Members of the public are being asked to help with the first ever nationwide survey to map the location of the threatened and beautiful oil beetles. The survey is being launched today by Buglife – The Invertebrate Trust and the National Trust in partnership with Natural England and and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Often found on the coast, and particularly in the south west of England, the number of oil beetle species found in the UK has halved in the last 100 years and the survey will help establish the whereabouts of the remaining four species and boost efforts to secure their future.
We are asking people to keep a look out for oil beetles this spring when they are out and about enjoying the countryside. Visit the Buglife website www.buglife.org.uk for a free identification guide, more information about these brilliant beetles and to report sightings and photographs.
Buglife’s Conservation Officer, Andrew Whitehouse, said: “Oil beetles have been hit by the double whammy of flower-rich habitats disappearing from our countryside and a drastic reduction in populations of wild bees – upon which the beetles depend to complete their life cycles.
“With the public’s help we can get a better understanding of the distribution of four species of oil beetle found in England, helping our efforts to enhance habitats to secure their survival.”
There are four oil beetle species found in the UK: the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugosus) and Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis).
All of these beetles are at risk of disappearing from our countryside and the Short-necked oil beetle was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered on National Trust land in South Devon in 2007.
Oil beetles are normally found between late March and June. They can be found on wildflower-rich grasslands, heathland, moors and coastal areas such as cliff tops.
TV Presenter and Buglife Vice President Nick Baker is a huge fan of oil beetles. He said: “They’re big, bold beetles with a lustre that would put any oil droplet to shame. They are also very unique in their highly complex life cycle and when you get to know them, it makes you realise what a miracle each and every beetle is. Oil beetles are also one of our most charismatic insects and are an icon of our wildflower grasslands.”
“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 these beautiful beetles.”
Andy Foster, an ecologist at the National Trust, said: “Female oil beetles like to dig their burrows in bare ground on the edge of footpaths so they are easy to see, and this is a great opportunity for the public to send in sightings and help us understand more about them.”
“Buglife and the National Trust are erecting ‘don’t step on the beetles’ signs at oil beetle hotspots to remind visitors to look where they step and to send in their oil beetle sightings to the survey.”
To find out more about Buglife and oil beetle conservation visit www.buglife.org.uk.