Beetles of Britain and Ireland vol 4 – longhorn beetles and weevils

When I was at the Bird Fair at Rutland Water a week or so ago I was delighted to find that the second volume of Andrew Duff’s epic series on the Beetles of Britain and Ireland had been published. When complete it will consist of four volumes covering all the species of British beetles.

Beetles vol 1
The first volume (Volume 1) was published in 2012 and included beetle families such as ground beetles, diving beetles, hister beetles and carrion beetles. The series is privately published by Andrew Duff.

Beetles vol 4 1
The second volume (which is actually volume 4) covers the longhorn beetles, leaf beetles and all the different types of weevil – the book is 623 pages long.

Beetles vol 4 2
As you would expect the book contains keys to the sub-families and keys to enable you to determine the species of beetle you have found. Up to this point people interested in longhorn beetles have had to rely on earlier books such as Joy’s 1932 A Practical Handbook of British Beetles (reprinted in 1976),  various European books such as the bilingual German text by Ulrich Bense – Longhorn Beetles or the excellent 2 part paper in British Wildlife Magazine by Andrew Duff (British Wildlife Volume 18 pp406-414 and Volume 19 pp35-43 -2007). This new volume is now up to date with the current taxonomy and species status.

Beetles vol 4 3
In addition to the text and numerous annotated sketches the book contains marvellous colour plates of museum specimens.

As mentioned above volume 4 also contains the leaf beetles and all the weevil families as well – a series of groups I am much less familiar with.

The text on the back of the book states “The book is intended as a reference source for coleopterists, ecological consultants and museum curatorial staff, as well as naturalists wishing to make their transition from a casual to a more serious interest in beetles. By bringing together reliable modern keys and using the latest taxonomic arrangement and nomenclature, it is hoped that beginning coleopterists will more quickly learn how to identify beetles and gain added confidence in their identification.”

This volume and the series to date is a magnum opus. Andrew Duff has produced a fantastic piece of work and we should be very grateful to him for his endeavours. Volume 4 is not cheap (£98) but for a 623 page book produced to such a high standard with a limited audience this is to be expected. I obtained my copy from Atropos – see here.

A large Burying Beetle

There was a large Burying Beetle in my moth trap this morning – it was about an inch long. Burying beetles are scavengers and carnivores – often burying the corpses of dead mice and birds which they and their larvae then feed off.

Burying beetle Nicrophorus humator 1
This is Nicrophorus humator – it is one of the few all back species but is characterised by its orange clubbed antennae

Burying beetle Nicrophorus humator 2It was a very lively individual which quickly scuttled away when I released it from the pot – thus the rather poor photographs

A black-striped longhorn beetle in the garden

Yesterday I found this small (10mm) longhorn beetle feeding on a geranium flower in the garden.

Stenurella melanura 1
It has all black legs and a characteristic black stripe down the middle where the two wing cases join.

Stenurella melanura 2
It is called the black-striped longhorn beetle Stenurella melanura

Stenurella melanura 3
The larvae of this beetle can eat a wide range of dead wood and live inside small branches (for around 2 years) which are in contact with the ground. The adults then emerge between May and September. They are widespread in woods in southern England but are very local further north.

Stenurella melanura 4

The beetle is about to fly off – it is beginning to spread its wing cases (elytra) revealing the transparent wings below. Note also the trips of each wing case are ‘truncated’ i.e. cut at an angle and are not rounded. This along with the all black legs helps to separate this species from the similar tobacco-coloured longhorn beetle Alosterna tabacicolor.

I will be submitting this record to the Longhorn Beetle Recording Scheme later.

Garden comes alive

For the last few weeks spring has been unfolding at a steady pace, today my garden has burst into life. There are butterflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, beetles and bugs everywhere. I even surprised a grass snake on the lawn which promptly slid off into the undergrowth. I’m sure who was most startled ….. I have managed to photograph a few species.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle
This is a red-headed Cardinal beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatusThis is a capsid or mired bug called Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus

Green-veined White-2A green-veined white feeding on a Geranium

Criorhina floccosaThis splendid beast is a hoverfly which is mimicking a common carder bumblebee – it is called Criorhina floccosa

Criorhina floccosa - mapI have never seen this species before and it is rather a scarce species usually associated with woodland – the huge protected oaks in my garden might have helped lure it in.


Finally I found this and to be honest I don’t know what it is – any ideas anyone?

Longhorn beetles – new Facebook page and the season begins

Longhorn beetles are one of my favourite groups of insects. Recently a new Facebook Group has been set up to promote the recording of them – Longhorn beetle Recording Scheme – it is well worth joining if you like longhorn beetles too.

Longhorn beetles spend the majority of their lives as larvae – living inside the deadwood / living wood of twigs and stumps. Around April and May many species emerge as adults. I never really set out looking for longhorn beetles you just tend to bump into them from time to time. I have written about the longhorns of Parke near Bovey Tracey where I used to work – see here and here.

Rhagium bifasciatus1
This is the two-banded longhorn beetle Rhagium bifasciatus

Leptura aurulenta1
And this is the rarer golden-haired longhorn beetle Leptura aurulenta

obocuThis is a photo from 15-20 years ago of the twin-spot longhorn beetle Oberea oculata – one of the rarest longhorns in the country – I used to spend hours looking for it at Wicken Fen – its only surviving colony now is just off the Fen near the River Cam

If you find any longhorns or any other species for that matter you can submit the records using the excellent website/app iRecord – your records will then be passed onto the relevant recorder and can be used to monitor and conserve the species into the future – see here.