Insect guide > Bugs > Cotton Stainer

Cotton Stainer

(Family Pyrrhocoridae.)
This is not a large family. It comprises less than three hundred species, and only about twenty-five are known in the United States. Most of the species are tropical or sub-tropical. They are distinguished from the Lygaeids by the absence of ocelli. As a rule, they are stout, moderately large bugs, and are frequently marked with red.

The commonest of our native species is Largus succinctus, an insect of very wide distribution, since it occurs from New Jersey to Mexico. It is a brownish­black species with the sides of the thorax margined with orange or red. It is commonly found along the borders of oak woods, and the adults appear in July and August. The young stages are of a brilliant steel-blue color, with reddish legs and a bright red spot at the base of the abdomen.

Life History of the Cotton Stainer
(Dysdercus suturellus H.-Schf.)
This insect, which is found exclusively in our Southern States, is known popularly by the name of the "cotton stainer". It is found also in the West Indies. Its natural food is probably a rose-mallow (Hibiscus), but it feeds upon the bolls of the cotton plant and also sucks the juices of oranges. It is marked with red and is a very beautiful insect, and derives its popular name from the fact that it stains the cotton in the bursting bolls by its excretions, which are of a yellowish color. Experiments have been made with this insect looking toward its use as a dye, and the whole substance of the insect can be converted into a rich orange-yellow dye, which can readily be fixed on woolens or silk by the alum mordant liquor.

The eggs, to the number of twenty or thirty, are deposited upon the leaves or stalks of the cotton plant, and are also loosely dropped in the sand. The insect molts five times and breeds apparently steadily all through the year, so that there are several generations.