Soldier beetles, also known as
leatherwings, get their name from the soft, clothlike wing covers,
which when brightly colored are reminiscent of uniforms. These
beetles are elongate, soft-bodied and about a half-inch long. Colors
of soldier beetles vary from yellow to red, with brown or black
wings or trim. A common and easily spotted species is the
Pennsylvania leatherwing, which is yellow 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."
Adult females lay their eggs in
clusters in the soil. The larvae are velvety, covered with dense
bristles and have antennalike projections on their head. Most larvae
are carnivorous, feeding on insects in the soil. Larvae overwinter
in damp soil and debris or loose bark. The adults are also
predators, eating caterpillars, eggs, aphids and other soft-bodied
insects. 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. They are also a major pest this time of year,
when populations congregate around those linden trees.
Weatherstripping and caulking will pest-proof a home. A vacuum
cleaner will safely remove soldier beetles that are found inside.
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Things to do
This is one of those infamous
"things you could work on in your spare time" lists. Of course the
list is endless, but as time and mood allow, you could work on a few
of these things.
Pruning evergreens is done
about the end of June. This applies to both broadleaf and
traditional evergreens. Pine, juniper, yew, arborvitae, spruce,
holly, rhododendron, azalea and other evergreens should all be
pruned around the end of June. This keeps new growth from getting
too rank this growing season but still allows new growth that does
occur to harden off before the cold months this fall and winter.
Pruning can be done for shaping or size containment.
Check tomato plants for signs
of septoria leaf blight. If you see brown areas between the veins
and along tips of leaves, especially on the lower leaves, you may
want to start a fungicide spray program. This is the disease that
has caused leaves to drop from plants the last couple of years, and
it is present very early again this year. Fungicides such as
mancozeb, maneb or Daconil will provide some control of the fungus.
Also on tomato plants, if you
haven't mulched them yet, you may want to do so. The mulch evens out
soil temperature and moisture. This is a great assistance when
preventing blossom-end rot on the fruits as they begin to form. You
may use straw, grass clippings or any commercial mulch material.
Apply about 4 inches deep, and hopefully this will help prevent
those leathery bottom tomatoes.
spraying, or dusting, cucurbits and potatoes. Different things feed
on each, but the potato leaf hopper populations have increased, and
the beetles that transmit the wilts on cucurbits are present. Sevin
is the mainstay for these programs.
Logan County Extension office]