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Soldier Beetle, is commonly found on yellow flowers in late summer or fall. The beetle uses the flowers as a source of food (pollen), but the flowers also serve as a â€śsocial focusâ€ť for interactions between individual beetles. Goldenrod (Solidago) is a favored food plant for adults, as are other late-summer flowering plants.
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. Soldier beetles resemble lightning bugs but do not have light-producing organs.
Adults are found on flowers and foliage where they eat pollen, nectar, and soft-bodied insects, such as aphids. The predatory larvae are found on damp ground or beneath bark or other objects. They eat soft-bodied insects, such as maggots, small caterpillars, and grasshopper eggs.
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.
Soldier Beetle Life Cycle : Like all beetles, soldier beetles have â€ścompleteâ€ť metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. Female soldier beetles place eggs in moist soil or in leaf litter in lawns, meadows, and forests. Upon hatching in the summer, larvae live and feed at the soil level. Most species pupate in the fall in small chambers in the soil and adults emerge in late spring, then mate and deposit eggs during the summer.
The larvae of many soldier beetle species are predators that feed on small insects, worms, slugs, and snails. They hunt in leaf litter and in other locations that are damp and close to the soil. A few species hunt under loose bark. The larvae of other soldier beetles are herbivores that feed on potato, celery, and other garden plants.
As adults, some soldier beetle species feed on nectar and pollen, while others are predators that hunt for aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Soldier beetles and their larvae are a food source for other animals. Birds, bats, and spiders feed on the adults. Spiders, ground beetles, and other soil-dwelling predators feed on the larvae.
Soldier Beetle larvae
Both adult and larvae soldier beetles are predators, feeding on other insects such as caterpillars, eggs, aphids, and other soft-bodied insects, Bailey said. They will alternatively eat nectar and pollen if no insects are around. They do not damage plant foliage. Adults are often found on flowers such as goldenrod, where they lie in wait for prey, feed on pollen and mate.
Since soldier beetles are beneficial, it is inadvisable to kill them. They may be a nuisance in the fall, if large numbers of larvae enter a house in search of a place to overwinter. Weather-stripping and caulking will help pest-proof a home. A vacuum cleaner will safely remove soldier beetles that are found inside.
The adults are most active during the morning and late afternoon, seeking shelter from the sun at mid-day. In particularly hot, arid climates they remain inactive during the day, confining activity to the evening hours. They are easily disturbed, dropping readily from the plant and hiding or scurrying away if disturbed. The preovipositional interval of striped blister beetle is about 20 days, with a 10 day interval between production of egg masses.
Damage : But danger is also a part of their short, sweet life. While soldier beetles have developed body toxins that make them unpalatable to birds and small mammals, they often fall victim to crab spiders that lie in wait on the flowers they visit. The lifeless shells of soldier beetles, their life fluids sucked dry by spiders, cling to many a prairie wildflower, bearing witness to this peril.
Soldier Beetle with Fungus
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