This summer, I noticed a type of insect that was new to me walking around on top of the flowers in my back yard. Then I started noticing them all over the place: walking on goldenrod leaves, walking on Queen Anne’s Lace, even flying in an awkward buzzy way. I thought it would be something common but it wasn’t in my simple insect guides. So I went searching for the name of a fairly long, skinny beetle that was shiny red orange with a noticeable black colour at the tail end.
Firefly-ish but Not a Firefly
In shape, they look a bit like a firefly. The way they fly is also reminiscent of some fireflies. They don’t have any glow about them though.
Another noticeable thing about this insect is its long dark segmented antennae. The legs are also orange near the body and dark near the “feet.” They have fairly large black eyes.
I nosed around BugGuide.net but to my surprise no one had posted photos recently asking what these red orange insects were. I didn’t have a crisp photo so I didn’t want to post a question myself. Life got busy (and cloudy weather set in) and I put the problem aside for a week.
The next week, though, I was enjoying some photos on outdoorontario.net when suddenly I found the answer. Gary Yankech had posted an excellent photo of my mystery bug: and it was labeled “Common Red Soldier Beetle.”
Armed with this common name, a quick visit to BugGuide.net provided me with more details. To my satisfaction, I discovered these insects are part of the same group as Click and Firefly Beetles (Elateroidea) so the similarities were real.
Red Soldier Beetles March Atop Ontario Flowers after Invading from Europe
Apparently the red soldier beetles are a species introduced from Eurasia “some time ago” according to BugGuide. Although they do noticeably like to hang around on the heads of flowers they are not damaging the plants. These insects are predators. (I wonder if that’s why they have such large eyes?)
Again, according to BugGuide.net, these soldier beetles eat insects that visit the flowers. The larvae stage eat “snails, slugs and ground-dwelling insects.” If that’s the case, the larvae should have a wonderful time in my yard. I have both snails and slugs in large numbers, unfortunately for my garden plants.
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Have you had Red Soldier Beetles patrolling in your yard? Please share your experiences with a comment.