Insect of the week: The Plague Soldier Beetle isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds

By Kim Pullen – Australian National Insect Collection

An unfamiliar yellow and green beetle with a soft body may be a source of curiosity if it turns up in your garden. Will it eat the plants, or bite people? A dozen of the beetles together might start to cause concern. But ten thousand of them festooning a tree are bound to raise alarm. Yet the insect in question won’t harm either you or your plants.

Image of a Plague Soldier Beetle

A Plague Soldier Beetle, Chauliognathus lugubris

It is still something of a mystery why the Plague soldier beetle (Chauliognathus lugubris), a native species found in temperate southeastern Australia, occasionally builds up to massive numbers. Its grubs live in the soil, feeding on other small creatures. The adult beetles don’t seem to eat the plants they settle on, although the sheer weight of a mass of them may break weaker twigs. What they are more interested in is sucking nectar from flowering trees, and copulating.

The bright colours of Chauliognathus are a warning to any predator thinking of taking a swipe at one, as they exude a white viscous fluid from their glands that repels any predators thinking of getting too close.

Close up image of the secreted fluid of a soldier beetle

A close up view of the secreted fluid (Image Victoria Haritos)

The soldier beetle also secretes the same chemical in a wax form to protect it’s eggs against infection.

Our researchers have recently found the genes that give the chemical its anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties, and were able to replicate the synthesis in the lab. This may one day lead to the development of new anti-biotic and anti-cancer related products.

Read more about the research on our media page

Record a sighting on the Atlas of Living Australia

*UPDATE- Thanks to ‘br’ for leaving this video in our comments thread. We thought it was worth sharing. Prepare to be creeped out by these crawlies…

141 Comments on “Insect of the week: The Plague Soldier Beetle isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds”

  1. Sue Martin says:

    Thank you for your article on Soldier Beetles. If the beetle is interested in sucking nectar from flowering trees why are they ALL over the ground and over plants/weeds etc. which have NO flowers on them? I am sure the beetles have caused damage and the early drop/browning off of petals from my rhododendrons and azaleas. (I live in Kinglake West, Vic). How long will this “plague” last? Thank you. Sue M.

    • Huw Morgan says:

      I can’t say how long they will stay around. My prediction is that they will disperse within a week, although some stragglers might take longer to leave.
      Kim Pullen

    • Huw Morgan says:

      The type of damage beetles cause when they eat foliage or petals is characteristic – they eat holes or bite bits off the edge. This type of damage has never been associated with Soldier Beetle swarms, so I said in the blog that the beetles ‘don’t seem to eat the plants they settle on’. I don’t know what may have caused the ‘early drop/browning off of petals’ that you describe.
      Kim Pullen

  2. Vanessa says:

    We are in Dandenong North Victoria and have tens of thousands of them on an ironbark. Having read your information I am now not concerned about them, however would love to know how long they will hang around? Thanks so much for the information.

    • Huw Morgan says:

      My prediction is that they will disperse within a week, although some stragglers might take longer to leave.
      Kim Pullen

      • Helen Tonkin says:

        I have had them living in a tree in my front yard in huge quantities they have been there for more than a month and don’t seem to be going anywhere.

  3. Michael Ulbrick says:

    We have a swarm in our courtyard in Port Melbourne. Can you pls tell me how long they live and will they go away.

    • Huw Morgan says:

      I can’t say how long they will stay around. My prediction is that they will disperse within a week, although some stragglers might take longer to leave.
      Kim Pullen

      • Jakii says:

        Here’s what I know- most people claim they have a Gumtree in their yard where these insanely annoying beetles are. I have 2 huge (over 8 meter tall) gumtrees in my backyard. From end November 2013 I had barely any flying around the tree- Until last week (end Jan 2014) I now have my whole veggie patch, trees, bushes, grass and kids trampoline so widely covered that you look out my Window and see black movement on everything- not one bit of green showing.
        They do bite- as my almost 2 year old found out, which only happened an hour ago but I believe no reaction.
        They have been around for months- and my tomatoes were looking fabulous until last week- now half my plant is dead.

  4. Danielle says:

    Is there any way of getting rid of them quicker? I cant hang out the washing, they are very annoying. Im Northside of Canberra.

    • Huw Morgan says:

      If there is a flowering tree or shrub in the vicinity that the beetles are being attracted to, you could get rid of it. Otherwise there is nothing you can really do except wait for them to disperse.

      Regards, Kim.

    • Geoff McCully says:

      After 2 years I have worked out how to get rid of them. In the morning get out and shake the trees they are in (they love my cotoneaster) and they fall to the ground. Then, stomp on them, spray with Mortein or Pea Beau, rake them up, shovel into a big bag , spray with mortein, seal bag and dispose of. Repeat the next morning(s)


      • Allie says:

        wow Geoff, the eucalypt and bushes I have seen them populate are not harmed by the invasion of several days so why bother exterminating them. I am stoked that there is a native species that doesn’t harm plants OR people. A good species to attract people into observing “bugs” without harming or being harmed I reakon.

      • Peter Dennis Ward says:

        G’day folks they are thew early advance party of an intergalatic higher life foce comming to observe how cilivised we humans are so Geoff lokks like you might ahve blowen it for us uncilivised humans. On another not the bennifits of thes elitle bugs seams enourmous bit like the pesky mozzie they are the pollanators of Upmartia a native small tree related to the magnolias. It seems ther is more research needed to see what roal these bugs play in our life cycle. I have noted them over the years in various location, they appear to be arouns most seasons. Pete Ward Merriwa NSW

  5. Jennifer Nairn says:

    They are covering nearly everything in my very large garden – including the lawns – and definitely doing damage to young shoots and blooms. I have started spraying them with malathion and “Astound” but am concerned I may be poisoning birds that might eat the dying insects. Is this likely?

    • lar says:

      the insects secrete a substance that repels the birds from eating them…though if they did eat them you wouldn’t have an issue

      • Jennifer says:

        Just wondering what you mean by “wouldn’t have an issue”. Do you mean that the chemicals I spray with are not toxic to birds or that it wouldn’t matter if birds were poisoned?!

    • heidegger says:

      yes.. you will kill the birds… just hose them off.

  6. Jennifer Nairn says:

    PS – I meant to add that my beetles arrived in a huge swarm on Nov 11th (11 days ago) and have increased in number since that time; and that I had them last year too when they actually hung around for at least 6 weeks.

  7. I’m having the same problem as every one above. I originally noticed them a week ago in large numbers hanging off my plants and they have increased 10 fold since then. I certainly hope they are not still around around in 6 weeks as I have overseas guests arriving for Christmas and dining out side with a swarm of beetles is hardly appealing.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Fiona,
      I think I am having some success in reducing numbers by spraying with “Astound” at 1ml per litre (or very slightly stronger e.g.1.2 ml per litre), using an 8L spray bottle. I see in the original article that they secrete a nasty tasting chemical which prevents birds eating them so I hope this is true. I have a 5 acre garden so mine is being a major undertaking, but a normal size garden should be quite easy. I watch for which bushes etc have the most beetles and when (i.e. time of day) and then spray them with a fine mist. I am finding they often disappear at evening so best to do earlier in the day. I try to spray when the sun is not hot on the plant for fear of “burning” the leaves but I suspect I’m being a bit paranoid! Now the pavings, steps and gravel are covered in dead beetles – but easily swept up or blown away.
      We made hay a couple of days ago and the tractor was covered in them so I’m hoping they don’t make the hay taste too horrible for the cows!
      Good luck.

