Backyard Orchard News
The important work that soldier beetles (family Cantharidae) do is never more exemplified than in the "before" and "after" photos.
When the aphids landed on our rose bushes, a few ladybugs came to dine, but the insects that really stopped the aphid onslaught were the soldier beetles.
Veni, Vidi, Vici! They came, they saw, they conquered.
And now, since their food source is gone, the soldier beetles have flown off to find another tasty smorgasbord.
Yesterday we spotted only one soldier beetle (genus Podabrus) on a rose bush. If you look closely, you'll see why there's only one.
Look ma, no aphids!
Lone soldier beetle
Insects are cold-blooded so their temperature coincides with their environment.
Before the sun rises, they lie ever so still. As the sun warms them, they stir ever so slowly.
At 6 a.m. yesterday, we checked the roses for aphids (yes, they were there) and so were the predators: the soldier beetles and ladybugs.
A soldier beetle crawled to the edge of a leaf. A ladybug cartwheeled over a leaf and then clung to the tip.
Breakfast is ready!
Aphid in early morning sun
Except it wasn’t planned.
On the last day of a two-day advanced workshop on "The Technique of Instrumental Insemination,” taught by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. UC Davis, bees from one of the hives began to swarm.
It was perfect for one of Cobey's students, Ventura resident Bill Weinerth,
The bees headed for a nearby tree. Cobey, manager of the Laidlaw facility, smoked them to calm them down before shaking the bees loose and into their new home: an awaiting hive.
Weinerth loves working with bees. “I’ve had bees all my life except for 10 years when I was going to school (master’s of divinity),” he said.
“When I was 12, and living in
It's been a bee-loved passion every since.
Filming the swarm
Swarming in a Tree
Close-up of bee swarm
Smoking the Bees
They're good soldiers, those soldier beetles.
Members of the family Cantharidae, they are beneficial insects that eat other insects, especially aphids and caterpillars--but just about any soft-bodied insect will do. If no insects are available, you'll see them dining on nectar and pollen.
We saw these soldier beetles, with their long, narrow reddish-orange bodies and brownish-gray wing covers, on our rose bushes this morning.
As aphids scooted up and down the steps and leaves, so did the soldier beetles. Three formed a "troop" in a three-gun salute.
California is fortunate to have more than 100 species of these "soldiers of fortune." They're also called leather-winged beetles or leatherwings. Check out their long, threadlike antennae.
If you see soldier beetles in your garden, savor them. They're the good guys.
Please pass the aphids.
Eating an aphid
AphId in Flight
Ladybugs eat lots of aphids. Did we say lots of aphids? Lots of aphids. They have no portion control.
If you watch closely, you'll see them gobble aphids like theater-goers devour buttered popcorn. Ladybugs eat so many aphids you wonder if they'll ever be able to lift off the plant.
Last Saturday we observed the usual: a ladybug chomping down aphids. But wait! What was that riding on her back? Coud it be? Was it?
It was. An aphid was riding the ladybug like a cowboy on a bucking rodeo bull. Didn't the aphid know that one little slip, and no more happy trails?
"Well," one wag said, "that's the safest place for an aphid--on the back of a ladybug."
Aphid on a ladybug