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Soldier Beetle - cantharis fusca. While the name may imply something less than desirable, Soldier Beetles (family Cantharidae) are considered to be beneficial insects. These good bugs are predators to a host of bad bugs including cucumber beetles, aphids, spider mites, various caterpillars, grasshopper eggs, beetle larvae and other insects and their eggs. While both the adults and larvae are predators, the adults will supplement their diet with pollen from plants such as wild lettuce, milkweed, hydrangea, and goldenrod - good things to have growing in your garden to encourage them to stay.

The adult beetles resemble fireflies, but don’t light up. They are slender, elongate, relatively flat insects, 1/3 - 1/2 inches long with a narrow, black abdomen, a bright red head or thorax and long, leathery wing covers.

The larvae are flat and dark-colored and covered with hairs that give them a "velvety" appearance. The immature stages of soldier beetles are somewhat like the immature forms of lady beetles but are larger and more slender. Also soldier beetle larvae tend to be terrestrial rather than living on plants as lady beetle larvae do.

Soldier beetles go through a complete metamorphosis. Adults lay the eggs in clusters in the soil and have one or two offspring during the season. The larvae over winter in the soil and pupate in the spring.
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Additional Photos by Bente Feldballe (milloup) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 608 W: 65 N: 329] (1829)
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