Appears orange-red, mostly red to the naked eye, except for the wings & lower body of the insect — that part is medium-to-dark brown. Photo makes red parts appear more amber brown (which may be accurate, but I don’t see it like that with my naked eye).
Landing mostly on long grasses: my non-native Oat grass & papyrus, and my native Festuca californica. Sometimes seen on a couple other plants (native & non-native), but much less frequently.
Noticed first in March, & they continue now (April 2010). Right now they are mating. Otherwise crawling up along the grass stems. When they’re on the Festuca, they are found on the blooming stems (ones producing seeds).
Let me know if picture is not good enough.
Your photo is of a soldier beetle.
The adults feed on aphids and other insects, while the larva feed on soft bodied insects. So this would be a beneficial insect.
The adults of some species are seen on flowers in the fall where they help with pollination.