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 1/2 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
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. Weather-stripping and
caulking will pest-proof a home. A vacuum cleaner will safely
remove soldier beetles that are found inside.
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 month this fall and winter. Pruning can be done for shaping
or size containment.
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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 off of
plants the last couple of years, and it is present very early again
this year. Fungicides such as mancozeb, maneb, or Daconil will have
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 four inches deep and hopefully this will help prevent
those leathery bottom tomatoes.
Keep spraying, or dusting, cucurbits and potatoes. Different
things on each, but the potato leaf hopper populations have
increased and the beetles that transmit the wilts on cucurbits are
present. Sevin and diazinon are the mainstays for these programs.
Japanese beetles are emerging. Protect your favorite roses or
apple tree with a cover spray of permethrin or Sevin liquid. They
are just starting, so keep an eye on them.
Emerald ash borer
Emerald ash borer is in Illinois. Northeastern Illinois to be
exact. This doesn't mean it isn't other places, since they didn't
know it was in Kane County for several years. If you're concerned,
go through a simple checklist. Make sure the tree you think is
infected is an ash (blue, green, black, or white). The infected tree
will have dead branches at the top and at the ends of major
branches. After a period of years, you will see the D-shaped exit
holes. There are other ash borers that have been with us, and they
have O-shaped exit holes (they aren't flat on one side). If you
suspect emerald ash borer, call the office and we can check it out.
Fulton, unit leader,
University of Illinois Extension,
Logan County Unit]