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Blood spewers

Bloody-nosed beetles, Timarcha tenebricosa

Timarcha tenebricosa, male and female

The bloody-nosed beetle Timarcha tenebricosa or blood spewer as it is sometimes known from its defensive habit of exuding a bright red-orange fluid from its mouth. This fluid is foul-tasting to predators, seriously irritating the mouth of birds and mammals. Subsequently it can sometimes be seen wandering around in daylight largely unmolested.

This leaf-beetle from the Chrysomelidae family is one of my favourites and one that I find quite regularly as I walk up the track towards Morgans Hill in early spring, slowly plodding its way across the path or through the dry grass. Sadly I find almost as many squashed by unobservant walkers. However, I’ve never found a mating pair before and so it’s interesting to see how much larger and duller the female is in comparison to this smaller shinier male.

This is a big slow-moving beetle, black with a bluish tinge. It has a round rather domed body (often slightly dented) with long legs and wonderfully big feet edged with orange. Its antennae are thick and well segmented like a black string of pearls, making it easy to count the sections.

Although the line down the centre of its back suggests it has wing cases the elytra are in fact fused together as this beetle is flightless.

It can be found on chalk grassland, heathland and along hedgerows between April and September. It feeds on Lady’s Bedstraw and similar related plants like goosegrass or cleavers from the family Galium.

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