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Nobody wants to endure a plague of insects in the garden or inside the house - not even if it is the animal with the sonorous name fire beetle. So what to do if representatives of this species suddenly enter private property? To understand how best to deal with fire bugs, you need to understand their lifestyle.

That's why we start our guide with a detailed description including a profile of the conspicuously colored insects. Throughout the article, we'll also answer the important question of whether the creatures are poisonous or otherwise dangerous. We will then provide you with specific tips on how to specifically combat the beetles.

mini profile

  • correct names: fire beetles, cardinals
  • scientific name: Pyrochroidae
  • Colour: red to brick red
  • Size: 0.8-2cm
  • Appearance: red in color, large and flat head, broad body, eleven-lobed antennae, front legs with four and hind legs with five tarsi segments
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, forest edges, dead wood, flowers
  • Food: sweet juices (e.g. honeydew from aphids, tree sap), flowers of mallow plants
  • Main flight time: early May to late June
  • Life expectancy: 1 - 3 years developing, 5 - 6 months as an adult
  • Caution: Risk of confusion with fire bugs (Pyrrhocoridae - with black dots)!

Before we detail on fire beetle we need to clarify one thing urgently: the genus is NOT synonymous with fire bugs (Pyrrhocoridae)! However, the two insect species are often confused or even considered to be one and the same species. However, this is a mistake. To help you distinguish between fire beetles and fire bugs, here is a brief description of the latter.

fire bugs are actually called common fire bugs. In scientific jargon they are called Pyrrhocoridae. fire beetle is called Pyrochroidae in technical jargon, which unfortunately sounds quite similar. Fortunately, the optical differentiation of the insects is easier than the name.

Because in contrast to their distant relatives, the bugs are provided with black dots. Conversely, if you encounter a "purely" red insect with the characteristics from the profile above, you will have it with one fire beetle to do. If, on the other hand, you come across a beetle-like animal with black dots and other dark elements on a red "background", it is probably one fire bug.

Important NOTE: Although the "nasty" name might suggest otherwise, fire bugs are not dangerous to you, your home, or your plants. And what about the fire bugs? We want to answer this question in detail in the further course of the guide.


As if the back and forth with fire beetles and fire bugs wasn't enough, there's even more need for differentiation. Within the fire beetle family, there are no fewer than 150 species around the world. Don't worry, we're only covering the three native to our lands: the Scarlet, the Red-Headed, and the Orange Fire Beetle.

fire bug

The Scarlet

The scarlet fire beetle is a perennial favorite in Central Europe - i.e. the fire beetle species that we see most frequently here. He comes with a body about two centimeters long. The insect's red elytra are narrower in front than behind. Underneath, the beetle is raven black - this also applies to the "belly area" and the large, flat head and antennae.

Speaking of antennae: they differ in males and females. While the male beetles wear the combed version, the female beetles have serrated feelers. The scientific name of the scarlet fire beetle is Pyrochroa coccinea.

The redhead

Compared to its Scarlet colleague, the Red-Headed Fire Beetle is slightly smaller. However, it does not appear less conspicuous than its brother - thanks to the bright red head, which the name of the species already suggests. Scientifically we are talking about Pyrochroa serraticornis.

The orange one

In addition to the scarlet and red-headed beetle, there is also the orange fire beetle (Schizotus pectinicornis). It is also called the "Little Fire Beetle" because it grows to a maximum of one centimeter in length. Its body is the same width in front and behind, the color tends to be brownish.

Significant Similarities

All three species occur throughout Central and Southern Europe - but not at all in northern countries. The Pyrochroidae are equipped with two thorn-shaped tail appendages (Cersus) on the abdomen. In addition, they have sharp tools with special feelers at the front, with which they can drill passages through the wood themselves. Speaking of wood…

fire beetle


Pyrochroidae live mainly in deciduous forests, where they congregate on dead wood or on low flowering shrubs. Deadwood is a very good keyword to explain a great feature of the insect genus.

Fire-loving bugs

Not only do fire bugs look like fire engines with their bright red color, they're also, funnily enough, attracted to the smell of smoke and heat. Thanks to the special infrared organ with heat-sensitive sensors, they perceive the sharp rise in temperature that is common in fires, even at a distance of 50 kilometers.

While almost all other animals flee when there is a fire, Pyrochroidae approach the fire - but not to put it out. Rather, they pursue selfish goals - using the legacies of the fearsome element to eke out a dignified existence there. So they are pyrophilic beings who benefit from fire. According to the fire beetles, charred bark represents real luxury mansions.

fire beetle

insects in the house

Are the insects also in the house?

Yes, it can happen - it's rare, but not impossible. We want to approach the issue with a real example.

In April 2008 Frank wrote at

“We have had the little red fire beetles in our house for a few days, more often in the living room. They must have got in with the firewood. As they are increasing in number, they have now become a bit of a nuisance, crawling and flying all over the living room. We kill about 50 of these bugs in one evening. At first there were only a few, but now they crawl out of dark corners or narrow slits and fly around us again and again in the lamplight.”

In his field report, Frank addresses several typical aspects. First of all, given their preferred habitats, it stands to reason that Pyrochroidae would also populate firewood that comes directly from nature and is not specifically prepared for sale. They hide between the logs and come into the house this way.

In addition, the beetles like light. That explains why they kept flying into the area of the lamplight in Frank's living room. The fact that fire beetles are enthusiastic about light also contributes to the fact that the actually nature-loving insects sometimes get lost inside apartments or houses without taking the wrong path.

fire beetle

This is particularly the case at dusk when the windows have been opened to air the room and the lights have been activated. It can happen that a beetle suddenly sails in and disturbs the residents. But don't panic, the animals are not particularly interested in you or your food.


