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A plague on both our glasshouses?

Soldier on? dougkThu, 13/12/2012 - 2:42pm
Plague soldier beetle
Plague soldier beetle

After the rain over the past week or two, we looked out the window to see that sections of our lawn and garden had seemingly turned black. Closer inspection revealed beetles by the thousands, up to six deep in places.

My first reaction was to grab the pyrethrum. I feared that, with this massive infestation, our vegetable crops would not survive until harvest.

A more considered approach eventually took over from my zest to destroy. Armed with a description of our intruders (around 1cm - 1.5cm length; soft, very dark green/black wings; bits of yellow) I resorted to my usual Google research methodology. Up popped this recent article on a CSIRO blog. So I now know that our multitudinous visitors are Plague Soldier Beetles more formally known by the rather sad name: Chauliognathus lugubris.

As Kim Pullen writes in that article "ten thousand of them festooning a tree are bound to raise alarm". Certainly with their common name containing, as it does, the word "plague"  that does not sound particularly reassuring.


Yet these battalions of insects are, it seems, really fighting for us, not against us. It may be hard to accept when you crunch them underfoot wherever you walk; when they cling to your walls and windows and when they sneak surreptitiously between your lettuce leaves. (And if we did have any glasshouses I am sure they would be clinging to their walls too.)

But the truth is, these little soldiers are visiting our gardens for a bit of R&R. Perhaps a snack on an aphid or two washed down with some nectar. Followed, naturally, by a little procreation. Their larvae live in the soil and both larval and adult forms do more good than harm to the garden.

So I have put away the pyrethrum and will just brush the beetles aside and shake them from my shoes for the next few weeks gardening until these soldiers have sated their desires for recreation.

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