Up to 15 millimetres long, the adult soldier beetle is slender and relatively flat, with soft, black wing cases and a reddish colour over the rest of the body. The name comes from its bright colouring, which is reminiscent of old military uniforms. The larvae are flat and dark, covered with hairs that give them a velvety appearance.
Adults can be found in various types of grasslands and in gardens throughout nearly all of Europe. Larvae live in the soil or among moss.
The female beetle lays eggs in clusters in the soil, where they remain until spring. Soldier beetles are regarded as beneficial insects because they prey on pests such as aphids and caterpillars. They also eat grasshopper eggs and beetle larvae and supplement their diet with pollen from plants.