|Seen at Messene in the Kalamata area of Greece|
The identification continued to puzzle me until earlier this week Shelly from MOBugs (Missouri, USA) came to my rescue. A friend of hers was able to tell me that the creature is the nymph of a Seed Bug, the Spilostethus pandurus. It is more commonly known as the Milkweed Bug and belongs to the order of Hemiptera, sub-order of Heteroptera - and is from the family of Lygaeidae.
You can read about the hemimetabolic life cycle here. It certainly had not occurred to me that I was watching a nymph. There is a much better photograph by Normand Mlaure (you may have to scroll down), and there is another here, with only one ring i.e. an 0 rather than a figure of 8, on its back. There is further example here, with a cluster two photos down (by John Cravatta) of the not dissimilar Oxycarenus lavaterae.
For another cluster of these creatures (this time in Spain and taken by fturmog), take a look here. They have also been seen in the Algarve in Portugal.
We saw some other colourful creatures in Greece. You may remember these two from my previous Bug post . . .
Postscript: 23 Feb 2011: do take a look at Seabrooke's Milkweed Bugs here.