Leatherwing Beetles, Family Cantharidae
Soldier beetles are a type of insect that belongs to the family Cantharidae. They are also known as leatherwing beetles due to the soft, leathery texture of their wings. They play important roles in many ecosystems, serving as predators, pollinators, and beneficial insects. By attracting soldier beetles to your garden, you can help to support the health of your local ecosystem and control pest populations.
Where to find them
Soldier beetles are found throughout the world and are common in many regions. They are native to all continents, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Soldier beetles have a distinctive appearance, with elongated, cylindrical bodies that are often brightly colored. They are typically yellow, orange, or red in color and have black or dark-colored markings on their wings and legs. The length of their bodies can range from 1/2 inch to 1 inch (12 to 25 mm).
Soldier beetles have a soft, flexible exoskeleton and are known for their distinctive flight pattern, characterized by short bursts of flight followed by gliding. They are active during the day and can often be seen flying or crawling on flowers and leaves.
Soldier beetles feed on a variety of insects, including aphids, mites, and caterpillars, and are considered beneficial insects because they help to control pest populations in gardens and agricultural fields. They are also important pollinators, as they feed on nectar and other flower-based foods, helping to fertilize flowers as they feed.
In general, soldier beetles are harmless to humans and do not bite or sting. They are also not considered pests, as they do not cause damage to crops or gardens.
The life cycle of a soldier beetle includes several stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Egg: Female soldier beetles lay their eggs on the leaves or stems of plants, where the eggs will be protected from predators and the elements.
Larva: The eggs hatch into larvae, which are small, worm-like creatures that feed on insects and other small creatures. They molt several times as they grow, shedding their exoskeleton and growing larger each time.
Pupa: When the larvae are fully grown, they pupate, forming a protective cocoon around themselves. Inside the cocoon, the larvae undergo metamorphosis and transform into adults.
Adult: After several days or weeks, the adult soldier beetles emerge from the cocoon and begin to mate and lay eggs. Adult soldier beetles are active during the day and feed on nectar, pollen, and other insects.
The length of the life cycle of a soldier beetle can vary depending on the species and the environmental conditions. Some species of soldier beetles have a relatively short life cycle, living only a few weeks, while others can live for several months.
Why a Beneficial Insect?
Soldier beetles are considered beneficial insects for several reasons:
Pest control: Soldier beetles feed on various insects, including aphids, mites, and caterpillars, many of which can be pests to crops and gardens. By eating these insects, soldier beetles help to control their populations and reduce the damage they can cause.
Pollination: Soldier beetles are important pollinators, as they feed on nectar and other flower-based foods, helping to fertilize flowers as they feed. This is important for the health of ecosystems and the production of crops.
Food for other animals: Soldier beetles are an important food source for other animals, such as birds, which helps to maintain the balance of ecosystems by providing a food source for these predators.
Ecological balance: By controlling pest populations and serving as pollinators, soldier beetles help to maintain the balance of ecosystems and prevent the overpopulation of insects that can be harmful to crops and gardens.
Natural pest control: Soldier beetles are a natural and effective way to control pest populations without using harmful chemicals. This can be beneficial for the environment and for human health, as it reduces the need for chemical pesticides.
Attract this Beneficial Insect to your Garden
Attracting soldier beetles to your garden can be a great way to help control pest populations and support the health of your local ecosystem. Here are some steps you can take to attract soldier beetles to your garden:
Plant native plants: Soldier beetles feed on nectar and pollen from various plants, so planting a variety of native flowering plants that produce nectar and other insect-attracting foods can help to attract them to your garden.
Provide shelter: Soldier beetles like to hide in tall grasses and shrubs, so planting these types of plants can provide them with a place to rest and hide from predators.
Avoid pesticides: Using pesticides can kill soldier beetles and other beneficial insects, so it is important to avoid using them in your garden. Instead, consider using natural methods, such as companion planting and hand-picking pests, to control pest populations.
Provide a water source: Soldier beetles need a source of water to survive, so providing a shallow dish of water in your garden can help to attract them.
Offer a suitable habitat: Soldier beetles are attracted to habitats with plenty of vegetation and a diverse array of insects, so planting a variety of plants and allowing some areas of your garden to grow wild can help to create a suitable habitat for them.
By following these steps, you can help to create a welcoming environment for soldier beetles in your garden, which can help to support the health of your local ecosystem and control pest populations. It is important to remember that soldier beetles are predators and may also feed on other beneficial insects, so it is important to balance their presence in your garden with other beneficial insects.
Paul Reeves Photography, Shutterstock
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.