Soldier beetles go marching in

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recently, I observed large numbers of brownish colored beetles on my flowering, linden tree that is located in the back yard. With a little research, I determined that they were one of the many different species of Soldier Beetles that belong to the family, cantharidae.

Soldier beetles are a common outdoor insect that can be abundant, accidental invaders as either larvae or adults. Soldier beetles are nicknamed leatherwings because of their soft, clothlike wing covers, which when brightly colored are reminiscent of uniforms. The beetles are elongate, soft-bodied and about 1/2-inch long. Colors vary from yellow to red with brown or black wings or trim.

The family of soldier beetles is closely allied with several families of more familiar beetles, such as blister and click beetles, and fireflies. Soldier beetles resemble lightning bugs but do not have light-producing organs.

Soldier beetle larvae are long, slender and worm-like. The sides of the body appear rippled or scalloped because of indentations within each body segment. The body is covered with tiny dense bristles and appears velvety. Color is dark brown to gray. The larvae usually spend the winter in damp soil and debris or under loose bark. They are particularly abundant as accidental invaders inside the house in the fall when they are searching for protected locations in which to spend the winter.

Both adults and larvae are predacious and feed on other insects. They demonstrate a voracious appetite for aphids, caterpillars, grasshopper eggs, mites, and other small pests. They are even reputed to attack cucumber beetles. As they lie in wait for prey on flowers such as goldenrod they may feed on nectar and pollen but they do no damage to the plants.

Since soldier beetles are beneficial and harmless it is unnecessary to control them. Larvae that enter a house in the fall are only a nuisance. Entry can be prevented by weather-stripping, caulking and other measures that seal likely points of entry. Spraying of either the exterior perimeter or the interior has little if any benefit. Soldier beetles already inside the house need only be swept or picked up and discarded.

Upcoming Activities

4-H Shooting Sports will hold their 'county shoot' beginning at 9:00 a.m., Saturday, June 23 at the Izaak Walton clubhouse located south of Arapahoe.


4-H Performing Arts/Talent Contest -- Piano, vocal, instrumental, dance - share your talent with others beginning at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 27 at the Ella Missing Center, Arapahoe. Please pre-register by Monday, June 25.


The Holbrook Pre-Fair Beef, Lamb and Goat Show will be held on Saturday, June 30, 2012. Beef weigh-in begins at 6:30 a.m. and the show begins at 8:00 a.m. Lamb weigh-in begins at 9:00 a.m. and the show begins immediately after the beef show. Goat weigh-in begins at 11:00 a.m. and the show begins immediately after the lamb show.


The 4-H Presentation Contest will be held beginning at 7:00 p.m., Monday, July 2 at the Baptist Church in Oxford.


The Furnas County Fair will take place the week of July 16-21, 2012. County fair premium books are available at the Extension Office or from the Bank in your local community.

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