My first memories of soldiers dates back to pictures of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. I remember seeing the 'reds' and the 'blues' on their horses accompanying the state coach to Westminster Abbey. With soldier beetles we have the 'reds', the so called 'bloodsucker' beetles, and the blues represented by this little chap, Cantharis nigricans. Actually Cantharis nigricans is more grey than blue but for me they are still the 'blues'!
There is some debate, it seems, as to why they are called soldier beetles but their bright colours recalling the tunics of soldiers is certainly one reason put forward and understandably so. However, the common red soldier beetle is so numerous in summer it is as though there are armies of them and hence the name of soldier beetle for that particular species and that has then been applied to the family as a whole. Cantharis nigricans is far less common that the red soldier beetle and one does not see armies of the 'blues'.
Cantharis nigricans has a preference for damp vegetation where it wanders across leaves looking for small insects such as aphids to devour for their lunch. It is widespread in summer but not commonly seen.