Bug of the Month May 2011: Brown Leatherwings Mating

Mating brown leatherwing beetles
Location: SF Bay Area
May 3, 2011 12:00 am
Although I was able to identify these with the help of your fantastic website, I thought you might like to see the pictures I took today since not much is known about these beetles. They are in one rosy buckwheat subshrub by the HUNDREDS (and from a closer look at the photos, ensuring future posterity with gusto). I was very relieved to affirm they are beneficial insects. Thank you so much for all your hard work!
Signature: Colleen Clark

Mating Brown Leatherwings

Hi Colleen,
Thanks for your kind compliments and your awesome photos of Brown Leatherwings, formerly
Cantharis consors.  They are attracted to our own porch lights each spring and we have been meaning to document their activity because it seems to us their numbers are more numerous this year.  We also thought of making them the Bug of the Month for May, but in an impulsive moment, we decided to feature a Black Click Beetle instead, but we are having second thoughts.  We have decided to demote the Black Click Beetle from the feature section and replace it with your submission.  Here is what Charles Hogue wrote of the Brown Leatherwing in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin in our second edition from 1993:  “Adults frequently come to porch lights in the late spring (April to May).  They give off a strong unpleasant musty odor when handled or crushed and may also exude a yellow fluid.  Little else is known of the habits of the adults, and the early stages remain undescribed.  Both are probably ground dwellers that live in plant litter and prye on other insects.”  BugGuide provides the taxonomic change to the name, now accepted as Pacificanthia consors, but there is little information on the species nor is there a common name listed.  BugGuide does provide somewhat more information on the family page, including:  “Adults mostly on vegetation, often on flowers; larvae in leaf litter, loose soil, rotten wood, etc” and  “Adults eat nectar, pollen, other insects; larvae are fluid-feeding predators, feed on insect eggs and larvae.”  More detailed information on the Brown Leatherwing may be located at the Pacific Horticulture website.

Brown Leatherwings

Dear Bugman,
I am amazed, and appreciative, at the speed with which you were able to reply to my email, and am honored that you chose to post the pictures.  Bug of the month, Woo-whoo!  Just this past weekend we had over 400 people through our suburban garden as a part of the east bay “Bringing Back the Natives” tour, we (a neighbor and fellow native garden enthusiast and I) were also interviewed and spotlighted in the local paper.  But I have to say, being posted on WTB bests it all.  Huge Fan!  Thanks!

Frederique Lavoipierre Comments
Soldier Beetles in Pacific Horticulture
Website: www.sonoma.edu/preserves
May 18, 2011 9:05 am
How delightful to find my article on soldier beetles featured on one of my favorite bug websites! No worries about copyright infringement with all those links to Pacific Horticulture Most of my Garden Allies articles are available online – hey, how about tachinid flies for ‘insect of the month’? If you want to see the first four articles, I can email text, or there is a booklet available with the first dozen Garden Allies articles and articles on creating habitat for beneficial insects ($10). Proceeds benefit the Sonoma State University Entomology Outreach Program.
Signature: Frederique Lavoipierre

Hi Frederique,
Thanks for the compliment.  The next time a beautiful photo of a Tachinid Fly is sent to us, we will prepare a Bug of the Month feature at your suggestion.  The texts you are offering would be an excellent addition at that time.

The tachinid article, like the soldier beetle article, gathers together information that is rarely available to the general gardening public. The expert on tachinids who I consulted (all my articles are vetted by specialists in the field), John Stireman, was thrilled beyond measure that tachinids were going to get some popular press exposure. I will work on my tachinid photography; I see them on my insectary flowers all the time.
Here’s a link to a beautiful tachinid in my garden – not at all the typical bristly specimen!

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