Among the most easily seen Coleoptera (beetles), Ladybirds have a separate page in the garden section of the website. There are also a number of beetles on another page in that section. The largest native beetle is the Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus, 60mm), though the female predictably lacks the impressive antlers carried by males. Their long-lasting, whitish larvae reside in decayed wood, mostly Oak, and as a result the species requires good woodland management to maintain its numbers. They are effective fliers – an encounter with one (or a Cockchafer for that matter) when cycling is not recommended.
Dor Beetles (Geotrupes stercorarius, 18mm) are dung beetles feeding on mammal dung as adults and larvae. The female can dig burrows up to 60cm deep under a pile of dung in which eggs are laid. Also from the dung beetle family is the Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata, 20mm) but the larvae of this species live in wood and feed on decaying vegetation, taking up to three years to develop into adults. Adults are often found on flowers, which they feed on.
The Devil’s Coach-horse (Ocypus olens, 25mm) is a nocturnal rove beetle which preys on other invertebrates, including slugs, which should make them popular with gardeners. When alarmed they raise the abdomen.
The brightness of some of their coats gives Soldier Beetles their name and Cantharis rustica (14mm) is among the most frequently encountered. Adults, often found on umbellifers, and larvae are both predatory on small invertebrates. On the subject of bright colouring, the image above shows what stunning livery Malachius bipustulatus (7mm) has, particularly on the abdomen. The larvae of this common beetle reside in decaying wood or under bark.
Click beetles are so called because if falling on their back they can noisily use their elytra and thorax in springlike fashion against the ground to regain flight. Athous haemorrhoidalis is one of the largest at up to 15mm and one of the commonest too, seen in large numbers in late spring. Some of the brightest of our click beetles are in the Ampedus genus. They are associated with old woodland. The New Forest, where the three pictured on this page were photographed in 2017, is a good site. Another species, Ampedus elongantulus, which is the smallest of the genus, turned up in my garden and is referred to in that section of this website. Most of our seven species have a conservation designation but not Ampedus balteatus (9mm), which is present in most of Britain except the far west and the greater part of Scotland. Ampedus cinnabarinus (13mm) is one of the largest and was designated RDB 3 in 1987. Ampedus sanguinolentus (10mm) is concentrated in south-east England and is very local even in this restricted area.
One of the most striking of the pollen-eating beetles is Oedemera nobilis (12mm), whose male has noticeably enlarged hind femorae. This species is easily seen on flower heads through spring and summer and the larvae feed on dead wood.
Net-winged beetles (Platycis minutus, 6mm) are brightly coloured and seen mostly in August or September. Their larvae live in decayed wood feeding on other invertebrates and their larvae.
A ladybird lookalike which feeds solely on Aspen (Populus tremula) is Gonioctena decemnotata (6mm). Aspen provides food and accommodation for a number of invertebrates, including the handsome longhorn beetle Saperda populnea (15mm) and larvae of a beetle which the rare solitary wasp Symmorphus crassicornis collects to provision the nest. Saperda populnea sometimes feeds on other Poplars and Goat Willow.
Mimics are common among beetles, and the disguise of Clytus arietis, or the Wasp Beetle (17mm), is one of the best. It is another longhorn beetle, though its antennae are shorter than in many of that tribe, and it loves the sun. They are herbivores and as with the genus generally the larvae develop in dead wood.
A larger and scarcer longhorn beetle is Prionus coriarius, which can grow to nearly 50mm and has serrated antennae, particularly the male as in the accompanying image. The larvae develop in the roots of deciduous trees as a rule and adults, which are nocturnal and attracted to artificial light, are seen in July and August. One of these turning up in the sitting room can cause quite a stir.
From the same family but more colourful is the female Red Longhorn Beetle (Stictoleptura rubra, female 20mm). Males are not so dashing. The larvae develop in old dead wood and tree stumps, mainly in coniferous forests, and the adults appear at the height of the summer. It is another scarce species in Britain, a Red Data Book species. The Black Longhorn Beetle (Stictoleptura scutellata, 18mm) is nationally scarce with most records from big stands of old deciduous woodland such as in the New Forest and Epping Forest. Larvae develop for up to four years in the dead wood of various broadleaved trees, chiefly beech. Leptura quadrifasciata (17mm) is commoner but still only local in incidence.
The Two-banded Longhorn Beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum, 22m) is one of the commonest longhorns in Europe. They tend to use coniferous dead wood for breeding. The Black-spotted Longhorn (Rhagium mordax) is of similar dimensions and is equally common, with hawthorn blossom always worth inspecting for them. Much less regular but equally impressive is Agapanthia villosoviridescens (20mm), whose larvae develop in various plants led by Hogweed and Thistles and which flies from April sometimes to October.
The Fairy-ring Longhorn (Pseudovadonia livida, 10mm) is one of the smaller member of the family and has a fascinating two-year life cycle. Their larvae seemingly feed on mycelium in humus infested by Marasmius oreades, or the Fairy-ring Fungus. The pictured beetle was in my garden and eight months earlier an almost perfect Fairy-ring – the first I had ever noticed in the location – had appeared around the Magnolia tree 15 metres from where the beetle turned up.
The Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn (Pogonocherus hispidulus) is a fairly small (7mm) and broadly-built longhorn. The larvae develop in dead twigs, with apple often used. The Pine-stump Borer (Asemum striatum) can grow as large as 25mm. It is essentially nocturnal, widely distributed in Britain and the larvae develop over two to three years in dead conifers.
As the name suggests, the Alder Leaf Beetle (Agelastica alni, 8mm) feeds mainly on the leaves of Alder trees but it does use others such as Hornbeam. The species had hardly any records between 1946 and 2003 but in 2004 larvae and adults were found in Manchester and it is now spreading in north-west England. In 2014 it was re-discovered in southern Hampshire (Southampton) and is also spreading in that county. In some areas this beetle has become very abundant and can cause significant defoliation.
Weevils often come in for hostility because of the damage they can do to crops and garden plants. The larvae generally live inside plant tissue while the adults attack the outside. In fact, not that high a proportion of the 570 or species in Britain actually have an impact on human activity.
Three striking species are illustrated above. The Hazelnut Weevil (Curculio nucum, 12mm) has a long rostrum (snout) and is pretty common. The Oak-roller Weevil (Attelabus nitens, 10mm) has brilliant red colouring and in that respect is more dashing than Platystomos albinus (10mm). The latter is a fungus weevil, whose larvae feed on dead wood. The distinctly white markings set this species apart from the vast majority of our invertebrates.
Images © Jeremy Early. All rights reserved.
In 2013 I published My Side of the Fence - the Natural History of a Surrey Garden. Details may be found, and orders placed, via this hyperlink My Side of the Fence. In November 2015 Surrey Wildlife Trust published the atlas Soldierflies, their allies and Conopidae of Surrey, jointly written by David Baldock and me. Details are on this web page: Atlas.