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Garden Allies: Soldier Beetles

Articles: Garden Allies: Soldier Beetles

Cantharis sp. taking flight. Illus: Craig Latker
Beneficial Soldiers
In his detailed and fascinating 1964 book, Beneficial Insects, Lester Swan comments on several beneficial species of soldier beetles and their associated prey, then notes that, unfortunately, they have not been studied extensively. Not much has changed in the ensuing four decades. “Oh, those! I have them in my garden, but I didn’t know they were beneficial,” is the now-familiar response when I point them out to garden visitors. Yet soldier beetles surely warrant the same recognition given to lady beetles and lacewings. In suitable habitat, they are a reliable and valuable ally. It is far easier to supply ideal living conditions for soldier beetles in gardens than in agricultural fields. This lack of potential for commercial use may help explain why soldier beetles have been so little studied, despite a voracious appetite for aphids, caterpillars, grasshopper eggs, mites, and other small pests. They are even reputed to attack cucumber beetles—reason enough for gardeners to agree that soldier beetles deserve further study!

The soldier beetle...

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