Abundant Soldier Beetles
Doug Akers, Boone Co. Extension Educator, Purdue
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.
The information given herein
is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is
intended and no endorsement by the Purdue University Cooperative
Extension Service is implied. Any person using products listed
assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with
current direction of the manufacturer. Purdue University is an
equal opportunity/equal access institution.
Information listed is valid
only for the state of Indiana
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Images courtesy of Iowa State University