      • Peter Dennis Ward says:

        Jennifer;The golden rule when using pestercides / herbercides is first identerify the species if they pose no thret but cosmetic dont apply for the risk of injuring or killing other benifical species is great. Large population of anything need food I suspect that they are eating micro organism like the native bee that comes up in huge numbers when there are outbreaks of aphids; sorry but this atitude of kill the unknow is a bit dark ages. One of the great steps in food production boilogcal controll is the use of bunifical species wether that be plant or animal. Pete Ward Merriwa NSW Ps Where is the spellcheck I have notices many typo errors in my typing. PETE

  8. Hi Jennifer,

    thanks for the tip. I will try that method, they are doing my head in as they are EVERY where, all over my walls out side and leaving yellow spots on my recently cleaned windows. Earlier today they took flight and there were literally thousands in the air.

    Good luck with your 5 acre garden, that must make them a headache for you.


  9. Julie Malovan says:

    We too, here in Beaumaris, have an enormous number of these insects hatching from a couple of places, in particular from the soil of a large pot plant – thousands probably. The plant is healthy and showing no sign of the disturbance all the eggs must have had to the roots. At the moment they are all over the front windows and pergola and having a very sexy time of it.
    Don’t like to spray them if they are harmless, however this is second year and more this time.
    Athough hatching from a different spot.
    Am worried they can get between timber boards of house and next year appear in any gaps inside by mistake as well as out. Is this a concern?
    We have a very tree-y and bushy garden and love the cycle of nature, but with a battle of wills between us and possums, flying foxes and even tree rats, we are feeling sorely tested!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Julie,
      Wild life can be a pain for gardeners can’t it! I battle constantly with possums, rabbits, rats, wombats, and lyre birds!
      I am curious how you know they are hatching from your pot plant – do you actually see them emerging up out of the soil? Do they look any different to the mature adults? Where did they hatch from last year?
      And have you or anyone else seen them in their egg laying phase? I wonder if they all go to the one spot to lay (like your plant pot!) or if they they are laying all over the garden, and what do they lay in -? soft soil of garden beds and pots, in lawns or where? Do they burrow under the surface to lay and then die or do they come up again after laying?
      I’m intrigued by the thousands that are crawling over my paved areas, gravel and lawns. They don’t seem to fly away like the ones on bushes do and don’t look very lively – so I wonder if these have done their egg laying and are now dying? How long after mating do they lay their eggs? Is there an entomologist out there who knows more about them?? They’re a total pain but fascinating!
      Also – someone further down the page said they bite. I’m doubtful of this as I frequently end up with them inside my clothes and I’ve never been bitten.

  10. Sam says:

    I too live in Port Melbourne and have hundreds of them on the windows and balconies of my third floor apartment (no plants on my balconies either, but flowering trees nearby). Today when it is 38 degrees outside I came home to find dozens of them had found a way in through gaps in the windows to come inside. Mortein killed them pretty quickly but I’m not looking forward to a summer of this…

  11. Elke Ramsay says:

    We live in Chelsea and have the same problem as mentioned by others. I don’t agree with “They are harmless”. These huge swarms this year are destroying our native trees and other plants (they live under the bark at night, and our trees have no bark left where they reside. Apart from that, they bite or sting. We and our pets cannot go outside. And the CSIRO are saying ‘they’re harmless??? Last year, the first time we noticed them they completely destroyed one of our Gum trees. It was literally eaten alive and subsequently had to have it removed.

    • Tim Buckley says:

      Hi Elke, sorry to dissapoint you on what you think harmed some trees or even killed your gum tree. Firstly, what varieties of trees are they residing in? Are they trees that shed bark?. If so,then the bark would shed anyway and not much harm done. How are you prosposing that these beetles get under the bark? Are there holes/splits etc in the trees? It is an undisputable FACT that these beetles eat nectar/pollen, and the odd aphid/small invertebrate, so ripping bark off a healthy tree is nigh impossible. So, it is highly unlikely the soldiers residing on trees are destroying them from inside out. In relation to your gum tree, unless they were in massive proportions breaking ALL the small limbs, hence weakening its strength, then this is also highly unlikely. Perhaps some further research into your trees health might be beneficial for you. Are you getting severe dieback often? Perhaps something like borer is attacking?
      I have these liitle fellas crawling all over me when working and have never been bitten.
      I am a professional gardener that has worked in the bayside area for 23 years. Hope this may help.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I have just watched a blue wren eating dying beetles on my patio. Perhaps when the beetles are dying they don’t secrete their repelling substance? does anyone actually know if “Astound” (alpha cypermethrin) is harmful to birds? We all know about DDT making eggs not hatch.
    I apologise for labouring the point but I think its important we know more about chemical control if these beetles are going to become a yearly event. Is there any compound that we can be confident won’t harm birds?
    I am disappointed that the CSIRO isn’t better informed and being more helpful with information on this post.

    • Hi Jennifer,
      You are not being tedious,it is very important we are fully informed. I haven’t sprayed yet as we are a bit hectic at the moment however I was a bit hesitant because we have a wonderful bird life here and I would hate to do any damage. I agree with you that the CSIRO need to be more helpful with information.

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi Fiona,
        I think my beetles are disappearing so you probably don’t need to spray after all. There are lots crawling on the ground ? dying but only a few flying around. I can’t believe I’ve reduced the population this much with my spraying so I’m thinking its the end of their natural cycle. Seems they were here en masse for 3 weeks only – not the 6 I was dreading! What a relief to have my garden back – just need for the stink of them rotting to disappear now!

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi Fiona,
        Seems my beetles are finally disappearing so you probably don’t need to spray after all. There are still lots crawling around on the ground? dying but only a few in the bushes and flying around. I can’t believe my spraying has reduced the population this much so I think it must be the end of their natural cycle. They were only here en masse for 3 weeks not the 6 I was dreading! How nice to have my garden back – all I need now is for the smell of them rotting on the ground to go too!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      yes mine are starting to disappear as well, only a few days ago I started to notice dead ones on the ground and I’m not sure if it’s the cold wet weather but they have all but disappeared.I would also say it was a 3 weeks from the time I first noticed them until finding the dead ones.They certainly peaked when the weather was hot and I noticed a pattern of flight and rest. Mid day was a peak flight period with literally thousands in the sky and then resting early morning and late afternoon. I hope this is helpful to anyone else reading.

      Thanks, Jennifer

      • Helen Tonkin says:

        Mine are still around after 4 weeks, I have tried spraying which has reduced numbers but not to the extent I was hoping. They have also left horrible yellow streaks on the exterior paint on my house wich seems to have stained.

    • Tim Buckley says:

      Hello Jennifer, and others,
      I believe it both logical and ludicrous to spray anything that other wildlife may eat. Of course that chemical will be digested by the predator. I don’t pretend to know what effects this may have, but logic surely helps your decision in doing so. If you want to control this insect, there are 2 approaches, larvae control and adult control. If you are sure they are laying eggs in your property, then late winter, early spring ground control much like the scarb/lawn beetle. Get them before they come up, and reduces the population therein. Adult control should be contact (not systemic sprays) and the deceased removed immediately to avoid follow on effect. They are harmless, live with it, they love pollen, hence high activity lately. They start leaving/dieing as soon as they have mated and layed eggs.
      Hope this helps, from a professional gardener of the bayside area for more than 23 years

  13. Jennifer says:

    PS – I found several articles indicating that alpha cypermethrin is not harmful to birds themselves but was left in some doubt as to its effect on their fertility.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Sorry to be tedious, but another vital point! If you are spraying with insecticides over large areas its important to do so early in the morning before the bees are out foraging. Bees are in enough trouble already without us making things worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      The bees you are trying to protect are not native bees, but rather the invasive European honeybee. I too thought that the bee crisis was alarming until I was better informed by my professor. These bees compete with native birds and mammals for valuable tree hollows, kill nestlings with stings, facilitate the spread of invasive plants and out-compete our own native bees.

      • Jennifer says:

        Thanks for your comment Anonymous, but aren’t European honeybees important for pollinating our crops and fruit trees? I thought this was why we are so concerned that verroa mite will get into the country (most consider this inevitable) because it will devastate agriculture? Are you saying we’d be better off without the European honeybee? Does your professor think this? Can native bees do all that they do? Could you perhaps let me know as I am very interested.
        And I am concerned about killing native bees – I have lots in my garden and don’t want to kill them either!

