from the wild side
Fiery searcher Calosoma scrutator
IDENTIFICATION — Quietly going about the business of hunting insects, especially caterpillars, the fiery searcher is a helpful predator to have in the garden. The insect is colorful, with brilliant green ridged wing covers ringed in red. Its legs, abdomen, head and pronatum (the area behind the head) are shiny blue-black. Even though the fiery searcher has wings, it rarely uses them. It’s more likely to run for cover on its long legs than fly if it sees you coming near.
You’ll notice beetles emerging from their winter hiding places in spring to feed and mate. Eggs are laid singly in the soil and hatch into long, slender larvae with short front legs. It takes about a year for the beetles to mature. Juvenile beetles inhabit the soil and feed on a variety of insects, including caterpillars. Long-lived for insects, fiery searchers can reach the ripe old age of three or even four years.
Be careful if you handle these beautiful beetles. When startled, they release a foul odor as protection against predators, such as raccoons, frogs, birds, squirrels and other animals.
FAVORITE CONDITIONS — Found throughout North America, these ground beetles hide in leaf litter, under rocks or in decaying logs during the day and emerge at night to find a meal. One of the larger beetles, fiery searchers grow 1 to 1 1/2 in. long and have large mandibles for grabbing prey. They’re especially fond of tent caterpillars and gypsy moth larvae and will even climb trees to find a midnight snack.
HOW TO ATTRACT — You can’t buy these helpful creatures, but you can encourage larger numbers by providing hiding places, such as stepping stones, a compost pile or a rotten log. Also, avoid spraying insecticides whenever possible, since the chemicals will kill these beneficial insects along with the pests.