Monday, September 20, 2010

Soldiers on the Flowers

Pennsylvania Leatherwing
There are soldier beetles flying all over, from Bull Creek to our backyard.  They are landing on clothing, cars and lawn furniture but especially on their favorite plants.  They are Pennsylvania Leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus), a species which feeds on the nectar of Goldenrod and Thoroughwart (Eupatorium) that bloom from August through October.  They seem to have adapted to the exotics in our backyard such as celosia.
Their larva live on the ground under leaf litter, stones, logs, etc.  They are predatory, eating insect eggs and larva.  Adults and larva both have abdominal glands which secrete defensive chemicals.*
Adapting to city life on Celosia
These beetles are strong fliers and locate their host plants with uncanny accuracy.            
They are valuable as pollinators and are said to eat aphids and even cucumber beetles.  If this is true, I wish they would get busy as we have a massive attack of cucumber beetles, seemingly misnamed as they also eat kale, spinach, beans, squash, and everything else they can land on. 
Five-spotted Cucumber Beetle

For those of you who are careful readers, you may have picked up on the pensylvanicus with only one "n".  This isn't one of my frequent mistakes.  Bugguide says "The spelling with one "n" was in common use at the time (de Geer says in the description that the specimen was sent to him from "Pensylvanie"), so the species name based on it can't be corrected under the rules governing scientific names."[]

*Field Guide to Insects of North America- Kaufman

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