The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

What's Hot on July 5, 2006
at the P&PDL!

Abundant Soldier Beetles

Doug Akers, Boone Co. Extension Educator, Purdue University

Indiana residents have asked about the abundance of a light brownish “lightning bug” looking insect.  These insects, which land on people, but don't bite, are called soldier beetles.  They get their name from the soft, clothlike wing covers, which when brightly colored are reminiscent of uniforms, according to Stephanie Bailey, Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky.   These beetles, sometimes called leatherwings, are elongate, soft-bodied and about 1/2 inch long. Colors of soldier beetles vary from yellow to red with brown or black wings or trim. The common species that most Hoosiers have encountered is the soldier beetle with the common name, Pennsylvania leatherwing. It is yellowish with one large black spot on each wing.

Soldier beetles resemble lightning bugs but do not have light-producing organs. Another group of beetles that may be confused with soldier beetles are the blister beetles, which are pests, but blister beetles have a square-shaped head and a very visible "neck."

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.


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Information listed is valid only for the state of Indiana

 

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Soldier beetle

Soldier beetle

Images courtesy of Iowa State University

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