  15. madeleine says:

    I am very disappointed to hear of so many people wanting to rid themselves of these bugs. No wonder we have a global issue of declining biodiversity. Our eucalpyt in the front yard is totally covered in the beetles and the lawn too. They get onto the car and underfoot in the driveway but my 6yo and I find them fascinating and beautiful. They have not caused any problems for us. If anything they have eaten my aphids and the roses have never looked better! The eucalypt seems fine. Enjoy the brief show of nature doing what it does best and please don’t kill them!!!

  16. Jenny Edge says:

    Hello everyone – have had PLAGUE SOLDIER BEETLES for about 10 days and guess what ? Went out this morning and there are only a few stragglers left behind. NO sprays, insecticides etc were required just let Mother Nature do her thing !

    • Hi Jenny, I thought that the other day but they came back 10 fold, I think they went under ground during the rain. I am away at the moment but on Friday they were in swarms covering my plants and walls. I understand we need to appreciate nature but they are unpleasant and a nuisance. I am worried when I come back they will be even worse.

      I’m over them!!

  17. Jennifer says:

    Reply to Tim Buckley
    Hi Tim – bit hard to prevent them emerging over a 5 acre garden when I have absolutely no idea where they are laying! And even if I did know where they were I wouldn’t want to kill my dung beetles which, being on a farm, are very precious. I actually think selectively spraying just the one I’m trying to control (out of fear of even greater numbers next year) and being careful to avoid all others is the most logical approach.
    I have read more fully on alpha cypermethrin and am happy its not toxic to birds or to their fertility. The withholding period for fruit or crops sprayed for human consumption is only 24 hours so it must break down very quickly. I really believe I’ve done minimal harm to any other species while hopefully reducing my own population, but next year will tell!
    As a gardener yourself do you never have to resort to using sprays to control thrip and other pests? I have been gardening for over half a century and sadly find there are occassions when I can’t avoid their use – this was one as I couldn’t handle them in my hair, inside my clothes and one down my ear!.

    • Tim Buckley says:

      Hi Jennifer, I completely agree with your approach. I hope my original comment was not taken out of context. It was in relation to the majority that like to snuffle things without total understanding. Yes, 5 acres is a handful, and yes, I do spray things, both chemical and organic. I merely mentioned 2 types of control if people wished to attempt the control of the beetle. Now, for humours sake, I’ll give my opinion. I think they should be left alone. Even today in Sandringham they were all over us, in our hair, up the shirt, and up my shorts! I just blow them off me, and go about my work. Our female apprentice was not so agreeable, yet I had a discussion this very day about nature, and the more you understand it, the easier it is to make your decisions. One last thing, our experience has been that these little love makers last roughly a month, not a day, or a week.
      Happy gardening, and Merry Christmas

  18. br says:

    I made a video of them in Newcastle on some eucalyptus trees.

  19. Paul Magee says:

    I live in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. We have had the beetles in our yard for three and a half weeks and they are buildingt in numbers. Have tried to out wait them and it doesn’t seem to work. Don’t want to take to spraying but with Christmas coming up I will have to.

  20. Rachael says:

    Hi I live in Eltham, Victoria and they are swarming all over my zucchini’s, cucumbers and pumpkin. Does anyone know if they will they harm any of these plants? (they particularly love the zucchini plants.

  21. linton says:

    Hey rachael, they wont hurt your plants, from what i read, they are great at controlling other insects like aphids and caterpillars. Does anyone know if chickens would eat these beetles? or are they toxic as the colour of their body might suggest?

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi linton and others,

      My observation and reading lead me to believe that chickens are unlikely to eat them (unless they are really hungry!) and that if they do they won’t do them any harm. I don’t think the actual beetle is toxic – just doesn’t taste very nice.

      And Rachael – I also had them all over my vegie garden and don’t think they did much harm to anything. I did spray them just once however with alpha cypemethrin (tradename “Astound” -withholding period for fruit and veg only 24 hours) as I was trying to reduce numbers generally. After they’d fallen off everything looked ok.
      If anyone does feel they need to spray, alpha cypermethrin (10ml/8L) is considered safe for birds (and chooks!) that might eat them. There may well be other sprays that CSIRO might care to recommend that could be better. (Some qualified input from those who initiated this post would be much appreciated!) I only used “Astound” because I happened to have some. “Confidor” (Imidacloprid), which the staff at Bunnings(!) tell me is the safest insecticide on the market (apart from pyrethrum) would very likely work also.

      MIne were here in HUGE numbers for about 3 and 1/2 weeks and a few stragglers for another week or so. For those of you still inundated I hope they go soon. The general experience seems to suggest they probably will. But please let us know.

      • Ann Harding says:

        I became very ill after spraying Confidor on palms indoors, not taking precaution with mask or ventilation because it was said to be “safe”. This and all such sprays are toxic and you would be wise to acknowledge that.

        If you are spraying a chemical to kill anything then you must take responsibility for the collateral damage. Which is more valuable to you: the health of the bird & bee population or lack of yellow marks on windows or walls? Will you then also spray to kill the aphids next spring that the larvae of these beetles would have eaten had you not spread toxins to kill them?

        I am disgusted to see what is written here, on a scientific website, when even commercial pest eradication websites advise to not spray toxins on soldier beetles. Please re-evaluate your priorities.

      • Fiona says:

        Hi, I am very concerned about all of this talk about spraying pesticides – PLEASE READ THE MSDS SHEET WHICH IS PROVIDED WITH ALL PRODUCTS before spraying! DDT is a well known bad pesticides, but Malathion is also an Organophosphate which is very bad. I have read it is regarded low toxicity for humans, but many of these build up in the environment. Remember we used to spray DDT on kids as an insect repellant. Please don’t use chemicals unless there is no choice!

        also, Imidacloprids are neonicitinoids which are thought to be killing off our bees – safe for us, but not safe for anything else.

  22. Vanessa Bradford says:

    Hi there – we currently have thousands of these beetles in the tree at our local primary school (Ringwood North) and secondary groups of them around rocks in the garden. It’s good to know they’re harmless!

  23. Keely says:

    Hi guys… my back door and verandah is currently covered in them. I figure they will head off when it cools down but to get them moving I have placed some mozzie coils down… they are not impressed and have started relocating back to the garden and surrounding trees.
    Hope this helps.

  24. Raymond Baird says:

    Our neighborhood is swarming with Soldier Beetles have never seen anything like it before in Eltham. We live among lots of gum trees and many are currently flowering.

  25. Sonya says:

    Good afternoon. I have a question. Do these beetles get into the water. Last year at Seaford beach there was a swarm of beetles matching the description of these. My daugther was bitten while in the water. She came out in a huge rash and this rash continues to occur when she gets hot or wet. Any information as life for her can be uncomfortable.

  26. Reggie says:

    They descended upon Kuringgai yesterday in one swarm at 10:30AM today they reappeared at that time. Was initially alarmed thinking they were baby wasps but your reports have helped tremendously in assuaging any concerns. This is organic pest control then. Bless the beetles.

