Soldier bugs are ‘True Bugs’ and are related to stink bug but are not harmful to your crops. They are a beneficial that we all need in our gardens. It’s not so much that they just eat the bugs but they also LAY their eggs on the dead bodies!
Spined soldier bug-Perdue University
They are brown, red, orange and sometimes even yellow, elongated and resemble many undesired bugs. size is approx 10-13 mm. There are more than 300 species worldwide.
Soldier bug-USDA (left), Soldier bug- J. Ogrodnick (right)
They are found worldwide and are very populous in the US and Canada. You can find them on many flowering plants drinking on the nectar or sucking water from leaves. This does not harm the plants. Tomatoes, cole plants, corn, beans, and many ornamentals just to name a few.
The adults lay over a hundred eggs in groups of approx 25 on leaves and on dead prey. Nymphs will hang around the eggs for a while and then move on to feed. Adults can live up to 3 months and there are 2-3 generations per year. They will gorge themselves with so many insects. To attract theses guys, plant plenty of flowers in and around your garden. Baby Blue Eyes is my favourite for this purpose.
One thing you can do if you find some of these guys is help them reproduce. Get a plastic container (Tupperware, whatever you have hand), make a screen for the top, and put in a bunch of these guys on leaves and feed them regularly. (At least 12 bugs in a 16oz container should do) They need water so add a few cotton ball moistened every day. Remove any debris such as skin casing, these guys do shed skin. For food, It is easy to pick off leaves with bugs on them and put them in the container with the soldier bugs. If you run out of food (unlikely LOL) you can actually buy caterpillars and other live bait in fishing shops. The key to success here is LOTS of food! Soldier bugs will kill each other if they run out of food. When the eggs hatch and nymphs appear all you do is release them into your garden! Works great! Have at least 6 or 8 containers going with at least one female. I know this works because I did it myself many moons ago *S*
“In the U.S., the spined soldier bug has shown promise in augmentative biological control in both potatoes (Colorado potato beetle) and soybeans (Mexican bean beetle). However, the costs of these efforts is still not competitive with chemical applications, and so more research needs to be done, particularly on rearing methods and release strategies. At this point in time, spined soldier bugs are not available for sale in the U.S.” – Bob O’Neil, Purdue University