Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae)

Soldier beetles are a family of beetles named after one of the first species observed, which had a color pattern similar to that of the red coats of early British soldiers.

Common Beetles Belonging to this Family

  • Plague Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus lugubris)
  • Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus)
  • Red Soldier Beetle (Rhagonycha fulva)
  • Colorado Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus basalis)

Scientific Classification

These beetles are separated into five subfamilies, divided into several tribes consisting of various genera.

1. Cantharinae


  • Cantharis
  • Rhagonycha


  • Podabrus

2. Chauliognathinae


  • Belotus
  • Chauliognathus


  • Trypherus

3. Dysmorphocerinae

  • Afronycha
  • Asilis
  • Compsonycha
  • Dysmorphocerus
  • Flabelloontelus
  • Geigyella
  • Hansasilis
  • Heteromastix
  • Hyponotum
  • Micronotum
  • Neoontelus
  • Oontelus
  • Plectocephalon
  • Plectonotum

4. Malthininae


  • Macrocerus


  • Caccodes
  • Malthinellus
  • Malthinus


  • Frostia
  • Malthodes
  • Archaeomalthodes

5. Silinae


  • Cordylocera
  • Silis


  • Tytthonyx

Physical Description and Identification


Size: 0.0625-0.125 in (0.15 to 2.8 cm)

Color: The colors of these beetles range from yellow to red, with black or brown wings.

Other Characteristic Features: Soldier beetles are very similar in appearance to lightning bugs, though they lack the light-producing organs of the latter.


They are brightly colored, varying from black, brown, red, and yellow. The larvae are slender, worm-like, covered with setae, and around 1.25 cm long.


Pupation takes place underneath the soil, with the larvae overwintering till spring.


Females lay eggs on organic litter or the topside of soil in a mass. The eggs hatch in a week.

Quick Facts

Other names Leatherwings
Lifespan Less than a year
Distribution Global
Habitat Areas with high humidity, such as leaf litter, loose soil, plant debris, and under loose bark
Seasons active Spring, late summer, and fall
Diet Larvae: Eggs and larvae of insects like borers, earworms, and maggots, as well as other small creatures like snails

Adults: Pollen and nectar from flowers, aphids, and other insects

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

These beetles cause no damage to plants or humans, instead being beneficial to them by feeding on pests in both the larval and adult stages.

Did You Know

  • Swiss entomologist Ludwig Imhoff first described this family of beetles in 1856.