UK's Buglife invites the nation on an Oil Beetle Hunt!

By Martin Leggett - 27 Mar 2011 10:30:0 GMT
UK's Buglife invites the nation on an Oil Beetle Hunt!

Oil Beetles are instantly recognizable, with their shimmering oily-reflective colours, and oddly-shaped headgear. At now, with spring upon us, is when they emerge to feed on the flowers and pollen of newly flowering plants. There were 8 native UK species of Oil Beetle, but 4 of these have since become extinct. The reason is that, because of their unusual life-cycle, they are very susceptible to changes in the natural ecosystem, which an industrialised farming landscape has certainly bought in its wake.

The adult Oil Beetles spend spring gorging on petals and pollen, and then lay their eggs on the flower-heads. Then, when the larvae hatch, they lie in wait for an unsuspecting host - solitary bees that come to the flowers seeking nectar and pollen. Amazingly mobile, the triungulins, as they are called, leap onto the bee, to hitch a ride back to its nest.

Once there, the triungulins change form again, and feast on the nectar, pollen and even eggs that the solitary bee has in its nest. It takes another 3 moults before they are gorged enough to pupate in the bees burrow. Then they wait out the winter, to emerge as adult Oil Beetles in spring.

It is because these fascinating insects rely on the health of bee populations, who are dependent again on richly diverse wild-flower meadows, that Oil Beetles are prized as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. In fact, they were identified as priority species for conservation action as part of the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan.

So how can you help? By getting out and about, with kids or without, and recording your findings of the Oil Beetle family. Buglife has a handy downloadable identification sheet, so with that in hand, keep an eye out, take pictures, and then record sightings online - you can even upload your photos if you want.

Nick Baker, TV Wildlife Presenter and Buglife Vice-President, is a big fan of Oil Beetles, and had this to say in support of the Oil Beetle Hunt: ''Oil beetles are big, bold beetles with a lustre that would put any oil droplet to shame. Look out for them this spring and if you are lucky enough to discover one ambling along, take the time to enjoy it and then pass on the details of your experience to Buglife as every record received will go a long way to helping us understand this beautiful beetle.''