Common Red Soldier Beetle: All You Need To Know

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Common Red Soldier Beetle

The name bloodsucker beetle seems intimidating, but common red soldier beetles are not as bad as they are made out to be. Learn all about them in this article.

Soldier beetles get their name due to the various color combinations of red-and-black markings on their bodies which look similar to a soldier’s uniform.

Speaking of red bodies and markings, there is a beetle that people think is very dangerous because of its appearance; this insect is called the red soldier beetle.

They are also known as bloodsucker beetles. Sounds frightening? Well, not really.

They are not at all dangerous. But then why are they called bloodsuckers? Let us find out more in this article.

Common Red Soldier Beetle

What Are Common Red Soldier Beetles?

What Do They Look Like?

The red soldier beetle – Rhagonycha Fulva, is a medium-sized beetle with a narrow and rectangular body.

Red soldier beetles can grow up to 0.5 inches in length and are often mistaken for wasps. 

These beetles have long antennae and bright red spots on their wing covers, with a black patch on the edge of the wings.

Although they are called red soldier beetles, they come in different color combinations, including black, orange, and of course, red.

Adult soldier beetles are easy to spot against the backdrop of flowers like daisies and hogweed during the months of June to August.

The adults don’t survive very long and spend most of their lives mating. The soldier beetle larva looks like a long worm and is very thin.  

What Is Their Habitat?

Red soldier beetles can be found in open-structured flowers like hogweed, daises, and cow parsley. Since they fall from flower to flower, they are considered decent pollinators.

Grasslands, hedgerows, parks, and woodlands are the ideal red soldier beetle habitat.

The populations of red soldier beetle species are distributed all across Anatolia. They are also found in England, North America, and parts of Canada, like British Columbia and Ontario.

Common Red Soldier Beetle

Life Cycle of Common Red Soldier Beetles

The life cycle of soldier beetles starts with the mating of male and female adult soldier beetles.

The males find the female by getting attracted to pheromones.

These insects undergo complete metamorphosis and show four stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult soldier beetles.

After mating, the female searches for a secure spot in the topsoil to lay the eggs.

Within a week, these eggs hatch.

Once the larvae emerge, they shift to nearby wooden debris or loose barks to feed enough to reach the pupation stage.

Fascinatingly, these larvae can survive for 1-3 years. Soon afterward, they begin pupating in an underground cell.

From the start of July, you spot the adult soldier beetles emerging and flying around. Within a few days, these adults will mate and die.

Common Red Soldier Beetle
Common red soldier beetles can often be caught in “the act,” which is why they are also called “hogweed bonking beetles”

Do They Really Suck Blood?

You might be forgiven for thinking that the red soldier beetle sucks blood; after all, they are commonly called “bloodsucker beetles.”

But what if we tell you these beetles are harmless and do not suck blood? Yes, it’s true – there is no need to be scared of these red beetles as they do not suck human blood.

They are called bloodsucker beetles due to their red-colored bodies.

Are They Poisonous/Venomous?

Most species of soldier beetles, including the red soldier beetles, are gentle insects. They do not have a stinger and cannot sting.

Yes, the name “soldier beetle” sounds like it is an attacking army, but they are not poisonous and will not cause any injury or illness to humans. They aren’t even aggressive!

However, when threatened, these insects emit a fluid that makes them unappealing to predators. This liquid smells bad, and you would not want to be around that smell.

Do They Bite or Sting?

No, red soldier beetles do not bite or sting. These insects are gentle and will mostly lie down and play dead when they come across humans.

Also, we mentioned in the previous section that they are poisonous. The only concern is the foul-smelling liquid they emit.

Common Red Soldier Beetle

Are They Beneficial?

These red and orange beetles seem intimidating, but they are highly beneficial insects.

Because they love to be around flowers like daisies, marigolds, hogweed, and other flowers, they are considered pollinators.

Adding to that, these insects are great for natural pest control.

Although the adults live for only a short time, they are good hunters of aphids that cause damage to valuable plants in the garden.

Even the larvae of this insect is known for predating grasshopper and other pest eggs.

Having a few of them in your garden will decrease your dependence on pesticides and will work wonders to maintain the fertility of the soil.

How To Attract Them To Your Garden?

As we already mentioned, the soldier beetle family is excellent for keeping unwanted pests away. Many gardeners would like to attract them to their yards and fields.

Here are some methods to lure them into your gardens:

Having a variety of flowering plants in your garden is an excellent way of attracting red soldier beetles. These insects are often spotted roaming and mating around flowers.

You will find them feeding pollens and nectar around flowering plants like marigolds and daisies. If you have a well-blooming garden, red soldier beetles will surely come flying toward it.

Larger insects, lizards, and birds hunt down red soldier beetles. If these organisms are regular visitors to your garden, the beetles will stay away from that spot. Keep the area predator-free for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a red soldier beetle eat?

Adult red soldier beetle adults live for short periods and are rarely seen eating anything. They spend most of their time mating.
In some cases, you will find them eating pollens and drinking nectar from flowers like hogweed, daises, and marigold. They also hunt aphids sometimes.