  27. Ivy says:

    They arrived in our garden on Saturday in a very large swarm, the children cannot play outside, a couple have made their way inside and this is of concern to me, they have stripped all the bark on the tree on the nature strip, I need something to get rid do them as they seem to be growing daily in numbers. We live in reservoir

  28. Alison Lea says:

    I have a flowering Melaluca which has dropped its bloom with the last few days heat and rain and today discovered the entire area under the tree – lawn, pot plants, paving etc. is absolutely swarming with these little critters. They are piling up in great quantities on the terracotta pots in particular (warmth??) . Reassuring to read these posts – I can still get to my clothesline, but if they spread further, I am not sure I will want to venture out there! The lawn is black with them – I hate the idea of crushing them all underfoot, not to mention the ones falling out of the tree into my hair – ugh! I am in Newcastle

  29. David Rose says:

    I live in Oatley NSW, and the blighters have been in trees in our backyard for about three weeks. There are millions of them, staying in several separate clusters. Not only in trees; also under eaves, on metal ballustrades, on ground plants such as azaleas. Each day I sweep up about two litres of them, although several remain on the ground. At present there is no sign of decline. They do little or no damage to trees and vegetation, but stain paintwork, and stain clothing left outside. It is difficult to go outside if there is a swarm. Because of their numbers, as yet I cannot try to clean the paintwork. Tried unsuccessfully to use Confidor, although now I see that Confidor is a systemic insecticide, and direct contact is necessary. I will try “Astound” if available.

    This is the first time in more than 25 years that I have seen them. Where do they breed? (Why have they never appeared before?) What conditions do they like/dislike? When/where do they lay eggs? Will they come back next year? How to stop their cycle?

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi David,

      Was interested to hear that “Confidor” isn’t effective. Thanks for that feedback. If you can’t find “Astound” (make sure is alpha cypermethrin as there is another product marketed under the name “Astound” which is a fungicide.) then I know from experience that Malathion/Malathon (Maldison) works well also. You should be able to buy that at Bunnings.

      My beetles, which I thought had gone, returned about a week before Xmas. Fortunately not in the same unbearable numbers as the first time and this time I am able to live with them. I just hope they really are eating the aphis as some people claim because they’re definately not eating the thrips!

      Why they have suddenly appeared? Does anybody know? I had them in plague proportions last year for the first time. I suspect they need an extra wet spring to hatch en masse as we had this last year too. Has anybody had them without having had a wetter than normal spring? Once somewhere has had them I assume they’ll be back the following year if the conditions are right, so I think reducing their numbers before they lay their eggs makes sense. But please try not to spray the bees!

      Good luck, Jennifer

      • David Rose says:

        Hi Jennifer
        The beetles were mainly gone by January 2nd. (About four weeks)

        Astound is not available locally, so I used pyrethrum.

        Meanwhile I watched the beetles to find some of their habits. Most of the beetles communed in a flowering blackbutt tree, well out of reach. Some communed on azaleas and other plants at ground level. Living insects that reached the ground burrowed and eventually disappeared, presumably to lay eggs and regenerate.

        I was able to hit the azaleas with a pyrethrum spray. In earlier attempts, I had used a Mortein Insect Spray. The Mortein gave a fast kill, but sent most of the insects into a frenzy, and was unsuccessful. Pyrethrum, applied gently, allowed the insects to stay, and eventually fall to the ground. Then they were swept up, bagged and disposed to garbage. I was wary of reintroducing as compost.

        On the final day, most of the insects were on low level plants or bushes. If they were on a low tree or shrub, I was able to gently shake the branch so that they fell, and then I immediately sprayed them with pyrethrum, so that they could not burrow.

        We will not know of success until next year.


      • David Rose says:

        Hi Jennifer

        Re Confidor:

        Confidor is for treating leaf sucking insects, and I have no doubt as to its efficiency there. If you follow the instructions, Confidor would be applied to the surface of the leaf, not to the insect. But the soldier beetles are not leaf suckers. So that for the soldier beetles, Confidor will be ineffective. Might work if sprayed directly on the beetles, but I did not try.

        After the insects went away, I saw a few congregate on a steel post. But there has been an onset of pollen from the trees in the garden. The insects do seem to consume the pollen, but do not need green leaves.



      • Fiona says:

        Can I point out here that Confidor is a neonictinoid, a group of pesticides currently thought to be behind the demise of bee colonies? Although some places still sell it others have stopped.

    • Tyger Cox says:

      They come out every two years in the cotton season and breed in eucalyptus plantations

  30. Hello,

    I thought I would leave a follow up comment considering there seem to be lots of people still having problems with the plague beetle swarms.
    From my recent experience, whilst they were very annoying to have around in such large numbers, covering plants, grass and even parts of the house they have not caused any harm that I am aware of. Yes, we have three big gums that have stripped their bark but that happens every year and I have not noticed any form of damage to my plants. The only thing I will note is that there seems to be less pests on my plants compared to this time last year.
    They were literally a “pest” to have around but they disappeared after approximately 3 weeks, with no evidence of them at all now.
    There was a time when I thought they had gone but that was only because of bad weather, when the sun came out so did they and in their thousands! I have not seen any sign of them (apart from one or two strays) for at least three weeks and I hope and prey they don’t come back next year, but I don’t like my chances.
    It would be helpful if the CSIRO could give every one a little more information on the pest, it’s quite clear they really don’t have much idea at all.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Fiona and everyone,
      Did I say my beetles were back but in fewer numbers? Well sadly I was mistaken – yesterday I discovered plants covered so thickly all you could see was writhing blackness. Different plants to previously – those now in full bloom mainly and especially thick on my Escallonia hedge which made a chemical knock down easy.
      I agree they don’t seem to do much damage to the plants and I probably have less aphis than usual for this time of year, but certainly no reduction in thrip unfortunately. I just find they make gardening less pleasant due to frequent tickling inside my clothes! Plus they stain everything I try to hang out to dry. I’ve had to resort to drying everything indoors which is a pain. In addition they cover areas of grass that the cows would like to eat and stop the cows grazing those areas.
      Yes, I also wish the CSIRO would get back on line and give us some further information on how best to reduce their numbers and what we can expect in future years.
      Happy New Year to all,

      • Huw Morgan says:

        Hello Jennifer,

        I am afraid that while I am back on-line – I don’t know a thing about Soldier Beetles or how to control them.

        Will ask who has made it back to the office after the Christmas break and see what assistance they can give.


  31. Eliza says:

    We have a serious problem with these beetles on our two storey house in Brighton Victoria. About 8 weeks ago we read on a council website that the Beetles should just move on after a short period of time but they have only grown in number. They are all over the house, in huge masses under the eves and all over the three enormous Norfolk Hibiscus trees surrounding the house. It looks like the house has huge black masses of mould growing down the walls from a distance. I am very concerned now about how to remove them and will start investigating bug removal services like exterminators tomorrow as the problem is growing.

    If anyone knows who I can contact with regards to getting someone to spray the trees and house we would be very grateful.

    • Alison Lea says:

      After 10 days of massive numbers, mine have finally taken flight – goodness knows where, hopefully not your place! It is quite bizarre, I did read somewhere that once you have the they will return annually …. watch this space!

  32. Raymond Baird says:

    I have noticed the Beetles are only in the grey box gums of which I have a very tall one in the garden, also the neighbor opposite has the same Gum which is also infested and is currently blooming. If you look up into to top of the trees you can see huge clusters of the Beetles which appear like birds nests. We are surrounded by lots of other Gum trees and can not see any Beetles in them. I have lived in Eltham for the past 40 years and have never experienced anything like it before however, they seem to be diminishing very slowly.
    I hope the predicted 40+ temperatures in the next few days might wipe them out because they seem to favor cool, shaded positions especially under the mulch for example.

    • Ian says:

      It would appear that the mulch will provide next years infestation. No one is prepared to posit that the outbreak of soldier beetles, only last year and this year, in my experience, is a possible result of climate change, or a confluence of climatic conditions such as locust and mice plagues.

  33. Matt says:

    Whilst I can understand that some people aren’t big fans of chemical control, it’s important to know that that you do not have to sit inside and watch the soldier beetles take over your yard and have them limit your enjoyment of your own back yard (or front yard for that matter)
    In recent weeks we have assisted a number of clients in reclaiming their property from the soldier beetle invasion.

    We can provide options and if we can’t assist you ourselves, we can at least give you some direction.


