Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus)

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle 

Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus

(Order Coleoptera; Family Cantharidae) 

 

Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus, male (photo by Saad Ilahe)

(Kansas: Sedgwick County. Chisholm Creek Park, .36 mi E. Oliver, 37N 44’ 29.8’’, 97S 16’ 41.8’’. September 16, 2011.)

 

Adult diagnosis: On a nice, sunny day, one can find Golden Soldier Beetles in abundance by goldenrods in Kansas. They are the most common soldier beetles in the Midwest. These beetles are elongated, are about 1.5cm (.625 inch), and have unusually soft and flexible elytra, which meet in a straight line till the back of the abdomen. The elytra is orange in color with black tips. The head of Goldenrod Soldier Beetle is not concealed by the pronotum and is visible. They have chewing mouthparts and long, straight antennae. 

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle characteristics (from: http://www.entomology.umn.edu/museum/links/coursefiles/Polyphaga%20characters.html)

 

Adult Natural History: Goldenrod Soldier Beetles go through complete metamorphosis where they go through with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. The adult female lays her eggs in soil or leaf litter. When the eggs are hatched the larvae feeds on the soil level and predates other soft bodied insects like grasshopper eggs, small caterpillars, and aphids. Because of their ability to prey on other insects, they can be very useful in controlling pests.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles resemble lightning bugs but are incapable of producing light. They can also be confused with Blister Beetles, which are pests, but their head shape is more squared and they have a long neck, unlike Soldier Beetles.

These beetles are very common during the summer, especially in August. They meet around flowers like goldenrod; a meeting place also for finding mates. They, however, do no damage to the plants nor do they bite or sting. 

 

Distribution: Soldier Beetles are very common throughout the United States, as can be seen on the map. Goldenrod Soldier Beetles are especially abundant and common in Kansas and the Midwest during the summer. 

Distribution of Chailiognathus Pennsylvanicus in the United States. Map created by http://bugguide.net/node/view/118/data

 

Habitat: Goldenrod Soldier Beetles are often found in gardens by flowers like goldenrod, hence the name. They also prefer somewhat moist soil, and can also be found in meadows and fields.

Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus around its habitat (on a goldenrod flower). Photo by: http://centralillinoisinsects.org/weblog/

 

Diet: Goldenrod Soldier Beetles are predatory and can consume small caterpillars, grasshopper eggs, aphids, and other soft-bodied insects. These beetles can also feed on nectar and pollen. 

Conservation Status: Stable 

Video: 

Soldier Beetle forages on wild cucumber 

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles not only prey on other insects, but also feed on plants. This video gives a vivid picture of a Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus doing just that. 

Links: 

University of Kentucky Entomology: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/insects/beetles/soldier/soldier.htm

Pacific Horticulture: http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/garden-allies/69/3/

Bug Guide: http://bugguide.net/node/view/118/data

Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldier_beetle

Winsmarter Gardener Program: http://wimastergardener.org/?q=GoldenrodSoldierBeetle

Peoria Academy of Science: http://centralillinoisinsects.org/weblog/

References: 

Mclain, Kelly.1985. Clinical variation in morphology and associative mating in the Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus. Biological Journal of Linnean Society, 25: 105-117.

Wade, Michael and McCauley, David. 1978. Female choice and Mating Structure of a Natural Population of the Soldie Beetle, Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus. Evolution, 32: 771. 

Mclain, Kelly. 1981. Interspecific interference competition and mate choic in the soldier beetle, Chauliognathus Pennsylvanicus. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 9: 65-66

Submitted by: Saad Ilahe, November 2011

 

 

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