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Fiery hunters

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Fiery hunters are members of the persevering beetle family and ‘garden good guys’. They can be seen in fields, in wooded areas and around shrubs in the city. At this time of the year, their activity is beginning to slow down as they prepare for winter.

These large beetles, nearly two inches long, are related to tiger beetles and are beneficial to Chicago gardens. Their species has the Latin name Calosoma scrutator, and they are known as fiery searchers or caterpillar hunters and/or combinations of those names.

Fiery hunter adults are exquisite, colorful beetles. They have shiny black or metallic blue and green bodies, pitted with orange-pink or golden dots. They have razor-sharp mandibles and two antenna. They intensely search for prey, and some will dart up trees after caterpillars. The gray larva hunts for prey at night and are more ravenous than the adults. The flashier adults prefer hunting during the day.

Fiery hunters eat caterpillars, moths, cankerworms and other garden pests. It’s especially good that they eat cankerworms because these pests leave garden foliage filled with holes, and they spin annoying, messy webs over cars and doorways. Gardeners will also like the fact that fiery hunters eat the seeds of grass weeds.

While fiery hunters aren’t harmful to humans, they possess an instinctive biochemical defense system. If they sense danger, they will spray any predator with an unpleasant, stinking, burning chemical. So if you are tempted to handle these beetles, be sure to wear gloves.

Using beneficial insects, like fiery hunters, in your garden means you need to avoid harmful pesticides and weed killers. If the thought of completely organic gardening is troubling to you, try setting aside a portion of your garden and let that portion be organic. In the remainder of your garden, use environmentally-friendly chemicals.

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