  34. Ian says:

    I live in Beaumaris and I found them last year, and this year but never before! (Climate change????) Is there a ‘queen’ beetle? I had them completely covering the trunk a cypress. I sprayed them with Baygon surface spray, (spiders and cockroaches and other crawly things)
    I sprayed as high as I could reach; you could hear them literally fall to the ground. The beatles above remained, however next morning they had disappeared. I wonder if this was because the ‘queen’ beetle had died? As for eating plants, they like clyvia leaves. I am left with the brown chewed leaves from my clyvias, after they had swarmed into the base of the clyvias. I would like some confirmation that clyvias do provide food for them in the leaves. It is true they swarm on flowering trees such as eucalyptus nichollii (?) tristanium , (I hope my naming is near correct) and cypress? (or was it the shade they were seeking in this case?)

  35. Shelly says:

    I live in Monbulk and my house is being swarmed by these yuck bugs, i can’t even go outside they are just everywhere,
    .The ground is crawling and my rosebush looks like a ground cover from the sheer weight of these bugs.

  36. norman says:

    My wife has just informed me of a flying mass of beetles under the verandah and lots of them just gathering on the exterior walls. I don’t like to use chemicals in the garden so I might suck em up with the blower vac. Mine mulches as it vacs so I think it might be worth a shot as the kids are home on school holidays and for them not to be able to go outside as they are fearfull, I don’t think what I could do with the vac will be pushing them to the edge of extinction..

    We were forced in side on NYE as we had a swarm of Christmas beetles take over our outdoor entertaining area because they were attracted to the light. Is this also the case with soldier beetles?


  37. Janelle o rourke says:

    Hi there,
    I live in Beaumaris and we have two red gums in the nature strip. They are everywhere! They cover the cars, I can’t get in in the morning unless I carefully hose down the car, even then they end up inside. They are indeed a pest. Also the grass under the trees is covered, and today they seem to be moving closer to the house. They have been around in varying levels for at least a month.they have to go! I read an article on the councils website dated November end that we should just be careful not to inhale them as we walk through their swarms! How should I explain this to my 18 mth old? Seriously it’s not good enough.

  38. Janelle o rourke says:

    I have just been reading an american website.

    “Soldier Beetle Life Cycle : Like all beetles, soldier beetles have “complete” metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal and adult stages. Female soldier beetles place eggs in moist soil or in leaf litter in lawns, meadows, and forests. Upon hatching in the summer, larvae live and feed at the soil level. Most species pupate in the fall in small chambers in the soil and adults emerge in late spring, then mate and deposit eggs during the summer.”

    There is my first really helpful tip, leaf litter. With all the trees around here I guess we are going to have to start collecting our leaf litter more frequently. I can say that we have a huge amount with red gums, banksias and other natives.

  39. Maddie says:

    They may well be liking the flowering gum tree out the front of our house, but we cannot get out our front door as they swarmed 4 inches high up the frame and over the door, they’re all in the porch, over the steps, coming in through the windows and are EVERYWHERE!

    We’ve vacuumed three times today and I am sick of them. My toddler keeps trying to eat them, they are making a mess over all the windows and paintwork, which seems to be impossible to get off, in a rented property, this is a real issue, but because they’re native and ‘not a problem’ there is nothing we can do to get rid of them.

  40. Janelle o rourke says:

    Hi Maddie,
    If your child is eating them they are a health hazard, so write to the council. I’m writing to them. My child has been finding them in the house all morning. I don’t care if they are native, so am I!

  41. Kathy says:

    i feel like these insects bite. There was one resting on my arm for a few seconds before i slapped it off and now there is a slight bruise there. there a particularly bad bruise on my leg that has strange red lines through it and it and these only appeared on the day that i went outside to try to deal with these insects. The large bruise is also a little painful.

    Should I be worried?

  42. Loz Westley says:

    been reading all these comments with great interest. I live in Bungonia nsw, and noticed these bugs a few weeks ago in lesser numbers. On 5th of Jan, my hubby went out to feed our birds in their big natural aviary (chip bark and soil floor, trees growing inside, etc) and found our birds freaking out. It was like a nightmare! …. walls, all timber joists, every branch of the trees & trunks, their feed and water bowls, completely unrecognisable because they were so thick with the seething masses of beetles. Hubby hit on a great idea which worked a treat as we were a bit scared about using spray around the birds…… we brought 2 vacuum cleaners down to the aviary and used the round tube without the head and sucked up 1000’s at a time and kept emptying them into a 20 litre bucket that I had filled to 1/3rd with kerosene. Killed them immediately. I hate killing anything at all, but this was absolutely freaky situation and in 42 degrees heat, my birds were all stressed to the max and not only couldn’t even get to their water, but all their water had gone !!! …. so something had to be done. The vacuuming definitely did the trick. 2 days later, very few are around now…………………Regarding them biting: Like lots of us, i had heaps crawling around inside my clothes while we were zapping them up, and one was caught near waist band of my panties, and it DEFINITELY bit me and left a red bite mark after i got it out, but that was the only one that did bite me (possibly because it was trapped?) I have been living here 28 yrs and this is the first time i’ve seen anything like this.

  43. fiona says:

    Hi! We live in Newcastle and the temp today is expected to be in the 40s. When I got up at 6am to hang out the washing as far all the back yards as far as you could see were covered in the beetles.A bit disheartened to hear they might be around for weeks.Here’s hoping the strong wind that is around at the moment blows them out to

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Fiona
      I live in the same area as you. We noticed a few smaller swarms around New Year’s Day when the weather was hot & last night with the heat wave, they came back in huge numbers. Today, they are everywhere- covering plants and the lawn looks like its crawling in them. My husband tried to mow it to move them on but this just disturbed them and they resettled after anyway. There were some dead ones in the lawn catcher. There was also some on our clothes line, fence and also on the bricks of our house, basically everywhere out the back and a couple have made it inside the house as well. Some of our neighbours have a few but we seem to have a plague. Hoping they move on quickly but they seem to come be more of a problem in the heat and with more hotter than normal weather predicted for this weekend, it doesn’t look good. We have seen our dog eat a couple as well, hope they aren’t poisonous to him!

  44. Anthony says:

    I live in Brighton Le Sands, a Sydney suburb. Today is around the 40 degree mark and there are tens of thousands in the front garden of my unit block, like everyone else they are covering trees and huge patches of the building and now spreading to adjacent buildings.
    Been living here for years and it’s the first time I’ve see such a plague.

  45. greg says:

    I’m in south Canberra and they just arrived a week ago. They seem to be attracted to our mulberry tree. There are literally thousands of these beetles. I just hosed them down but hopefully they will leave soon.

  46. Anne says:

    I/m in Newcastle, and the beetles came swarming into my garden 2 days ago when temperatures went up beyond 40 degrees. I’m going to buy a vacuum just for these bugs and hope it works. Even if it’s a one-off occurrence, I think the expenditure will be worthwhile because it can be used for stink bugs as well.

    • Miryan says:

      Hi Anne

      I live in North Lambton and my garden is covered in these bettles. They appeared 10 days ago. When you say vacuum, what do you refer to? I will appreciate your answer. My lemon tree has stink bugs every so often as well. Thank you


  47. Rae says:

    I live in Emerald Victoria and this morning my car was swarming with the beetles, inside the door sills, under the bonnet, everywhere! It was parked under a Lilly Pilly which is flowering at the moment. Had to make a long drive in heavy traffic and everytime I stopped at traffic lights swarms of the beetles would just fly out from under the bonnet and fly away. Solution parked the car in the sun and they seem to have disappeared – hopefully! Not sure why they were so attracted to the car though.

  48. Debra says:

    We live in Daylesford and have been plagued with them since early December. They are attracted to the white and blue coloured washing on our clothes line and leave yellow stains.
    I’ve taken to hanging out the washing in the evening when they are less active.

