Ground Beetles: Midnight Marauders
By Judy Ferris, ACLT Guest Blogger
Ladybugs, move over! It’s time we discovered the nocturnal guardians of our gardens. Night after night, unnoticed and unloved, humble Ground Beetles toil to rid our gardens of pests. They are, in fact, some of the most beneficial insects in our gardens. Since Ground Beetles are nocturnal, however, we seldom notice them. By day they hide in grasses, or beneath rocks, logs, or mulch in order to stay cool and moist. As the sun sets in the evening, however, adult and larval Ground Beetles begin to hunt. They churn below the ground, skitter atop the soil, climb plants, and even ascend trees as they forage. What’s on the menu? It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Insect Smorgasbord! Ground Beetles are prodigious consumers of a wide variety of insect pests that we would happily remove from our gardens; mites, snails, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs, cutworms, vine borers, aphids, and many other insects.
Ground Beetles are members of the Carabid family. With over 2000 Carabid species in North America alone, Ground Beetles are a common insect. They range in size from 1/8 to 1 1/2 inches long. If we examine this beetle closely, we can see that it is configured to be the perfect nocturnal predator. Ground Beetles rarely fly. Instead, they use their long, agile legs to hunt and pursue prey in the darkness. Most Ground Beetles are dark and shiny. They have large eyes as befits a night hunter. Those take-no-prisoners jaws are perfect for processing all kinds of prey; from slimy slugs, to gummy-bear cutworms, to crispy-critter ants. Some Ground Beetle jaws are even designed to puncture the shells of snails.