Fire Beetles - How Are They Useful For The Garden And Can They Harm? Description Of Soft Beetle, How To Attract. Photo

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Fire Beetles - How Are They Useful For The Garden And Can They Harm? Description Of Soft Beetle, How To Attract. Photo
Fire Beetles - How Are They Useful For The Garden And Can They Harm? Description Of Soft Beetle, How To Attract. Photo

Video: Fire Beetles - How Are They Useful For The Garden And Can They Harm? Description Of Soft Beetle, How To Attract. Photo

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Video: 5 Bad Bugs and How to Rid Them from Your Garden - Aphids, Scale, Worms, Beetles 2023, January
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Almost every gardener has probably come across fire beetles. These insects are quite widespread almost everywhere. In childhood, we called these beetles "bloodsuckers" because of their red-orange belly, which, as we thought, became so from eating blood. We were afraid of such insects and often purposefully crushed them. When I grew up and became a gardener, I became interested to know what this black-orange beetle is really called, is it a pest, neutral, or is it useful for the garden? I will tell you about the results of my searches in this article.

Fire beetles - how are they useful for the garden and can they harm?
Fire beetles - how are they useful for the garden and can they harm?

Content:

  • Firefighter beetle - appearance and main features
  • What does a firefighter beetle eat?
  • How to attract soft beetles to the garden?
  • Can fire beetles harm?

Firefighter beetle - appearance and main features

The scientific name for this beetle is soft beetle (Cantharidae), and these insects are related to click beetles, fireflies and wood beetles. In different countries, they have different popular names, somewhere they are called "tanners" or "soldiers" (as we call soldier bugs). In our country, they are most often called "fire beetles".

The soft body is very recognizable - they have black legs, black wings and a black head with an orange mark. They have a soft and slender body, about 2 centimeters in length. The color of the abdomen ranges from pale yellow to bright red, but is usually bright orange. The beetle's antennae are long, filamentous, and consist of separate segments. They have "claws" on their paws, so they can easily climb.

Although the classic appearance of the beetle is black wings and an orange belly, in fact, their color can vary. There are also brown-red specimens or orange beetles with a dark pattern on the back, like soldier bugs.

It is no coincidence that fire beetles have such a bright color. This is a warning that they are unsuitable for food, because soft beetles protect themselves from other predatory insects, insectivorous birds and animals, emitting unpleasant and poisonous chemical compounds, including cantharidin.

The life span of the soft beetle is short; they start mating at the age of one month. After mating, the female will lay eggs in a loose, secluded place, for example, in deciduous litter, rotting stumps, rotting boards, etc. After that, the female and male die quickly enough.

In the spring you can find the larvae of the firefighter beetle, which move in heaps of plant debris or on loose soil in the garden. Sometimes, due to their appearance, the larvae are compared to small crocodiles, although they resemble caterpillars, narrowed from the side of the head. They are usually dark in color and covered with noticeable thick hairs, sometimes they may have a dirty orange swept away.

At the beginning of summer, the larvae pupate. In June-July, they will come out of the pupa state in the form of adult beetles. In the middle of summer, around July, the mating period of fire beetles will begin. Adult insects become especially active in August-September, and it is during this period that gardeners can notice them in very large numbers.

Fire beetles are very active, they fly, flying from flower to flower, crawl over plants and mate. At the end of autumn, a new generation of beetles will hatch from the eggs, and the larvae will look for places for wintering.

Soft beetles, or fire beetles (Cantharidae) are very active and constantly in motion
Soft beetles, or fire beetles (Cantharidae) are very active and constantly in motion

What does a firefighter beetle eat?

The larvae of soft beetles are predominantly carnivorous and feed on small soil inhabitants, as well as larvae and eggs. They like small caterpillars, medium-sized larvae of various insects, leaf beetles, grasshopper eggs and soft-bodied arthropods. They are not only predators, but also have extraintestinal digestion (like spiders). That is, when the larvae find a prey, they inject digestive juice into it, as a result of which the victim's tissues dissolve inside and they can suck out their lunch.

Adult firefighter beetles feed very diversely, although they are mostly predators. Adult beetles can often be found on a variety of flowers, as they feed on pollen and nectar. But such food is in addition to their prey - medium-sized insects.

The main diet of the firefighter beetle: aphids, mealybugs, mites, small caterpillars, insect eggs and small arthropods and insects with a soft body, since they do not have too powerful jaws. The fire beetle tracks down its prey on the fly, after which it lands next to it or directly on it, then bites the victim, injecting poison and its digestive juice. Under the influence of this substance, the insides of the victim become soft, and the beetle can drink them.

By the way, there is information that fire beetles can be used to drive cockroaches out of the house. To do this, it is advised to run several soft beetles into the house, and soon it will be possible to observe how cockroaches leave the home, perhaps fearing such predatory neighbors.

The larvae of the soft beetle are compared to small crocodiles, although they resemble caterpillars narrowed from the side of the head
The larvae of the soft beetle are compared to small crocodiles, although they resemble caterpillars narrowed from the side of the head

How to attract soft beetles to the garden?

Since firefighter beetles actively feed on aphids, caterpillars, locust eggs, ticks and other small pests, they are very welcome guests in our gardens. It is easy enough to encourage the presence of soft beetles on the site. It has been noticed that fire beetles prefer flowers of representatives of the Asteraceae and Umbrella families, as well as some plants blooming in clusters of small flowers, for example, Euphorbia.

They give particular preference to yellow-colored inflorescences (yarrow, gray-yellow space, fennel, goldenrod and others). Pollination by beetles, known as cantarophilia, is also carried out with the help of soft beetles. Thus, to attract firefighter beetles to the garden, you need to choose suitable plants that will bloom throughout the summer season.

In addition, there should be a water source in the garden, as fire beetles choose wet habitats. For the life cycle of these beetles (and many other beneficial organisms), it is important that around them there is a mulched soil untouched by digging and loosening, since it is these places that the larvae choose for pupation. Avoid raking up fallen leaves and add organic material to the surface of the beds as needed.

Firefighter beetle actively destroys aphids on currants
Firefighter beetle actively destroys aphids on currants

Can fire beetles harm?

As we found out, in general, soft beetles are carnivores both at the larval and adult stages, but sometimes the larvae still manifest themselves as small pests, feeding on the roots of herbs, potatoes and celery. Cases are described when soft beetles in small quantities ate leaves and petals of plants. But this happens very rarely and usually they have enough food in the form of insects. Because firefighter beetles are versatile predators, they can also feed on beneficial insects such as lacewing larvae.

Different points of view can be found about the danger of these beetles to humans and animals. According to some reports, they do not harm humans or animals, since they do not have the ability to bite. But you can also find information that the fire beetle is still able to bite a person and this bite will be painful, since they still have jaws.

In any case, soft beetles are not aggressive and never attack themselves, like wasps and bees, even if you chase them. The only situation in which the soft beetle can theoretically bite if a person purposefully picks up the beetle and crushes it. To avoid this, it is better to warn children in advance not to do such things.

Thus, even if you see firefighter beetles in your garden, even in very large numbers, it is better to just leave them alone, knowing that, most likely, these insects will not harm you, but will help pollinate your flowers and vegetables, and, most importantly, they will become faithful helpers in the fight against garden pests, in particular, they will be the main exterminators of aphids.

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