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Posts from the ‘Coleoptera’ Category

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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