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Orange Beetles Are Killing My Flowers, or Are They?

Orange beetle with black markings on an orange flower
Figure 1. Soldier beetle foraging on a flower. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst.

Many gardens are being invaded by orange beetles that have a strong preference for flowering plants. Rest assured, these are soldier beetles and they aren’t feeding on the flowers! Instead, they are actually predators and pollinators.

Soldier Beetle Identification

Adult soldier beetles vary in color depending on the species. The most common species on flowers in South Dakota is the goldenrod soldier beetle, which is orange in color with two black spots near the end of the body on their cloth like forewings (Figure 1). The adults also have a black spot present on their thorax (segment directly behind the head). These beetles are elongate and are approximately ½ of an inch long. The soldier beetle larvae are worm-like and have a rippled appearance. These larvae are typically a brown or gray color and are covered in small hairs. The larvae can be up to ¾ of an inch long. However, the larvae are not typically observed.

Why are these insects beneficial?

Both the adults and larvae of soldier beetles are predators that feed on other insects. Often, their prey are also common pests, including soft bodied insects such as caterpillars and aphids. The adults will wait on a plant for prey. During this time, they may feed on the nectar and pollen of the plant. However, they don’t damage the plant while doing this and they don’t feed on the flower petals. There is no need to manage soldier beetles – instead, enjoy observing them and the beneficial service they provide.