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Posts from the ‘Beetles’ Category

Invasion

The blue alder leaf beetle, Agelastica alni

Agelastica alni, male

Until 2004, the blue alder leaf beetle Agelastica alni was thought to be very rare in Britain, possibly extinct although there were some historical records from southern England. Then in 2004 it suddenly appeared again in northern England in the Manchester area, Lancashire and Cheshire in 2006 and Yorkshire in 2014. It was found in Wales in 2013 and in southern England in Hampshire in 2014, mainly around Southampton*. I found it myself for the first time in Hampshire in 2015 near Eastleigh.

I searched for it in Wiltshire in 2016 but couldn’t find it (not that I looked that hard) but of course it was only a matter of time before it arrived. So it came as no surprise when I received an email from David Lawman containing a couple of specimens he photographed in Bentley Wood in south Wiltshire on 11th June. Coincidentally the same day I received an email from Anthony Coles containing a photo of a couple of carded vouchers he found on 2nd and 3rd June in Foxham near Chippenham, north Wiltshire. Although in both instances the photos looked pretty convincing, they were a little blurry (and as I’ve only recently taken on the role of county recorder and I’m not an expert on chrysomelids) I passed them onto David Hubble for a second opinion. Dave runs the Bruchidae & Chrysomelidae Recording Scheme and is the author of the Keys to the adults of seed and leaf beetles of Britain and Ireland and the about to be published Leaf Beetles. Dave confirmed by return, as we all suspected, that they were indeed Agelastica alni.

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Buried, but not forgotten

Sexton beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Nicrophorus vespilloides

While sorting through some old photos from 2008 I discovered this photo of a burying or Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. These are useful beetles that bury the carcasses of small vertebrates such as birds and rodents as a food source for their larvae. These beetles sometimes called carrion beetles belong to the family Silphidae.

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Billy witches

June bug, Melolontha melolontha, male

Melolontha melolontha – Male

I’ve not posted for a while. Working freelance has kept me busy and much of my spare time has been spent either keying out specimens, uploading insect and wildlife records, writing reports or more enjoyably attending various insect workshops. At the last one, on Caribidae (Ground beetles) I got chatting to a young lady at the microscope opposite me. Ashleigh works in Edinburgh as a curatorial assistant (Entomology) for National Museums, Scotland and I mentioned that sometimes flying beetles get attracted to my moth-trap. Not quite so welcome are the big, up to 30mm long ‘Spang Beetles’ or ‘Billy Witches’ more commonly known as the Common Cockchafer Melolontha melolontha.

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Black Oil Beetle

Black Oil beetle, Meloe proscarabaeus, male

Meloe proscarabaeus – male

The Black oil beetle Meloe proscarabaeus is a beetle that I’ve looked for on Salisbury Plain before but not found until just recently. It gets its name from its habit of secreting droplets of ‘oil’ from its knee joints when roughly handled. This contains the odourless and colourless toxic chemical compound cantharidin which can cause blistering.

There used to be eight species in the UK but sadly three of them are now considered extinct. In fact two of our remaining five, the short-necked oil beetle Meloe brevicollis, last recorded in 1948, and the Mediterranean oil beetle Meloe mediterraneus, last recorded in 1906, were also thought to be extinct but were recently rediscovered by amateur entomologists in Devon.

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The lesser of two weevils

Hazel-leaf roller weevil, apoderus coryli,

Apoderus coryli

Whilst looking for Adonis Blue butterflies on West Yatton Down I discovered this little chap standing on a Hazel leaf. Further investigation revealed it to be a Hazel-leaf roller weevil Apoderus coryli.

It’s a beetle belonging to the family Attelabidae subfamily Attelaninae which are sometimes called giraffe weevils for rather obvious reasons. These primitive insects have a bell-shaped thorax (pronotum) and rather protruding eyes.

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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. Read more

Rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme

Rosemary Beetle, Chrysolina americana

Chrysolina americana

Twenty years ago you would be lucky to see this attractive metallic green and purple-striped beetle outside a greenhouse. The Rosemary Beetle Chrysolina americana was first discovered living outdoors in Surrey in 1994. Since then it has become widespread throughout southern England. They are commonly found on aromatic herbs, mainly rosemary but also on lavender, sage and thyme.

This one was found on rosemary whilst I was attending a course on bumblebees in Winchester, Hampshire.

Jasper

Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis

Clytus arietis

Here’s an interesting beetle I found at Langford Lakes back in May. The Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis is one of the longhorn flower beetles and a convincing wasp-mimic. Both the protective yellow and black colouration and its wasp-like movements give it some protection from predatory birds. If you see it quickly scuttling over vegetation looking for flowers full of nectar and pollen, where it often imitates the distinctive sideways walk of the wasp, it’s not surprising if at first glance this fast-moving insect is mistaken for a jasper.

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Try to set the night on fire

Fire Bug – Pyrrhocoris apterus

Pyrrhocoris apterus

The recent run of warm weather here in the UK has been a reminder of how hot it was when I visited Cyprus in April. This little chap was one of the first insects I encountered in the village of Frenaros where my mum and dad now live. My reason for showing it here is that this strikingly coloured red and black bug, that looks as though it has an african mask painted on its back, may be spreading northwards into England. Recently it has been found in Devon. Previously there have been small colonies in Surrey and Sussex and sporadic reports elsewhere. Although Britain has traditionally marked the northernmost edge of its range it has been a native of Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands for some time now. In the last decade the populations there have increased greatly. So it may be an insect worth looking out for in future.

It proved a particularly difficult subject to photograph. Being almost manically active due to the very warm temperature. It wouldn’t keep still, even for a fraction of a second, and so the vast majority of my photos were just slightly blurred. But I persevered over several days and eventually succeeded in getting this image. Read more

Longhorn flower beetle

Longhorn flower beetle judolia cerambyciformis

judolia cerambyciformis

I came across this acrobatic beetle whilst walking along the banks of the river Rede in Northumbria in June 2008 whilst looking for Dippers. It’s a type of Longhorn flower beetle Judolia cerambyciformis found mainly in hilly and mountainous areas – this specimen was photographed on the edge of Keilder Forest. The larvae feed on the roots or the rotting wood of deciduous and coniferous trees before pupating below ground. The adults are between 7-12mm in length and are usually encountered on flowers from May to August. It’s a nationally scarce species so it was an unexpected bonus to find it. The species gets the name longhorn or long-horned from its very long antenna which are often longer than the body.

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