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Grey Sailor Beetle Cantharis nigricans

Many of the Black Soldier Beetles are greyish when fresh. That's because the black shields are covered in greyish hairs. Some loose these hairs quickly, turning entirely black, others very slowly. The Grey Sailor Beetle looses his hair very slowly and remains greyish for a very long time, hence the name. Measuring 9 to 11 mm it is a rather small species. It is similar to other black Soldier Beetles, but can be told apart by looking at the following characteristics. The antennae are bicolored, but remain light all over. The neck shield is yellowish or orange and has a variable black spot in the middle. The front and middle legs are yellowish orange. And so are the hind legs, except for a black spot just above the knee. The remainder of the hind leg shows some highly variable black smears, but is yellowish orange for the greater part. If the beetle you are looking at has these black smears on the lower leg, but lacks the black part just above the knee, you might be looking at Cantharis lateralis. If all legs are yellowish and there is nothing black on the hind legs Cantharis thoracica is a good candidate.

The larvae hunt on the ground for other insects. The adults hunt for other insects as well, but often do so on flowers. Very often seen on Hogweed in sunshine. The Grey Sailor Beetle is a spring species. Adults are seen in May or the beginning of June. It is a scarce species in the South of Britain.

The Grey Sailor Beetle is also known as the Grey Soldier Beetle.