Mediterranean oil beetle found in South Devon

The Mediterranean oil beetle has been rediscovered in Devon after being thought extinct for over 100 years

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A Mediterranean oil beetle (Meloe mediterraneus) that was believed to be extinct has been rediscovered in South Devon. 

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The elusive insect, part of a family of five oil beetles resident to the UK, was discovered by John Walters while conducting research for a study for Buglife.

Darren Mann, of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, confirmed that this was the oil beetle, bringing the number of oil beetle species in the UK up to five.

The last time that a Mediterranean oil beetle was seen in the UK was in Kent in 1906. It had been presumed to be extinct until its rediscovery. However, this is not the first time that a rare oil beetle has been found in South Devon – the short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) was also discovered at the same site in 2007 after not having been seen for decades. 

Oil beetles – did you know?

  • Adult oil beetles will lay up to 1,000 eggs in soil.
  • Their life cycle involves the young beetle (in their larvae state) awaiting the arrival of a suitable ground-nesting mining bee, whom they latch on to, to be carried back to the bee’s nest, where they eat the eggs and remain there to eat the food stores, growing up to 2-3 cm – much like the example discovered by John Walters.
  • They are called oil beetles because of the toxic oil secreted from their leg joints – thought to warn off predators.
  • The reason they may have been missed up till now is due to their similarity to the rugged oil beetle. The Mediterranean is larger, and misses the distinct crease in the centre of the thorax of the rugged variety.

Image courtesy of John Walters, Buglife

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