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Can I recognize the age of a firebug from the pattern on its back?

If yes, what pattern shows what age/stage?

Below is what I extrapolated from Wikipedia, but is there a more precise scale with more steps? (I could not find more than this with google).

Nymph:enter image description here Adults:enter image description here

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The answer is more or less yes. Normally Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus) go through 5 nymph instar stages (as do most Hemiptera), where they resemble the adults more and more as they grow. Only adults are winged and have have functional reproductive organs. This type of metamorphosis is called hemimetabolous or simple metamorphosis (in contrast to Holometabolism or complete metamorphosis). However, I cannot find a good overview of the instar stages of Firebugs to link to.

A generic overview of Heteroptera (True Bugs) can bee seen here (from www.amnh.org/learn/biodiversity_counts):

development of Heteroptera (True Bugs)

This picture shows (at least) three instars + adults of Pyrrhocoris apterus (from http://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/17248017). The large nymph with 3 dots along the midline is the final 5th instar nymph:

Pyrrhocoris apterus instars + adults

However, due to hormonal disruptions there have been cases with even more nymph stages (6th and 7th instars with adult characteristics), but this is under unnatural laboratory conditions (e.g. Slama & Williams 1965 and Konopova et al. 2011). Konopova et al (2011) also has pictures of instar stages 4 & 5 (along with gene knowdown versions).

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Nice referenced info. The first image would be even better if indicated the patterns too :-) –  nic Jul 3 '13 at 6:08
    
I'm sure you can find one for Firebugs in a suitable book. However, the graph I posted is a general overview of Heteroptera, which consists of >40000 species, and the growth patterns naturally differs quite alot within the taxon. –  fileunderwater Jul 5 '13 at 8:01
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