Are red beetles poisonous?

No red soldier beetles are not poisonous. They can look a little intimidating due to their peculiar red bodies, but they do not attack.
These insects don’t have a stinger either. The only concern is they release a foul-smelling fluid whenever they feel threatened.

Do soldier beetles bite or sting?

Soldier beetles are gentle creatures from the beetle family. They are non-aggressive, and they barely bite. Adding to that, these beetles don’t have a stinger to use for attacks.
If a soldier beetles spots danger, it releases a foul-smelling liquid from the body, which makes them appear unattractive to the predators.

Can soldier beetles hurt you?

Soldier beetles are gentle insects, and they barely hurt anyone. If they come across a threat or a person, they lay on the ground motionless to play dead.
In some cases, they release a liquid from the body which smells pathetic and will make you smell the same.

Wrap Up

Red soldier beetles are often misunderstood as viscous blood-sucking insects.

The red-colored bodies and the name bloodsucker beetles only add to the fire. But these creatures are quite gentle and harmless.

However, make sure that you don’t touch them, especially when they emit that foul-smelling defensive liquid.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. 

Reader Emails

The common red soldier beetle can easily be spotted in gardens because it loves to feed on flower nectar. It looks rather scary from a distance because of its blood-red color.

Several readers have shared with us their photographs, inquiring with us about these bugs, what they are, how beneficial they are and so on. Please go through some of these letter below.

Letter 1 – Common Red Soldier Beetle

 

Red Soldier Beetle? Location: Canada, July, mostly in warm weather July 10, 2011 7:42 pm Hi! Found your site when trying to ID a beetle I’ve been seeing on my Potentilla shrubs; they don’t really venture anywhere else. After looking around your site I thought they looked the most like ”Common Red Soldier Beetles” but with a wider black strip. However your site seems to indicate that those beetles are carnivorous and the ones I’ve seen, which I’ve been observing for days, seem to be after nectar while ignoring other insects. It was late and getting dark when I realized I should take a picture for you… sorry! P.S. Thanks for your ”unnecessary carnage” tag… I’ve been trying to convince people not to go around squashing animals forever. -_- Signature: Lisa Sky
Common Red Soldier Beetle
Dear Lisa, We agree that this is a Common Red Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva, and according to BugGuide:  “adults feed on small insects that visit flowers.”  On the family page for Cantharidae, BugGuide notes that:  “Adults eat nectar, pollen, other insects.”  Perhaps there is not complete information on the species page.  The Common Red Soldier Beetle is a species introduced from Europe.

Letter 2 – Common Red Soldier Beetles Mating

 

Subject: A romantic liason between beetles? Location: Toronto, Ontario June 27, 2012 9:44 am Hi Bugman, I was out walking with my 3-year old daughter Rebecca, and we came across a patch of Wild Carrot plants, sporting many sets of frolicking insects… possibly some kind of long horn beetle? She asked if they were playing ’piggyback’, and not wanting to get into a discussion quite yet about the ’birds and the bee(tles)’, I agreed that they were most certainly having some kind of a good time. Would you know what kind of beetles these might be (a picture of them now appears as the desktop screen on my phone). Thanks! 🙂 Signature: AliA
Mating Common Red Soldier Beetles
Dear AliA, These mating beetles are Common Red Soldier Beetles, Rhagonycha fulva, and they are an introduced species from Eurasia that is found in the northern parts of North America.  We are very amused by another common name we found on BugGuide: the Hogweed Bonking Beetle.  Thanks Daniel – “Bonking” Beetle is very appropriate! Cheers!

Letter 3 – Common Red Soldier Beetle from Kent

 

Subject: Which bug is this please Location: East Peckham, Kent, TN12 5DP July 7, 2017 9:33 am Please could you identify this bug. Found on Cloud trees. It is around 1cm, with an orange body similar style to a wasp with lines on body. Looks 4 legged, and flies. Wings are more red/brown with a black tip. Two long antennae on the head. Many Thanks Signature: Anna
Common Red Soldier Beetle
Dear Anna, We are pretty confident we have correctly identified your Common Red Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva, thanks to Nature Spot where it states:  “Often seen on umbelifer flowers, such as Hogweed and Cow Parsley” and “They are predatory on other insects visiting the flower they are resting on but also eat nectar and pollen.”  According to BugGuide:  “well-established in British Columbia and Quebec [Pat Bouchard]; recently recorded in Ontario from BugGuide photos here and here  native to Eurasia; introduced to North America some time ago.”
Common Red Soldier Beetle

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Soldier Beetles

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • I wish I had found your site earlier!

    Reply
  • I have numerous of these beetles on my young white spruce…are they sucking the spruce sap? I squeeze them between my fingers until they die…sometimes squeeze two attached – guess they die happy…do I need to be concerned? Should I use the malathion?

    Reply
    • Plant Police
      July 26, 2018 8:16 pm

      They’re not hurting your spruce as they are a beneficial insect, likely eating the aphids on your spruce tree. Don’t spray them, let them live.

      Reply

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