Here’s a bug that many Florida residents have probably never seen, or even heard about.
And yet, for every resident who’s (blissfully) unaware of its existence, there’s probably a neighbor down the street who can walk outdoors at certain times of year and gather them by the fistful.
It’s Jadera haematoloma, commonly called the jadera bug.
This critter is a member of the order Hemiptera, the true bugs. The reason this species is unknown to many and cursed by some is, it has a highly specialized diet, feeding primarily on the seeds of the golden rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata.
This tree is a popular ornamental that can reach a height of about 40 feet and takes its common name from the lovely sprays of golden flowers that it produces in early summer.
Shortly after the flowers bloom, they’re followed by flat pink seed pods that look like oval leaves, and the overall visual effect of the flowers or seed pods plus the tree’s bright green leaves make this a colorful choice for Florida yards.
Native to east Asia, the golden rain tree is hardy, drought-tolerant and requires little or no care, so in many respects it’s a homeowner’s dream. Except for one thing – those darn jadera bugs.
(For a moment there, you thought you’d wandered into the “OrnamentalPlantWeek website,” didn’t you? Sorry, no such luck.)
Maybe someplace in the state there are yards with golden rain trees and no jadera bugs. But typically the two go together like peanut butter and jelly.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s because the golden rain tree produces the jadera’s favorite food source.
By mid-summer, the golden rain tree’s seed pods have dried, turned brown and have begun falling to the ground. Each one contains a round, black seed about the size of a BB. That’s what jadera bugs eat, using their piercing mouthparts to suck juice from the seed.
The insects don’t cause any damage to the tree, nor do they have any behaviors that cause harm to people.
No, the jadera’s only sin is that it can become a nuisance through sheer weight of numbers. (And, trust us, it only takes one large golden rain tree to support ridiculous numbers of the insect.)
During times of peak jadera bug activity – midday hours in early summer – they can be found swarming in yards where golden rain trees are present, and will crawl into houses, onto cars, through carports, across shoes, and pretty much every other place in the immediate vicinity of the golden rain tree – even further, if wind scatters the seed pods widely.
Jadera bug nymphs are roughly a quarter-inch long with bright red bodies and black legs; as they mature and grow they reach a maximum size of just over a half-inch, each with a bright red abdomen and dark gray or black coloration on its antennae, head, legs and thorax.
So, while they may be difficult to avoid at certain times of year, and a nuisance, at least that red-and-black color pattern is eye-catching and appealing. Hmm, this situation seems strangely familiar (glances toward Athens, Ga.)