Are Soldier Beetles Good Or Bad For The Garden? Truth Revealed

Soldier beetles look like they are scary wasps, but are soldier beetles good or bad for the garden? We explain below why these bugs are nothing but good news for you.

You are noticing insects flying around your garden that look like wasps and bees, and you want to rid of them quickly. That’s understandable

Before driving them away, you must make sure they are really troublesome pests. The soldier beetles can look quite similar to these pests, but it isn’t harmful in any way.

Is it worth keeping a wasp lookalike in your valuable garden? Let us find out in this article.

Are Soldier Beetles Good Or Bad For The Garden
Soldier Beetle Larva

What do Soldier Beetles Look Like?

Soldier beetles are tiny insects that show an average growth of 0.5 inches in length.

These insects are related to fireflies, but they do not glow. You can find them all over North America.

The adult beetles have black spots on their bodies and wing cover. Also, if you look closely, you will notice that the wing covers only partially cover the body.

The beetle larvae are entirely black and have an alligator-like appearance. In the larval stage, they can grow up to 0.75 inches in length.

These beetles love to fly around gardens collecting nectar from flower to flower.

Do Soldier Beetles Fly?

Yes, soldier beetles can fly. They have two pairs of wings, with the top pair being hard and protective, and the underlying pair being membranous, which they use for flying.

What Do Soldier Beetles Eat?

Soldier beetles have a varied diet. While adult soldier beetles primarily feed on nectar and pollen, they may also consume aphids and other small insects.

In contrast, their larvae are predatory and feed on small insects, eggs, and other larvae.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Soldier Beetle?

Soldier beetles have an average lifespan of three months. They emerge in July and are active from August through September. 

Soldier beetles spend most of their life cycle as ground-dwelling larvae, which can live one to three years. They overwinter as larvae in topsoil.

Why do Some People Think They Are Bad?

Many people think that these insects are similar to garden pests and are also harmful.

The main reason behind this is that they look similar to wasps and bees when they fly from flower to flower.

At first glance, people assume them to be bees and try to shoo them away.

Also, the sight of a bunch of these insects flying around your house may not be a pretty one, especially during winter, when they try to get inside homes to survive the cold.

But their reality is entirely different. Let us take a look at the sections below to understand the truth of the soldier beetles.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

Are They Harmful?

Although they might look similar to wasps and bees, they do not cause any harm to humans.

These insects don’t have a stinger and can’t sting or bite. Adding to that, they are not poisonous as well.

Another good thing about these insects is that while feeding on pollen and nectar, they do not cause any harm to the plants.

You should know that adult soldier beetles secrete a chemical substance when they sense danger to appear unappealing to predators.

How They Are Good

Adult beetles are active fliers, and you can spot them flying swiftly across different flowers in search of pollen and nectar.

Since they effectively move pollen from one flower to another, it makes them excellent pollinators.

They are also counted in the category of beneficial insects as they actively feed on aphids and other small soft-bodied insect species that can be a significant threat to your vegetable garden.

The soldier beetle larvae are also great predators with voracious appetites who actively consume newly hatched grasshoppers, caterpillars, slugs, grasshopper eggs, insect eggs, and other small garden pests.

Since they are this beneficial, people try creating a suitable-enough environment in their garden to attract them. But how is it done? Let us find out in the next section.

How To Attract Them To Your Garden?

Plant more bright-colored flowers

These insects highly rely on nectar and pollen to complete their diets, and having a garden full of brightly colored flowers is a perfect invitation for these insects to come to your yard.

Also, having late-blooming plants like Boltonia and Joe Pye weed is a great bonus as they bloom during the breeding months of these bugs.

Leave the leaf litter

Instead of cleaning the entire garden and getting rid of the fallen leaves, let them be throughout the winter. This will help the larvae of beetles survive the cold weather.

Avoid using chemical pesticides

The usage of chemical pesticides is a big no if you want soldier beetles in your garden.

These pesticides will cause harm to the insects, which will prevent them from coming back to your garden.

Lifecycle of a Soldier Beetle

The lifecycle of soldier beetles, like many beetles, consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Here’s a detailed look into each phase:

Egg Stage:

  • Laying: Female soldier beetles lay their eggs in the soil or under leaf litter. The chosen location is typically moist and provides a safe environment for the eggs to develop.
  • Duration: The eggs will incubate for several days to a few weeks, depending on the species and environmental conditions.

Larval Stage:

  • Appearance: Soldier beetle larvae are elongated and often resemble small caterpillars. They are typically dark in color, sometimes with lighter markings.
  • Diet: The larvae are predatory and feed on other small insects, eggs, and larvae. This makes them beneficial in gardens as they help control pest populations.
  • Growth: As the larvae grow, they undergo several molts, shedding their exoskeleton to allow for further growth.
  • Duration: This stage can last several weeks to months, again depending on species and environmental factors.

