"You can never be too rich, too young, too blonde or too thin," a quote often attributed to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
Well, you can never have too many ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in your garden.
These colorful beetles devour aphids and other soft-bodied insects. It's a war of the predators and their prey.
Fortunately, when there are scores of aphids sucking the very lifeblood out of your plants, you're likely to see both ladybugs AND soldier beetles. Both like to dine on aphids.
Soon the ladybugs and soldier beetles do what comes naturally. (Unfortunately, so do the aphids.)
More ladybugs, please! More soldier beetles, too!
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."
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!
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!
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.