21 Oct 2020

Beetling About

There are many beetles in the Museum’s insect collection. This is not surprising because there are more species of beetles in the world than any other type of insect. As someone once said ‘God has an inordinate fondness for beetles’.

You might think that this means that every time you go out you will encounter lots of them, but most hide themselves away. They live underground, or inside trees and other plants, happily munching away at them from the inside. Also, many are insignificant tiny brown or black insects.

There are though some larger and brightly coloured species which are very prominent in the summer months. Ladybirds of course are the group everybody knows, a lot of which are conspicuously coloured red or orange with black spots and markings. In recent years, the harlequin ladybird has become abundant after arriving in this country from abroad. Its appearance is very variable, but if you spot a ladybird with 15 or more black spots and brown legs it will be a harlequin.

Common red Soldier beetles are also frequently seen, they are orangey red beetles fond of sitting on the flat white flowerheads of umbellifer plants.

In the garden other recent arrivals are the bright red lily beetle, and the rosemary beetle which feeds on aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage and lavender. An attractive beetle that has turned up a few times during the bioblitz is the swollen-thighed beetle. We have seven specimens of this in the collection, so further sightings would be of interest.

Here are some photographs to help you to spot these beetles.

Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis). Photo by Jenni Wildling
Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis). Photo by Jenni Wildling.

Soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva). Photo by Jenni Wildling
Soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva). Photo by Jenni Wildling.

Lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii). Photo by Charles J Sharp from Wikipedia
Lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) Photo by Charles J Sharp from Wikipedia

Swollen-thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis) Photo by Mike Bloxham
Swollen-thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis). Photo by Mike Bloxham.

Rosemary beetle (Chrysolina americana) Photo by Mike Bloxham
Rosemary beetle (Chrysolina americana) Photo Mike Bloxham