The arrival and spread of the European firebug Pyrrhocoris apterus in Australia as documented by citizen scientists

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Luis Mata, Blythe Vogel, Estibaliz Palma, Mallik Malipatil


We present evidence of the recent introduction and quick spread of the European firebug Pyrrhocoris apterus in Australia, as documented on the citizen science platform iNaturalist. The first public record of the species was reported in December 2018 in the City of Brimbank (Melbourne, Victoria). Since then, the species distribution has quickly expanded into 15 local government areas surrounding this first observation, including areas in both Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. The number of records of the European firebug in Victoria has also seen a substantial increase, with a current tally of almost 100 observations in iNaturalist as of July 31st, 2021.
The case of the European firebug in Australia adds to the list of examples of citizen scientists playing a key role in not only early detection of newly introduced species but in documenting their expansion across their non-native range. Citizen science presents an exciting opportunity to complement biosecurity efforts carried out by government agencies, which often lack resources to sufficiently fund detection and monitoring programs given the overwhelming number of current and potential invasive species. Recognising and supporting the invaluable contribution of citizen scientists to science and society can help reduce this gap by: (1) increasing the number of introduced species that are quickly detected; (2) gathering evidence of the species’ early expansion stage; and (3) prompting adequate monitoring and rapid management plans for potentially harmful species.
Given the range expansion patterns of the European firebug worldwide, their adaptation ability, and future climate scenarios, we suspect this species will continue expanding beyond Victoria, including other parts of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. We firmly believe that most of the knowledge about how this expansion process continues to happen will be provided by citizen scientists.



Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Entomology, Life Sciences


biosecurity, citizen science, Heteropteran bugs, iNaturalist, Introduced species, invasion ecology, invasive species, Pyrrhocoridae, urban ecology, Urban environments


Published: 2021-09-01 10:11

Last Updated: 2021-09-02 23:57

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CC-BY Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International

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