    It’s a relief to know that they are harmless in small numbers. I’ve noticed that as the weather gets hotter and drier they seem to be increasing in number at an alarming rate. Thanks for the tip about vacuuming them which I’ll try if things worsen.

  49. Alison Lea says:

    Well, after confidently announcing they had left a few days ago, they are now back – in bigger numbers! They have formed great swarms over everything and last night were plastered all over one window and climbing in through the cracks but thankfully not today. The good news is that my two grandchildren have had a wonderful time playing with the “fairy beetles” (I had to invent something to stop them freaking out!) and neither of them have been bitten or suffered at all from having them crawling all over them. Must admit, I am getting to the end of my patience – my once beautiful garden has taken such a beating from the heat of the last week and now to have it seething with these creatures is quite disheartening. They have now started to build up numbers on the frangipani – it really is a most bizarre experience.

  50. Craig says:

    I like all of you have millions of these destructive beetles. They aren’t fussy what they eat and have decimated my fruit trees & vege garden. Fruits trees particularlu stone fruit are dropping unrippened fruit. These beetles appear to suck the goodness from the leaves leaving at first small spots and then whithered leaves. They love Tomatoes, strawberries & Pumpkin, and just about anything else with a green leaf. They appear to like the fresh shoots on a lemon tree & thrive on the apple trees. I was hoping the birds might like them but I’ve seen no evidence of this. I wasn’t going to spray but if I don’t do something soon I won’t have a garden left to spray. Not sure where Kim gets the info from that they won’t harm the plants, I beg to differ.

  51. Polly shugg says:

    We are in jan juc on the surfcoast in Victoria and our back yard was covered in these beetles they were in the bark and mulch and vacuuming was painstaking but the only way we removed the majority of them we emptied them into plastic bags sprayed them tied the bags & placed in the rubbish . The cooler day today has helped but they were in the swimming pool & a real nuisance too many of them everywhere

  52. Danie says:

    We are in east Keilor and have recently been swarmed by these little pests. The were loving our ironbark pole outside our house and were swarming like bees. Very harmless yet very annoying. Nothing that a good broom can’t fix!!! Hope they not overstay their welcome and they certainly aren’t welcome inside the house by crawling in under the front door.

  53. Nancy Pallin says:

    Thank you for helping me identify and learn about these soldier beetles. I am on Jamberoo Mountain, inland from Kiama south of Sydney. The brown barrel trees Eucalyptus fastigat and in full flower – the best flowering I have seen for many years. Some soldier beetles have been flying about for days but this morning there was a fantastic eruption of millions of them flying about especially at the tops of the trees. Children staying at Ben Ricketts Environmental Preserve on Jamberoo Mountain Road are racing around catching them and then letting them go. No one here is concerned about them. They are a natural part of the environment and with the extreme weather (hottest day ever recorded) the trees and the beetles seem to be going into reproductive mode in case this is their last chance. Today the beetles were not mating, just flying around- at least the ones near ground level where we are but they might be mating up high in the trees. There are no clumps of them on the ground as in the videos on this website. Thanks again for the information.

  54. Ken says:

    Live in the St George area, Sydney. After the blistering 45degree heat in Sydney yesterday I discovered hundreds of these flying insects hanging off the leaves and mangos of my 3m high mango tree!

    Will be spraying the tree with water soon to see if that will dislodge them. I’ve got about 40 large mangos on the tree and I’ve been looking after it for the past month in hopes for some good fruit this season!

  55. Sue Taylor says:

    North Ryde, Sydney, on our hot Friday (I registered 48 degrees in the shade) the air was full of them. They seemed to have gone by evening, but when I watered my potted fern they rose by the hundred. Now two days later they are still there, apparently socialising and obviously copulating. They are inconspicuous on the shrivelled leaves, but the more one looks the more one sees.

    • Desiree Sara says:

      Hi Sue, We are in St.Leonards Sydney and on that same crazy
      hot day our courtyard became covered in these bugs They have stayed
      this whole time, almost 2 weeks, Today though in the rain they seem
      to have all drowned….Our courtyard tiles are covered. Its like a
      bug mass murder scene. Dead or dying Can they not survive the rain?
      Will there be more tomorrow?

  56. Caroline Moses says:

    We had a minor outbreak a month ago on our raspberries in
    Katoomba. They were copulating and eating the raspberries at the
    same time! We now have a massive outbreak of them, mainly in our
    front garden. They are clumped on many different shrubs and in the
    peeling bark of a large Mountain Ash eucalypt. The change in
    weather to cool and wet hasn’t affected their numbers.

  57. alannah says:

    yesterday I was catching soldier beetles at school with my friends. a lot of girls thought they were stinkbugs but I told them that stinkbugs were a lot wider. they liked taking off from high places, like our fingers. we caught five and put them in a plastic bag with grass, a hot stone (they seemed to like hot stones for some reason) and breathing holes of course! I broght them home in my lunchbox and when I got home they let me go. In my old school their were bugs that looked exactly like them only they had no shells. they usually came out in late spring but last year they were a bit late. a boy said they were friutflies but they turned out not to be. then a boy started pulling off their wings just for the fun of it. Some friends and I tryed to make him stop and told him that they weren’t fruitflies but he insisted that they were pests. we kept telling to stop and he told us to go away. eventually we told the teacher and she told him to stop. Anyway, back to soldier beetles. I’m going to catch some more bugs on Monday, if my cold goes away.

  58. Miriam says:

    We live in Docklands VIC, 27 storeys up and have been finding these bugs infesting the windows and the apartment building since November 2012. We had them last summer for a little while but this summer things got worse. I stopped cycling along the beach from Port Melbourne to Brighton – it used to be a lovely ride – but when the weather gets warmer such as today, it is really unpleasant finding these on my clothes or catching them in the air as I cycle. I have never experienced anything like this before. It really makes the city unliveable for me, as I get all scared and start to panic. It seems to me like the climate is changing and some species migrate and/or overpopulate as there is imbalace in nature.

  59. Leonie Hall says:

    You nitwits. The soldier beetles are eating the aphids and veggie bug’s eggs that are damaging your gardens. They are wonderful, and you lot want to SPRAY THEM?
    You nutters, I have 500 tomato plants on a farm near Albury, and the soldier beetles are all over the whole field. HOORAY, the plants they are all over look wonderful. I am growing without chemicals, and the soldier beetles are eating all my PROBLEMS! Azaleas? They’ll be eating the white fly that ruins azalea plants every year (leaves turn silvery, then just drop off) HOORAY FOR SOLDIER BEETLES!!!

    • Jane says:

      I admire your optimism! Since my beetles have been gone (a couple of months now) my azalias and rhodys have never looked worse (it’s thrip not white fly I’ve always thought that turns them silvery – but you might be right) and lots of other plants have a tiny green microscopic insect (that I’ve examined under a magnifying glass) on their undersurface that looks different to thrip and causes the leaves to go brown and die. Not that I’m blaming the beetles! – I think the hot dry weather must be making everything more susceptible. I agree that while the beetles were around I had less aphis but they don’t seem to have done much in getting rid of the eggs that have hatched into these 2 new problems.
      Hope you have better luck!

  60. bob jones says:

    i live at dartmoor,vic ,we have an untold amount off this beetles at the moment ,we also have a gum tree flowering .there not in nextdoors blocks ,just mine .what i would like to know is for how long do they hang around for & is it worth poisoning them .

    • Jane says:

      Hi Bob,

      Sadly you will find the CSIRO will give you no help on this one but if you read all the posts you will get a good idea how long they are likely to hang around and diverse views on poisoning.

      Good luck

      • bob jones says:

        thank you jane . all one can do ,is sit back & wait till they bug off . at least there doing no harm to anything that i can see .
        yours . bob

  61. Andrew Jane says:

    I emptied a full can of insect spray onto the infestation in my back courtyard. The result was swift. I felt a little bad about this but a positive is that the bees returned within a day to the flowering buds and this I prefer by a long way.

