Insect Insight: The Cotton Stainer

January 18, 2013  By: Gretchen

The birds and mammals in Africa often steal the show when it comes to game viewing and photography. That said, there is an unfathomable amount of insect life buzzing around us all the time – in Africa and at home.  Our friends at Greystoke Mahale in Tanzania recently wrote about a bug encounter with the ‘pale cotton stainer’.  I still remember hearing ants hiss (loudly!) for the first time when visiting Greystoke – as a result I tend to be more in tune with insect life. Here’s what they have to report on this insect encounter.

Often overshadowed by the charismatic and more appealing chimpanzees, the great variety of insects found in Mahale Mountains NP is certainly very interesting. Especially after a little research you realize what an enormous array of bugs share the same place as us.

A bug often encountered along the forested paths of Greystoke camp is the pale cotton stainer. Relatively small in size with a body length up to 17 mm, it’s brightly colored and feeds mainly on seeds associated with species of wild hibiscus and kapok. Interestingly adults remain mated for days!

And where the name comes from…?

The Cotton Stainer is widely spread with over 300 species worldwide. Adults can pierce cotton bolls to suck sap from the seeds, allowing a fungi to enter the cotton which stains it with a yellowish color. Especially during the industrial revolution in the USA this little bug caused massive problems.

You just have to look it up and it becomes very interesting!

Report courtesy Nomad Tanzania