Nature on our doorsteps - The useful Soldier Beetle

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

The months between June and August is the time to spot Soldier Beetles. As they prefer flat open flowers to feed on, you will see them on Common Hogweed, Ragwort, Blackberry flowers and also on thistles.

Solier Beetles love flat open flowers where they feed on pollen and nectar 1

Soldier Beetles

Soldier Beetles are slender, shiny, orange-red insects about 1cm long.

They have long dark antennae and darker tips to their folded wings. Their eyes and the bottom sections of their legs are also dark.

This combination of orange-red and black gave rise to the name of ‘Soldier Beetle’, recalling the colours of military uniforms of the past.

Feeding mostly on pollen and nectar, their constant moving from flower to flower makes them very useful pollinators.

The adults emerge from pupae in early summer.

Soldier Beetles can often be spotted feeding on flowering Thistles 1

Soldier Beetles can often be spotted feeding on flowering thistles

They spend much of their short adult lives mating, so they are often seen in pairs or in small groups. Females lay their eggs in soil and once hatched, the larvae spend up to a year developing.

The larvae are predators, hunting in long grass for the eggs and larvae of other insects like slugs, beetles, grasshoppers and moths.

Soldier Beetles often occur together in small groups with other insects 1

Soldier Beetles often congregate together in small groups with other insects

Soldier Beetles are therefore also a useful natural control mechanism, helping to maintain the balance in Nature between different species.

All-in-all, Soldier Beetles are a very useful insect to encourage into our gardens.

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