I often meet up with Paul Darby ex Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for a pint and a bag of twiglets and inevitably our conversation turns to wildlife. Recently he brought along a couple of his old insect books. In one, entitled Beetles of Britain and Europe – a rather slim Longman Nature Guide dating from 1986, I was intrigued by both the changes in taxonomy and by some of the common names. Many like the common name for the metallic green-gold ground beetle The goldsmith Carabus auratus, and ‘devil’s coach-horse’ for the large black rove beetle Ocypus olens I’m familiar with but others like wool beetle, bladder beetle and and bacon beetle were new to me. Read more
Posts from the ‘Coleoptera’ Category
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.
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.