  62. rick james says:

    Well its April fools day and its no joke heaps of these beetles have invaded my 3rd floor deck, I live at The Entrance NSW and over Easter we had some unseasonably hot weather maybe thats the catalist hope they are gone soon

  63. Deb says:

    These beetles first invaded my garden In North Canberra in February this year. They arrived and survived on my flowering shrubs and trees the same time as some European wasps. The beetles remain in huge numbers but the wasps have disappeared. The beetles are a nuisance – they get all over my washing and stain it so I am just waiting for the first frost to see if that sends them further north during the chilly Canberra winter!

  64. Kim says:

    Spray them with natural Pyrethrum and ensure you get contact with the beetle. They die within minutes and there is no residual effect with a one day with holding period for edible plants.

  65. Felicity says:

    We are in the inner west, Sydney – I’ve seen a few around the garden in the last week but just today we have seen a huge increase in numbers to the point where I thought I should inform myself about them. This blog has been useful thanks! We’ve recently had aphids in the vege patch so I’ll be happy if they take care of those, although I’m hoping we won’t experience the swarms of beetles that I’ve read about above. In the meantime, my boys are enjoying catching and studying them.

  66. Lyn says:

    We’ve had these beetles for several weeks in our garden in Carlingford Sydney. They seem to be attracted to the area under a neighbours overhanging gum tree. Our lawn, azaleas, citrus tree etc are all covered. Is there some way of getting rid of them?

  67. Wendy says:

    WOW after identifing the ” Soldier Beetle” and near all comments on here, which have been helpful thanks guys! As their name says Soldiers they are LOL

  68. Andrew k says:

    Weeks? We’ve hosted 100Ks of these critters for 3 months plus, canberra nth side, they are mostly in hugy ivy covering fence, that is about to flower, but spill over into veggie patch, where the spinnach is a popular meeting place for them, and they were all over the tops of tomatoes when there were some, and remaining zucs etc, whilst I suspected they may have caused some damage, if they were an actual veggie pest I’d have not had a plant for months as there’s no end to them!

  69. Admiring the persistence you put into your website and in depth information you present.
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  70. Judith Seamer says:

    the last two years we’ve had these beetles in plague conditions. i also vacuumed up thousands at the end of last summer and have been reluctant to poison. i have just noticed that they have appeared again for this season. i am astounded at the lack of scientific knowledge ….surely there are entomologists out there who could give us a better understanding of how to limit their numbers? those of you who suggest we should learn to live with the inconvenience they cause are just plain arrogant and have no idea of the extent of the problem. i can hardly breathe in my garden when they are on the move. we are stuck inside for weeks. looking at all the posts it appears to be a widespread problem along the eastern coast. isn’t there anyone out there who can explain why this is happening and why it is worse every year?
    Judy S

  71. Brian says:

    I live in Budgewoi, NSW Central Coast. For the first time in our >10 years here, we discovered the back garden swarming with these critters.

    All over the garden and colourblind fence.

    I took to them with Baygon and hope that it keeps their numbers down.

    They do just appear en masse, thousands and thousands. Alarming and at the same time intriguing.

    From whence do they come? I understand they come from larvae… But we never saw the adults which laid them.

    Any answers?

    • Hi Brian,

      You’re right that the soldier beetles – like all beetles – come from larvae. But we don’t always see the previous generation that gave rise to a plague we see, because the beetles fly well and are quite mobile. They are often attracted to flowering trees or shrubs, but at other times they congregate on tree trunks or fences for no obvious purpose. There is no reason for people to be alarmed about a plague of soldier beetles. Spraying them with a household insecticide will have little impact on the plague as a whole; there is usually no practical option but to wait for them to go.


  72. dolphinxixi says:

    We are in the inner west, Sydney – I’ve seen a few around the garden in the last week but just today we have seen a huge increase in numbers to the point where I thought I should inform myself about them. This blog has been useful thanks! We’ve recently had aphids in the vege patch so I’ll be happy if they take care of those, although I’m hoping we won’t experience the swarms of beetles that I’ve read about above. In the meantime, my boys are enjoying catching and studying them.

  73. Phoebef says:

    One of these buggers found its way into my bed the other night and as ive gone to get it, i must have lent on it or something and its bitten me. Kindve felt like a bad ant bite, had a bit of a lump- like when a mossi bites you, but more jaggered not a simple circle, and a few days later I still have a red dot where it got me.
    I had never seen one before, nor did I know what it was, but now my backyard is swarming with them! Shouldnt be surprised as the house backs onto bushland, theyre a bit annoying now but at least I dont have to worry if I get bitten again, ahah. I think it was just because it mustve been very frightened at the fact i was about to accidently squish him

    • Hello,
      This is just a follow up for those who are struggling with the Plague Soldier beetles, I had thousands take over my front and back yard just before Christmas 2012 they lasted about 6 weeks and have completely disappeared. I expected I might get another plague this year perhaps because they had laid their eggs but nothing! The one thing I have noticed is there are gums in my yard that have completely dropped their leaves but are now re shooting. I only mention this because I remember some people commenting on the fact that this had happened to them after the beetles had been.

      Good luck with it all, I feel your pain….; )

  74. Katrina says:

    We are in Hornsby NSW, and this wonderous bug is now stopping us from going into our backyard. They like to land on us in swarms and sit and stay. My eldest son thinks its extremely annoying as he and his sister can’t go on the trampoline that they recieved for Christmas. Thanks for everyone writing their comments -at least I now know that one week will turn into 3 to 4 weeks. And yes the hose is very effective.

  75. Steven says:

    I am in Brighton, Vic. We had swarms of Soldier Beetles last summer and they are appearing again, a few yesterday, hundreds today, swarming out of our nature strip and our front garden. We have a large gum in flower in our nature strip.
    I think that I might have to purchase a blower/vac as we couldn’t sit outside last year for
    about six weeks.

  76. RichardJ says:

    Reappeared in Montmorency VIC just this morning (14/01/14), in their hundreds (so far), after a plague of thousands for the first time last year, lasting about 4 weeks. They were harmless then and hope they will be this time too, but best not to swallow one or get it up your nose! They fly during the day, then periodically land in a nook near the front door in huge numbers. Somewhere here I saw they are related to fireflies, although they cannot make light – which is a pity because in these numbers they would be spectacular!

  77. Peter says:

    I have millions of these insects weighing down my garden at the moment.
    They are on every blade of grass and tree on my half acre. And like to fall on my wife in the bath. I’m glad they don’t hurt my plants except by weight of sheer numbers

  78. Damean says:

    The air is congested with these creatures in my back garden today. Is their appearance related to a lack of rainfall and warm weather? I’m in North Brighton, Melbourne, and it hasn’t rained properly for a month.

  79. Ben says:

    Thanks for all of these helpful posts… The really tricky part of these beetle swarms is that for us (central coast, NSW) this year, they appeared and hung around for the best part of the Christmas/summer holidays which meant no outdoor eating, tranpolining, backyard anything really during the daylight hours..what was most intriguing for me was that they infested a large flowering eucalypt in our back yard but not in the surrounding neighbours identical trees!!! I’m hearing from the comments posted that we might be the lucky ones again next year…an annual event is a bit more overwhelming than a one-off plague…

    • Alison says:

      My Newcastle garden was absolutely swamped with these creatures last summer, thick black masses of them on trees and brick walls. This year?? I have not seen a single one. Thank goodness for that!

