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Ground Beetles: Garden Friends

By Whitney Cranshaw, specialist in entomology, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

The greatest nightmare of most insects that inhabit garden soils is the ground beetle. Ground beetles are very common insects which develop as predators, dispatching cutworms, beetle larvae, and other common pests with their strong, hooked jaws.  Their mane reflects the fact that although they are highly active insects, most ground beetles are poor climbers and are restricted to areas around the soil surface.

Ground beetles are typically dark brown or black and somewhat shiny, although a few take on brilliant blue and green coloration.  They are elongate in body form and the jaws are prominent.  Because the are active only at night, ground beetles beneficial activities often are underappreciated.  Gardeners sometimes may encounter a few when flipping over rocks, boards or other debris causing the fast moving beetles to scatter for cover.

The larvae are also predators of insects.  Generally pale-colored and worm-like, they tunnel through soil and may be observed sometimes when spading a garden bed.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010