The Leather Wings
Some call them "soldier beetles."
Some call them "leather-winged beetles."
Some call them "Cantharids" (family Cantharidae).
Whatever you call them, be sure to welcome them to your garden. They eat aphids, lots of aphids. Like the good soldiers they are, they're ready to do battle.
We spotted five or six of them munching on aphids on our year-old plum tree.
Soldier beetles have a large thoracic shield, long threadlike antennae and beady little eyes.
According to retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley, there are about 100 species of them in California.
Most of them, according to the Jerry Powell-Charles Hogue book, California Insects, are "similar in appearance, red or orange with gray, black or brown wing covers."
Ready for Flight