  80. Franny says:

    It seems the problem is the same for Terrace balcony’s like mine in MIddle Park VIC, OR if you are on acreage somewhere!! We have had this plague now for about 4 years and they gather in numbers each year and have started MUCH earlier this year already, October! They live and love in the Yukka plants that I have on front & back Terraces, which I wouldn’t have thought had pollen or nectar (no flowers on plants as yet). They are in their thousands and cover the floor to ceiling windows & doors, like an ugly black heaving mass! Yes, why can’t CSIRO understand the dramatic increase in this plague, which I had never experienced in 10 years in my Apartment, UNTIL the past 4 years, which contrary to most comments I’ve read, last for 2 months at least (last year count – who knows this year!). It’s a nightmare and my skin crawls! We have lovely views of the sea, but from now until they decide to drift off in a few months, it is one very ugly view!! Didn’t want to have to spray, but now a necessity.

  81. Judith Seamer says:

    yes, i couldn’t agree more. they are more than just an annoying pest. In these numbers and for the length of time they infest an area, they are causing serious inconvenience. We have so many that they completely cover all our back windows. We cannot go outside to enjoy our lovely garden because they are so thick in the air that they would cover a person in seconds. We are hoping to have our daughter’s wedding in our garden next March and are concerned this won’t be possible. CSIRO needs to get down to some in depth research on these insects. i’m all for live and let live, but when they are in such numbers for such a long time (months!!) then we need some sort of way of keeping the numbers in check. i want to know where they are laying their eggs so i can at least limit the hatchings. What are the conditions that are leading to these overwhelming numbers? Some answers please!! is there anyone conducting research into this relatively new phenomenon???

    • Steven says:

      Last January they reappeared in our nature strip, after our experience the previous year when we couldn’t sit outside for 6 weeks, I bought a cheap blower-vac at Bunnings, at the checkout they had a 2litre container of “”Hovex” surface spray (AUS made,0.5g/L Bifenthrin) with a nifty little electric ” water pistol” applicator. (About $8 )
      I sucked up about 50l of the dear little creatures, then for the next few days I squirted the clumps as they appeared.
      Voila, no swarms after, we could sit outside. Our large resident bird population seemed to suffer no ill effects
      We will see what eventuates this season.

  82. Wendy Forsyth says:

    These are EVERYWHERE in my Vermont South (Melbourne) garden right now. I first saw them in a small swarm 2 days ago. I’m pleased to read that they’re not too evil and am grateful for this website cos I’d not been able to identify them until I saw your photos. I’m an experienced gardener but have never seen these things before. I still don’t like them!! 17/11/2014

  83. tina hallman says:

    today my first ever experience, of these flying around (buddleia bushes are out in full flower) …in the thousands out my garden, front and back..glad to hear they’re not harmful.

    • Ian says:

      Having experienced several infestations over the past few years, I beg to differ on their harmlessness. The leaves of my clyveas and hippiastrums show the effect something having eaten the leaves after these infestations. I recommend the lawnmower for infestations in grass and surface spray (anticockroach variety) on walls, tree leaves and the like.

  84. Paul Morton says:

    Quorrobolong NSW. A great swarm has appeared at the base of some big trees at back of the house. The seasonal conditions now are conducive to this outbreak. Over the years here in this rural area there have been outbreaks of millepedes, spider mite rings, and many other fascinating, weather related plagues. Leave them alone if they are not causing any problems. Every year the Christmas Beetle destroys the foliage of the trees but no one seems to be concerned about them. So these harmless, non-destructive soldier beetles are fine. I have seen them associated in the cattle dung (individuals) so they must have another purpose in life besides sitting in swarms copulating. I am only happy to see wet weather for the summer when it was predicted to be dry.

  85. Gabi Patyi says:

    Burrumbeet, Victoria. 17 minutes west of Ballarat. I am easily destroying the plague in my garden using a strong solution of phosphate free dishwashing liquid in a sprayer. I have used the same thing to destroy a much larger and more harmful plague of harlequin bugs (stink bugs) on my property, a war I have waged for four years. These soldier beetles are harder to see at first but they will all die easily as the soap blocks the pores on their bodies that they breath through. I can’t face losing my fruit and vegetable crop for the year to another bug.
    All dishwashing liquid and other cleaning products from Aldi are phosphate free, phosphates are what cause blue green algea to form, so best not to use most of the common brands from the major supermarkets unless it is the environment safe brands, it’s just so cheap at Aldi you don’t have to use the expensive stuff or the even more expensive and harmful chemical sprays.

  86. Wish I’d read the previous post about the soap solution. Have just had a local infestation in my garden in Katoomba, NSW (possibly due to a giant overhanging late flowering wattle from next door, but who knows). As we are in the process of landscaping a native garden/wildlife corridor under all sorts of weather and time constraints I was not relishing further delays with the discomfort of millions of pesky insects flying about and smothering everything in sight over an indefinite period. Our garden is pretty ecobalanced and chemical free so we are not in need of these helpful native critters in such apocalyptic numbers! 🙂

    As an editor I was also worried about the prospect of having my workplace under siege…on the third day they were starting to crawl into the house!. Only plus was the disappearance of the European wasps!

    I usually make up my own bulk insecticide from a diluted solution of soap chips and garlic, but as I was in a bit of a panic (had never encounted this before) I went into a mild panic so didn’t think of using the preparations I had. I rang two pest control companies who were both completely unhelpful. So I figured that with no bird predators, pyrethrum was the go.

    I used a single application of pyrethrum which I applied directly to clumps simply to reduce the sheer weight of numbers placing a strain on immature natives under cultivation. This seems to have had immediate effect and I’m not overly worried about the impact on the birdlife here. We have to get the natives up so we can have the birdlife!

    Wonderful to find this informative site, which helped me not to panic and to get things sorted.

    Hoping the rest will get the message and bugger off. If not, it’s the soapy solution for them.


  87. A PS (thanks Jesse): It’s under a week and we’re down to the last few billion. They definitely have to go as one hitched a ride with me to Coles yesterday! Gave me a little bite – not a sting exactly, but maybe a squirt of their stuff, which left an irritation. They definitely do (as Craig noted above) leave small holes in foliage/leaves, which then shrivel. I guess they have to eat something. But this is not good for babies under cultivation as there needs to be enough leaf on the plant for it to photosynthesise and grow. My test plants? I have a small collection of unusual hellebores under cultivation and all the leaves are affected; ditto Xmas Liliums in pots just out (always flower late here) now dotted with small holes in petals, a disappointment. They are definitely selective, but in such numbers it’s hard to observe a pollen pattern. A small local native ground cover (bearing small flowers) that was swarmed from the first day is pretty much lace now, yet another native ground cover adjacent to it (no flowers) has been spared.

    I guess compared to the farmers it could be a jolly sight worse. A plague of locusts maybe! But I thought it worth corroborating Craig’s observations (and others) with my own.

    It occurs to me that the benefit/harm ratio is a function of numbers. We don’t have so many bad bugs to need the benefit so much. It’s Malthusian (?). There’s not enough food supply or surface area (and no predators), so they hit the plants (is it what they secrete that damages the plants?). As to predators, it is possible that the wattlebird up here may be slightly keen but the jury is still out.

    Strategy past two days has been to hit the remainder with granny’s all-purpose soap pesticide, which seems to be effective. It’s not dramatically effective but the numbers of corpses are building up and the living are retreating to smaller clumps where they think I can’t see them (oh but I can!). Seems they try to get a wriggle on but then crash and expire.

    Recipe: boil up old soap chips (I add crashed garlic cloves for good measure) and store the jelly in jars; dollop into recycled spray bottles as needed, add water and shake (will dissolve standing over time anyway). Works brilliantly, especially on roses – at least till the ladybug population builds up!). The solution needs to be viscous enough to seize their engines and thin enough to get through the nozzle. Big bonus is I can sweep the last few squillian corpses into the compost having no more worries about residual toxins.

    For me the go next time will be:

    Stage 1: Broad sweep direct Pyrethrum application (showing no mercy!); bin corpses.
    Stage 2: Broad sweep direct soap application (still showing no mercy), compost remaining protein.

    Hope this is of some help to all you plague soldier beetle victims out there!

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