Soldier beetle
The soldier beetles, Cantharidae, are relatively soft-bodied, straight-sided beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s, related to the Lampyridae or firefly
Lampyridae is a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged beetles, and commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous crepuscular use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a "cold light", with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies...

 family, but being unable to produce light. They are cosmopolitan in distribution. One common British species is bright red, reminding people of the red coats of soldiers, hence the common name. A secondary common name is leatherwing, obtained from the texture of the wing covers.

Historically, these beetles were placed in a superfamily "Cantharoidea", which has been subsumed by the superfamily Elateroidea
Elateroidea is a large superfamily of beetles. It contains the familiar click beetles, fireflies, and soldier beetles, and their relatives.Certain clusters of families within the superfamily are more strongly related to one another; for example, the Elateridae has close ties to Anischiidae,...

; the name is still sometimes used as a rankless grouping, including the families Cantharidae, Drilidae, Lampyridae, Lycidae
Lycidae is a family in the beetle order Coleoptera, members of which are commonly called net-winged beetles.Beetles of this family are elongated and usually found on flowers or stems. The adults of some species are nectarivores while some may have short-lived adult lives during which they may not...

, Omalisidae
Omalisidae is a family of beetles, in the large suborder Polyphaga.It contains twelve species in two genera:* Genus Omalisus Geoffrey, 1762** Omalisus flavangulus ** Omalisus fontisbellaquaei Geoffroy in Fourcroy, 1785...

, Omethidae, Phengodidae
The beetle family Phengodidae is known also as glowworm beetles, whose larvae are known as glowworms. The females and larvae have bioluminescent organs. They occur throughout the New World from extreme southern Canada to Chile...

 (which includes Telegeusidae), and Rhagophthalmidae
Rhagophthalmidae is a family of beetles within the larger Elateroidea group that include click-beetles. Members of this beetle family have bioluminescent organs on the larvae and are closely related to the Phengodidae and Lampyridae , and were often included in one of these families as a...


Soldier beetles are highly desired by gardeners as biological control
Biological pest control
Biological control of pests in agriculture is a method of controlling pests that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms...

 agents of a number of pest
Pest (animal)
A pest is an animal which is detrimental to humans or human concerns. It is a loosely defined term, often overlapping with the related terms vermin, weeds, parasites and pathogens...

Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s. The larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e tend to be dark brown or gray, slender and wormlike with a rippled appearance due to pronounced segmentation. They consume grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...

 eggs, aphid
Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies, are small sap sucking insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions...

s, caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s and other soft bodied insects, most of which are pests.

The adults are especially important predators of aphid
Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies, are small sap sucking insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions...

s. They supplement their diet with nectar and pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

 and can be minor pollinator
A pollinator is the biotic agent that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization or syngamy of the female gamete in the ovule of the flower by the male gamete from the pollen grain...

s. Soldier beetle populations can be increased by planting good nectar- or pollen-producing plants such as Asclepias
Asclepias L. , the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants that contains over 140 known species...

or Solidago.

Selected genera

  • Absidia
  • Absidiella
  • Asilis
  • Athemus
  • Bactrocantharis
  • Belotus
  • Caccodes
  • Cantharis
    Cantharis is a large genus of soldier beetles in the family Cantharidae with narrow and soft elytra. The superficially similar poisonous spanish fly, sometimes called Cantharis vesicatoria or just Cantharis vernacularly, is actually unrelated to Cantharis. It is now named Lytta vesicatioria and...

  • Chauliognathus
    Chauliognathus is a genus of soldier beetles in the family Cantharidae. Adults have almost rectangular bodies. Some are red and black, similar to the military uniforms that were common before the usage of camouflage, hence the name of soldier beetles. Others are orange and black...

  • Compsonycha
  • Cordylocera
  • Crudosilis
  • Dichelotarsus
  • Discodon
  • Frostia
  • Hatchiana
  • Ichthyurus
  • Kandyosilis
  • Laemoglyptus
  • Lycocerus
  • Malthinellus
  • Malthinus
  • Malthodes
  • Malthomethes
  • Metacantharis
  • Microichthyurus
  • Micropodabrus
  • Mimopolemius
  • Neoontelus
  • Phytononus
  • Plectonotum
  • Podabrinus
  • Podabrus
  • Podosilis
  • Polemius
  • Prosthaptus
  • Prothemus
  • Pseudoabsidia
  • Rhagonycha
  • Silis
  • Sogdocantharis
  • Sphaerarthrum
  • Symphyomethes
  • Telephorus
  • Themus
  • Troglomethes
  • Tryphenis
  • Trypherus
  • Tylocerus
  • Tytthonyx

External links

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