The diet of the adult fire beetle consists primarily of sweet juices - for example the honeydew of aphids and tree sap. The animals also like the flowers of the mallow family. In general, adult cardinals eat a purely vegetarian diet.

Things are a little different with the larvae of the fiery insects: they eat the offspring of other beetles. Pretty cheeky, I have to say. Victims include the young of the longhorn beetle, jewel beetle and bark beetle. They also suck out dead insects.


When courting a pretty female, the male fire beetle is extremely creative. He goes to the black oil beetle lords who secrete cantharidin on their legs.

Notice: Cantharidin is a natural substance that various species of beetles carry (or seek out and snap) to protect themselves from predators. However, this is not just a defense secretion. Cantharidin is also considered an aphrodisiac - i.e. a means of stimulating or increasing the libido.

The fire beetle man collects this ingenious substance - he places it in a furrow on his head. With the delicious cocktail in his luggage, he goes looking for a bride in May and June. The chances are good that he can impress the chosen female with the delicious drink.

If the lady is satisfied with the gift, there is no more hesitation. Mating occurs relatively quickly. Thanks to the enormous proportion of cantharidin, which is (also) found in the sperm, the resulting eggs (relatively quickly) are well protected from predators.

fire beetle


Pyrochroidae lay their eggs in rotten or charred deadwood. The larvae never leave the place determined by their parents during their entire development period. Pupation occurs at the beginning of the following spring. Two months later, in May - almost exactly a year after mating, the beetles are fully grown and start their short adult lives.

Notice: The development from egg to beetle sometimes takes not just a year, but 24 or even 36 months. This extended period of time contrasts with an average life expectancy of only five to six months for the adult animal. A fire beetle is therefore considerably longer a child than an adult.

Fight fire beetles - is that necessary?

In order to find an answer to this, another question must first be clarified: Are Pyrochroidae poisonous and/or otherwise dangerous? No, they do not harm people or pets. With a few exceptions (mallow plants), your plant population is also safe from the cardinals. In this respect, one does not necessarily have to fight fire beetles.

Nevertheless, the presence of the insects can be uncomfortable - especially when they appear in large numbers (which is more the case with the fire bug). If you want to get rid of the Pyrochroidae in your garden or in the house, there are several options. Chemical insecticides are also available, as are more harmless agents.

Pros and cons of chemical insecticides

Classic chemical insecticides are also effective against fire beetles. The cardinals absorb the poison and die. If you choose this variant, it is important that you aim the spray directly at the beetles or their nest - i.e. do not spray the entire area with the product. After all, it is poison that not only kills the animals, but also harms the environment. You should also wear a breathing mask and gloves for your own protection. The advantage of this method is that you can quickly get rid of the insects without much effort.

In principle, however, we advise you against such a "brutal" variant, since it is simply not necessary to fight Pyrochroidae in this way. As we said earlier, fire beetles pose no threat. In addition, there are many "more humane" solutions that are not primarily aimed at killing, but merely at eliminating or expelling the insects.

means of expulsion

The most effective harmless remedies include non-toxic insect powder, coffee grounds and neem oil.

Method 1: Non-toxic insect powder

In addition to the conventional insect powders, which are poisonous, there are now also harmless counterparts. These are scattered in the areas infested by fire beetles and drive away the insects with their unappetizing smell. The beetles run away.

Method 2: coffee grounds

One of the most popular home remedies for Pyrochroidae is coffee grounds. Simply distribute this among the plants that the insects attack. Unlike most people, the beetles are not at all into the caffeinated elixir of life.

coffee grounds

Method 3: Neem Oil

You can fight fire beetles a bit more naturally with neem oil. This is a vegetable oil obtained from the seeds of the beautiful neem tree. Drizzle the infested plants with the product and you'll soon no longer have to greet bugs.

Special tips garden

Tip 1:

Make your garden wetter. Fire beetles are mainly attracted to dry, warm and sunny places.

Tip 2:

Remove all mallows (linden, hibiscus, etc.) from your green oasis. Because the beetles are crazy about these plants.


Extra: Catch Pyrochroidae at home

If you come across a single beetle in your house, you can catch it using a closable jar. After a successful hunt, take the jar to the forest, open it, wait for the insect to crawl or fly out, and take the jar back with you.

Notice: Only in the case of a bad infestation in your own home is it advisable to hire an exterminator to fight the red beetles.

More beneficial than pests

At the end of this guide, we want to make it clear once again that it is important not to kill Pyrochroidae if possible, but to drive them out of private premises or your own garden using harmless means. The cardinals are ultimately more beneficial than pests, even if they sometimes use your plants without permission.

Fire beetle larvae fight the dreaded bark beetle

The larvae of fire beetles eat their way through the bark of dead trees. They also like to behave opportunistically, using the tunnels prepared by other beetle larvae to find and scavenge food in their immediate vicinity. On their limited paths, they often encounter the larvae of the bark beetles, which are known to be extremely harmful. These are then eaten up vigorously.

fire bug

Notice: Under favorable conditions, bark beetles multiply so much that they no longer only infest ailing and dying trees, but also healthy and vital trees. Plants that are in the prime of life are in danger of dying off as a result of the mass attack of insects. Accordingly, bark beetles are among the primary pests, especially for foresters.

By happily eating bark beetle offspring, fire beetle larvae help reduce the population of these veritable pests. In this respect, Pyrochroidae are to be regarded more as beneficial insects and should be treated accordingly. In plain language this means: do not kill the red beetles, but carefully capture or drive them away and thus remove them from private areas.

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