|Soldier Beetles - Family Cantharidae|
Insects & Spiders | Beetles Main | Beetles Index | Spiders Index | Spiders Graphics
There are 16 genera and 455 species of Cantharidae in North America.
Family Cantharidae, commonly called soldier beetles or leatherwings, are soft-bodied, often brightly colored insects known for their aggregating on flowers. They are distributed worldwide, with some 5,000 species in 135 genera. They are slow, lumbering fliers and easily caught; not surprisingly, they have chemical defenses which make up for these apparent evolutionary shortcomings.
Unlike many other beetles, which have a pair of defensive glands at the tip of their abdomen, the soldier beetles have paired glands in the prothorax and on each of their first eight abdominal segments. When molested, the beetle emits droplets of white viscous fluid from pores along their sides.
Studies have shown two species of soldiers, Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus and Chauliognathus lecontei, are consistently rejected as prey by birds, mice, other beetles, ants, and jumping spiders. Mantids, assassin bugs, centipedes, and solpugids also avoid them. Chemical analysis has shown the secretion in both beetles to contain (Z)-dihydromatricaria acid, an acetylenic compound. 
Colorado Soldier Beetle
Soldier Beetle Trypherus frisoni
Cantharidae Soldier beetle
Soldier beetles get their name from the military uniform-like markings on some species. A common and easily-spotted species is the Pennsylvania leatherwing, which is yellow with one large black spot on each wing.
Adult females lay their eggs in clusters in the soil. The larvae are velvety, covered with dense bristles, and have antenna-like projections on their head. Most larvae are carnivorous, feeding on insects in the soil. Larvae overwinter in damp soil mast, leaf litter and loose bark.
Colorado Soldier Beetle, Chauliognathus basalis
Order Coleoptera: Beetles are the dominant form of life on earth: one of every five living species is a beetle. Coleoptera is the largest order in the animal kingdom, containing a third of all insect species. There are about 400,000 known species worldwide, ~30,000 of which live in North America. Beetles live in nearly every habitat, and for every kind of food, there's probably a beetle species that eats it.
Beetles Index | Longhorns | Leaf Beetles | Soldier | Blister | Lady | Scarab