Soldier Beetle

2009 January 3

Back in June of 2007, I found two of these beetles mating on the cedar tree behind the house. As usual, though, they had disengaged before I could get a picture of them both together, and then the one that had been on top flew away and I lost it somewhere in the kitchen. This one was the one on the bottom, and so I expect it was the female:

Putting her in the refrigerator didn’t slow her down much, which is why that picture was kind of blurry. I figured that she was cold-tolerant enough that a slightly more drastic approach would work [1]. So, I put her in the freezer for a couple of minutes, thinking that if I got her to just about freezing she’d go dormant – that was too much, though, and it killed her. That did make photographing a lot easier, though:

The wing covers were soft and leathery, not hard like most beetles, and so I’m pretty sure that this is a soldier beetle, family Cantharidae.

Soldier beetles are related to fireflies and net-winged beetles, which also have soft, leathery wing-covers. Most species of soldier beetle have carnivorous larvae, although the adults tend to eat pollen.

They are evidently called soldier beetles because their colored, leathery wing covers are reminiscent of 19th century military uniforms. They certainly don’t march in formation or anything like that.

There are 455 species of soldier beetle in North America, and a few different species of soldier beetle in Bug Guide are generally similar to this one, but none look like an exact match. So, I’m not going to stick my neck out trying to identify this one much further.

[1] These days, I’d just put her into one of my photographing chambers made out of two glass microscope slides and a rubber gasket. But, this photograph was taken about a year and a half ago, while I was still figuring out how to do things. The whole refrigeration thing really doesn’t work all that well a lot of the time.

3 Responses
  1. January 5, 2009

    Alas, she gave her life for science.

  2. January 7, 2009

    Cool idea for a blog. Insects can be fascinating, albeit icky, creatures.

    I thought you might be interested in one of my insect-related posts Spider Pool

  3. January 7, 2009

    Cube: Those are beautiful spiders, I like the colors and the interesting spikes.

    KT Cat: I did feel bad about accidentally killing her, but I have to admit it sure made photography easier!

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