The Fab Four: beetles in the garden

Each year, I notice more diversity in the insects visiting our garden. In particular, this year I am seeing different kinds of beetles, spiders, and moths. Here are four beautiful beetles that I’ve spotted in the garden so far this summer.

Red Milkweed Beetle

Red Milkweed Beetle

Years ago, I saw a Red Milkweed Beetle, but then I never saw one again — until this year. In its various life stages, the Red Milkweed Beetle eats different parts of common milkweed plants — larvae eat the roots, and adults eat leaves, buds, and flowers. Since common milkweed is such a vigorous and spreading plant, the beetles don’t end up causing serious damage. I did notice that this milkweed patch seemed smaller this year, maybe because of this beetle or because of the cold, wet spring.

It is amazing how milkweed supports so many specialized insects, including Monarch caterpillars. For a description of the community of insects living off this plant, read Common Milkweed Insects from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Master Gardener Program.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

A beautiful Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle.

This lovely, metallic beetle surprised me as I was pulling weeds. It jumped onto a piece of cardboard destined to smother a patch of creeping bellflower. This beetle actually made a scraping sound as it jumped around the cardboard, which made me stop and take notice.

The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle is a voracious predator of spiders, ants, caterpillars, and other arthropods. It is one of the beneficial insects that help prevent other insect populations from getting out of control. The Nature Web has an interesting article about them, A Dazzling Green Beetle: Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, as does The Bug of the Week blog post Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright.

Orange-spotted Lady Beetle

Well, this ladybug has it’s colours backwards! I have seen orange ladybugs with black spots, but never a black ladybug with orange spots. It turns out that this lady beetle isn’t mixed up, it’s an Orange-spotted Lady Beetle. According to BugGuide’s Info page on this beetle, it is also often associated with milkweed, but I saw it on another plant.

Ladybug’s are another one of my garden helpers, eating aphids and other insects feeding on my plants. I even saw a regular red and black ladybug, and a cluster of its orange eggs, on the American highbush cranberry in June. The shrubs were covered in Viburnum Leaf Beetles, so there were a lot of destructive, little larvae for them to eat.

Firefly

Well fireflies have been the stars of the summer garden, pun intended. Each evening between 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm, for the past few weeks, the whole family has been sitting outside to watch their show! I only discovered fireflies in the garden a couple of years ago, but I have never seen so many before this July.

Most often, fireflies flash to communicate while they’re looking for a mate. The fireflies we’ve seen flash in different colours of yellow, green, and red all over the yard, even up in the trees.

I noticed this unfamiliar beetle systematically walking around an anise hyssop plant. It is actually a type of firefly, a Winter Dark Firefly. Fireflies eat soft-bodied insects, like slugs, snails, worms, and the larvae of other insects. I guess it was hunting for its next meal. I didn’t know that fireflies are active in the daytime, as well as at dusk.

After reading information on firefly.org, I see that the native plant pollinator habitat I’ve been creating in my yard is actually perfect firefly habitat too. Visit their pages on How to Build Firefly Habitat and Plants for Fireflies for details.

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