Pupal Stage:

  • Transformation: After reaching a certain size, the larvae will find a suitable spot in the soil or under debris to pupate. Here, they transform into the adult form inside a protective casing.
  • Appearance: The pupa is immobile and appears as a slightly translucent form of the adult beetle.
  • Duration: The pupal stage can last from a few days to several weeks.

Adult Stage:

  • Appearance: Adult soldier beetles are soft-bodied and range in color from yellow to red with black markings, earning them the nickname “leatherwings.”
  • Diet: Unlike their predatory larvae, adult soldier beetles primarily feed on nectar and pollen, though some may also consume aphids and other small insects.
  • Reproduction: Once mature, the adults will mate, and the females will lay eggs to start the next generation.
  • Lifespan: The adult stage is relatively short-lived, often lasting just a few weeks.

Throughout their lifecycle, soldier beetles play a vital role in the ecosystem. As larvae, they help control pest populations, and as adults, they aid in pollination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which beetles are bad for the garden?

Some beetles can be highly harmful to your garden as they can destroy plants by damaging tissues, eating roots, carrying harmful bacteria, and more.

Here are a few names that you should be careful from:

  • Cucumber beetles
  • Japanese beetles
  • Potato beetles
  • Flea beetles
  • Bean leaf beetles

Are red soldier beetles good for the garden?

Yes, red soldier beetles are good for your garden as they help to transfer pollens from one flower to the other.

They are also excellent for natural pest control as they are great at hunting down aphids that can cause large-scale damage to your valuable plants.

How do I get rid of soldier beetles?

You can get rid of soldier beetles by making sure that there are no cracks and gaps in your house, as they might use such openings as entry points to get inside your home.

To keep them away from your garden, make sure that there is a good population of predators that hunt these insects, like birds, lizards, bugs, and more.

Soapy water is also a good deterrent to them.

What are the worst garden pests?

Aphids are one of the most dangerous pests for your gardens. These small insects are capable of completely destroying healthy and valuable plants.

They do so by sucking out the essential juices from the plants, which cause leaf curling, discoloration, and other problems.

Soldier Beetle

Wrap Up

Some insects might look scary and intimidating, but they can be highly beneficial. The soldier beetle is a perfect example of this.

These tiny beetles are highly beneficial for your garden as they eliminate aphids and are excellent pollinators.

But, since they look similar to wasps and bees, people often try to get rid of them.

This article has, hopefully, helped you understand the importance of these insects. Thank you for reading it.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about soldier beetles. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Soldier Beetle

What’s this bug??
Hello Bugman!
I have attached two photos of an insect that I would like to have identified. I am in Chicago, Illinois. I have recently noticed this particular species (with moderate frequency) on my wooden porch. Is it some type of termite, or something else entirely? Just wondering if we have to be worried! Thanks in advance,
John in Chicago

Hi John,
This is a Soldier Beetle, Trypherus latipennis. We found it on BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Common Red Soldier Beetle

6 legs
This was spotted at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, UK on a sunny (but not too hot) day in June 2006 It’s about 2 inches long. Never seen anything like it before. Note the sticky-up triangle at the rear.
Sam

Hi Sam,
We believe this is a Soldier Beetle in the family Cantharidae, but we cannot locate an exact species for you. The triangle you mention are the wings. Beetles have a hard set of wings known as elytra and a soft set of underwings used for flying.

Update:  August 18, 2016
WE just received a new image and upon doing the research, we realized this Soldier Beetle was never identified to the species level.  We believe, based on these Nature Spot images, that it is the Common Red Soldier Beetle,
Rhagonycha fulva,  and it is “A very common beetle throughout most of Britain.”

Letter 3 – Soldier Beetle

Subject: Household beetle in Cleveland
Location: Cleveland, OH
June 2, 2014 8:24 pm
We have found several of these guys crawling in one end of our house over the past couple of weeks. Some of them will fly. They look like longhorn beetles but I’ve never seen one in person. Am I correct?
Thanks!
Signature: Phil

Soldier Beetle
Soldier Beetle

Dear Phil,
This is some species of Soldier Beetle, perhaps
Cantharis livida pictured on BugGuide, or Cantharis rufa, also pictured on BugGuide, or a closely related species.

Letter 4 – Soldier Beetle

Subject: Longhorn Beetle?
Location: Williams, Arizona
September 5, 2015 1:34 pm
At first I thought this was a milkweed bug. The more I look at it I’m thinking it’s some sort of longhorn beetle. I can’t find any pictures on the web that match. Can you help? Photo was taken around Sept. 2 in Williams, Arizona. Thanks.
Chris
Signature: Chris

Soldier Beetle
Soldier Beetle

Dear Chris,
This is a Soldier Beetle in the genus Chauliognathus, and the closest match we could find on BugGuide is the Colorado Soldier Beetle,
Chauliognathus basalis, which is not reported from Arizona, but from nearby New Mexico.  Chauliognathus deceptus also looks very close, and BugGuide does report it from Arizona.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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