Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-39I took several pictures of this fellow while doing my Day Camp Counselor gig, but had no time during the week to look him up. Today I searched the internet for “goldenrod beetle” in hopes of finding something relevant. Turns out, he’s called Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, also known as the Pennsylvania Leather-wing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus).

While the larvae are carnivorous, the adults prefer pollen and nectar.  Birds, mice, mantids, assassin bugs and others avoid eating this soldier beetle because of an acidic secretion which issues from pores along its side when it is disturbed.  (Hmm… I’m tempted to disturb one to see that…  but what will happen?)

One of the more fascinating things I ran across was at the (AMAZING) site BugGuide

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle with Fungus

Click to go to the full account on

There is, apparently, a fungus that attaches itself to the exoskeleton of certain insects as they pass by along the forest floor.  After burning a hole through the armor, the fungus proceeds to attack the “non-vital” organs, while injecting antibiotics and other “medicines” to protect the host for a bit longer.  Eventually the fungus makes its way to the brain where it manipulates the behavior of the insect causing it to climb high into the tree-tops.  There, it devours the rest of the brain, after which the insect body explodes releasing the spores of the fungus.

(I SOOO wish I had known about this when the kids were still at camp… They would have loved such a zombie-esque story!)

This is another example of a story that makes me ask, “How do they know that?”  Do you know of a book that explains how we know what we know?  I’d like to read it!  Send me the title and author, please!

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (a.k.a. Pennsylvania Leather-wing)

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11 thoughts on “Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

  1. I love little interesting anecdotes of natural history. Thank you for sharing your discoveries.

    I am reading a book right now that explains a lot about “How we know what we know,” and is very well done. I am sure you would know a lot of the info already, but I am finding it a very interesting read.

    The Nature Handbook: a guide to observing the great outdoors by Ernest H Williams, Jr.

    I found a copy on the library shelf and just received a delivery of two from Amazon, one for my reference shelf and one for a nature loving friend. It is like having an amazing naturalist with you at all times with a references cited section attached. Brillant book!!

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