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Why are the gendarmes in red and black in the gardens?

The gendarme with a beautiful red and black jacket is very popular.
The gendarme with a beautiful red and black jacket is very popular. (©Nemesis2207 / AdobeStock)

Gendarme, funny name for an insect! In fact, this is the nickname given Pyrrhocoris Apterus (literally “atrophied-winged fire beetle”), the scientific name for this little red and black beetle that zealously visits our gardens.

This name will be associated to the uniforms that the gendarmes used to wear. Among his other folk nicknames we find “Swiss”, probably because of the uniform of the Swiss Guard, or even “Search-noon”, because he likes to take advantage of the spring sun.

amazing patterns

It is easy to recognize by its red shell is covered with black figures evokes an African mask. An amazing look, but not as original because he’s not the only one wearing these patterns.

It is even often confused with other bed bugs such as corizus hyoscyami and lygaeus equestriswho are seen less often because they can fly and do not huddle together, unlike the gendarme.

These red and black colors are also very common among bed bugs. “Red is the aposematic color used to warn predators that they are inedible,” explains Jean-Claude Straito, entomologist in Inrae. This beautiful shell is one of the reasons for the popularity of the gendarmes, but not the only one.

Gendarmes are harmless, do not emit unpleasant odors, live in an environment very close to us and arouse curiosity in children. And since they stick together easily, they are easy to spot.

Jean-Claude StraitoEntomologist in Inrae

They band together to protect themselves

This herd instinct is indeed one of their main characteristics. “They probably protect themselves better from predators by grouping together, especially due to toxic chemicals ; they also release alarm pheromones that warn if attacked. And it seems effective in finding sexual partners. Finally, it is also possible that they enjoy together places that are most prone to heat, especially in spring. »

If he likes to enjoy the sun, the policeman has good taste in not harming the garden. Because it’s a biting-sucking insect feeds mainly on seeds, especially lindens or mallows, and sometimes small dead insects. “The policeman is part of the folklore of gardeners, but his role is not well defined,” the researcher continues.

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“He is not a pest, not a corrupter, and not a hunter; he definitely eats…

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