OK, actually just outside our garden, but hey…!
Its funny how you get to take familiar things for granted – it was only when I read about the Oil Beetle Hunt, being run by Buglife (The Invertabrate Conservation Trust) this spring, that I realised the blue-black beetles all around might actually be a bit special.
It turns out they’re black oil beetles (Meloe proscarabaeus), and they’re from a family of beetles that are becoming rare enough to warrant priority status under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. I must have counted over 10 beetles this afternoon, and countless nest burrows. Our friends aren’t the rarest oil beetles, but they have an interesting lifecycle.
Nearby, the grass was buzzing with small black bees – solitary mining bees, I think (I even managed to snap a photo of one). It turns out the female beetle lays hundreds of eggs in her underground burrow. When the larvae hatch, they crawl onto flowers, and lay in wait for a suitable mining bee. They grab a ride and, once back in the unfortunate bee’s nest, they feed on the pollen and nectar before emerginging as an adult beetle.
Another solitary bee which emerges around now is the friendly little Osmia rufa – rather like a honey bee but with any orangey colour. They don’t sting, and don’t do nearly as much harm to walls as people think – so please don’t harm them. There’s more info on solitary bees, as well as downloads and links, on the Devon Beekeepers’ website.
And if you see any oil beetles, do report your finds to the Buglife survey.
P.S. A Buglife investigation contradicts the Government position on bee poisoning by neonicotinoids. If you see evidence of bee poisoning, you can report it through the DEFRA Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme. Only by reporting will the evidence be available to influence Government policy.