This creature has a few aliases, but my favorite is "Fiery Searcher" which I found on BugGuide.Net, one of my favorite places to go if I have an unknown bug, or want to know more about one. Also known as Caterpillar Hunter, or Calosoma scrutator for the scientific name geeks, like myself. He has a nasty nip and gives off an unpleasant scent (more on that later). And yes, it does love to scarf down caterpillars.
What a monster! About an inch and a half long in length, these beetles are constantly on the move, looking for prey. I was running around like a crazy person trying to get this shot. Some onlooker probably thought I needed a refill on my medicine. Their prey, of course, are juicy caterpillars. The beetles like to hunt at night, when most caterpillars feel safe from the big, bad birds. This critter will scurry right up the tree and make a feast out of a tent caterpillar colony. The larvae also eat caterpillars.
One has to admire how beautiful a creature it is. The metallic green elytra or wings are grooved and have a reddish-purple border. The dark bluish-black thorax is also adorned with a coppery edging. No wonder it is named Calosoma which means "pretty body".
Fiery Searcher a.k.a Noxious Nibbler
You might wonder how I knew it has a wicked bite. Well, I couldn't get the darn thing to stay still while I was trying to take its portrait, so I picked it up thinking maybe I could get a shot that way. It wanted no part of that, thought my finger was a caterpillar and went "CHOMP". Not terribly painful, but I didn't care to have it happen again. And at the same time it let off a weird, yet familiar, scent. It was mediciney and reminded me of my Dad's slippers. He used to dump a half a bottle of medicated talcum powder in them to scare away gremlins. Foot Odor + Mennen's Talcum Powder = Fiery Searcher's defense scent. Pee-yew!
Fiery Searcher a.k.a Malodorous Muncher