Every spring our office is deluged with phone calls and visits about hordes of small insects that cover exterior walls of homes, devour every plant in the landscape and destroy homes. Many times we can identify them without actually seeing a sample, just from their description. These small black and red insects turn out to be the Jadera bug, also known as the goldenrain tree bug or red shouldered bug. Here in Central Florida, they emerge in great numbers for a few weeks to a month every spring. It may seem that their numbers rise to Biblical proportions, but many of the fears residents have of them are not true or scientific. Hopefully this information will put some minds at ease and save some trips to our office.
We have two species of Jadera bugs in Florida, but the one that is much more common is Jadera haematoloma. Jadera bugs can be confused with the boxelder bug, but they are different species in the same insect family. Jadera haematoloma is present throughout most of Florida (except in parts of the Panhandle), but here in Central Florida they are most often noticed in early spring, when they can occur in great numbers. The adult is 9.5 to 13.5 mm in length and mostly black (except for its ‘red shoulders’). The immature insect, or nymph, is mostly red with black legs and antennae.
Jadera bugs feed exclusively on seeds, which means that they do not damage structures, plants in your landscape and they do not bite or vector diseases. When squashed, they can stain hands and clothes red. But other than that, they are harmless. If you have a goldenrain tree or chinaberry tree on your property you are probably very familiar with these insects, because the seeds from those trees are by far their favorite food. Both of these trees are invasive, so if you remove trees like this from your landscape and clean up all of the fallen seeds, the numbers of Jadera bugs will decrease over time. Residents will often see the insects covering an exterior wall, sidewalk, lawn area or tree trunk, but in reality the insects are searching for those goldenrain tree seeds.
Chemical controls are generally not needed because the insects cause no damage and they are only present in large numbers for several weeks. Removing the trees and their seeds will reduce the food source and problems in the future.
For more information about insect pests in your landscape or home, stop by or call UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County weekdays from 8 to 5. Our office is in the airport industrial park at 16110 Aviation Loop Drive, Brooksville, 34604; (352) 754-4433. In addition, Master Gardeners are available to assist you at the Master Gardener nursery from 9AM to noon every Wednesday and Saturday. Our nursery is located behind the Hernando County fairgrounds at 19490 Oliver Street, Brooksville. UF/IFAS Extension in Hernando County provides solutions for your life. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.