Soldier beetles are elongate-narrow, soft-bodied insects about ½ to ¾ inch in length. Colors vary from yellow to red with brown or black marks at the tips of the wings. Soldier beetlea are often especially noticeable at linden and other trees that are in bloom. The beetles swarm over the flowers in the daytime to feed on nectar. Other insects also find the aroma and nectar of linden trees irresistible: honey bees, flies, and armyworm moths among others.
Soldier beetles resemble lightningbugs but do not have light-producing organs. They are nicknamed leatherwings because of their soft, flexible "leathery" texture wing covers.
Both adults and larvae of soldier beetles are predacious and feed on other insects. The adults eat caterpillars, aphids, and other soft-bodied insects and can be important predators. They do not damage plants, and especially are not harmful to trees where they are visiting the blossoms. Soldier beetles are beneficial and harmless and it is unnecessary to control them.
Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on July 1, 2009. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.