fruits. Occasionally it also feeds on animal juices, sucking up dead insects.
Firebugs reproduce from April to the end of May. Females secrete pheromones to attract potential partners. The males then follow them as if in a trance. When the partner consents, the male inserts his genitalia, holding on firmly so that the bugs remain attached via their bottoms. You must have seen two connected “trams” many times in the spring moving around.
That will have been because the female, bigger and stronger than her partner, would have sensed danger and tried to drag him to safety. The firebug also drags her mate about to find an ideal place to lay her freshly fertilized eggs. The eggs develop into larvae that cannot deter predators with their colorful bodies yet, so they secrete an odorless secretion to defend themselves.
Do you know?
The firebug deters enemies with its coloring. The upper side of the body is bright red, decorated with a black pattern. Two large black dots in the middle of the back are to resemble eyes. Their task is to deter predators - birds. Those always think twice whether to usurp an insect with such a "wide-eyed look".