Pollinators: Soldier Boy, oh my Little Soldier Boy

Dateline: April 5, 2014*

Soldier beetle on Marshpennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata)
Soldier beetle on Marshpennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata)

When you talk pollinators, most people expect a conversation about bees and/or butterflies.   Often flies will be considered as backups.  Well, let’s add another player to the pollination conversation…BEETLES.

The Margined Soldier Beetle a.k.a. Margined Leatherwing (Chauliognathus marginatus) is here to dispel the myth that beetles are evil.   Hey, we aren’t all June bugs, after all.

soldierbeetleApr2014AThis lovely is not only a pollinator as an adult, but the larva is a wonderful predator of some “cash crop” eating pests such as corn earworm and corn borer. Others on the menu of this soldier beetle larvae include aphids, fly larvae, other small caterpillars and grasshopper eggs.  The adults also occasionally dine on aphids while flitting flower to flower.

Mating: June 2013 on Rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Mating: June 2013 on Rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium)

In much of its range, this is the species you will find in the spring, feasting on the pollen and nectar of flowers such as New Jersey Tea.  When fall rolls around, a different species C. pennsylvanicus is more prevalent as their favorite choice of flowers, the goldenrods, begin to bloom.

The common name is based on the markings which has the look of the margins of the British military uniform of years past and the fact that they don’t have a hard shell…the wings are more “leatherlike”.

soldierbeetleApr2014The bright orange/red color warns off many predators, but it does have an enemy in the crab spiders that frequently hide in the very flowers that these pollinators visit.

Ready for takeoff on Fleabane
Ready for takeoff on Fleabane

This is a beneficial insect that you should keep an eye out for and welcome with open arms.  It will do a splendid job of enhancing your beautiful wildlife garden.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on April 5, 2014 at (beautifulwildlifegarden.com/). Click the date to view reader comments.

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