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 one-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
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. Alternatively, they will 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 help 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.
are present at this time. Spray after eggs have all hatched
(guessing this week) to control them. Sevin, Thuricide or
one of the pyrethroids will work.
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.
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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 the
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.
Keep spraying, or
dusting, cucurbits and potatoes. There are different problems on
each, but the potato leaf hopper populations have increased, and
the beetles that transmit the wilts on cucurbits are present.
Sevin and bifenthrin are the mainstays for these programs.
will soon be emerging. Protect your favorite roses or apple tree
with a cover spray of permethrin, bifenthrin or Sevin liquid.
Keep up foundation
sprays to help control nuisance pests in the home. Crickets,
millipedes and ants are among those controlled to a great degree
by spraying the foundation and adjacent foot or so of soil with
permethrin or bifenthrin.
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]