Soldier beetles

Goldenrod soldier beetle. Notice the black head and the square spot on the pronotum

Many beetles visit flowers. Some perform a moderate amount of pollination although, in general, they are not as good as other insects. Among them, soldier beetles are often found on flowers, feeding on nectar and pollen. Their larvae usually feed on eggs and larvae of other insects and are valued as biological pest controls. Soldier beetles are almost rectangular in shape and have red and black or orange and black colors. Some soldier beetles look like army uniforms of old times, before the days of camouflage and that is how they got their name. The first pair of wings of beetles is hard and serves to cover and protect the second pair which are membranous and used for flying. In soldier beetles the cover wings are softer; this has earned them their other common name, leatherwing beetles

Mating leatherwing beeltes. Notice the color of the head and the pronotum

Two very common soldier beetles are the goldenrod soldier beetle and the margined leatherwing. Both are very similar in appearance, orangish or yellow with black markings on the wings. These markings can vary in size markedly in both species. This makes it tricky to tell them apart. The main differences between the two types of beetles are that the goldenrod beetle has an all black head and the black spot on its pronotum (the section between the head and wings) is square. The margined leatherwing, on the other hand has some orange on the head and the pronotum’s dark patch is like a longitudinal bar.

Margined leatherback beetle. Notice the color of the wings

Finally, one good difference is the time of the year in which they are active. You find the goldenrod beetle in late summer and in the fall and it mostly visits goldenrod flowers. The margined leatherwing is active earlier in the season, so it is not likely to be seen on goldenrod, which hasn’t started blooming.

Habitat. Fields, gardens

Season. Margined leatherwing, from May to June or even July. Goldenrod soldier beetle, August, September

Flowers. Margined leatherwing, asters, queen Anne’s lace, milkweeds. Goldenrod soldier beetle, primarily goldenrod and other fall flowers.

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2 Responses to “Soldier beetles”

  1. Janet Rossbach Says:

    Very informative – thank you. I found lots these mating on sedum flowers in early September and wondered if they were harmful.

  2. Pollinator Says:

    The adult soldier beetles feed on pollen and nectar. Their larvae eat other insects, so they are probably good biological controls of some pests.

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