Rare beetle rediscovered in Wales

For the first time in more than 75 years, the short-necked oil beetle, previously believed to be extinct in Wales, has been spotted in Pembrokeshire.

Short-necked oil beetle (c) Annie Haycock

The short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis), one of the UK’s rarest oil beetle species, has been found in Wales for the first time since 1944, says nature conservation charity Buglife.

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The beetle was rediscovered in Pembrokeshire by Annie Haycock. Pembrokeshire now supports the only known modern record of this species in Wales.

Isle of Coll, Scotland
Short-necked oil beetles have also been recorded on the Isle of Coll, Scotland
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According to Buglife, short-necked oil beetles “are identified by their rectangular-shaped thorax (which is wider than it is long), its short and straight antennae, which are slightly thickened at the tips, and its shiny, blue-black colour.”

Measuring up to 24mm in length, short-necked oil beetles are one of five species of oil beetle found in the UK.

They are nest parasites that use solitary bees has their hosts. Oil beetles lay hundreds of eggs in ground burrows. Once hatched, the larva climbs up nearby flowers and waits. When the time is right, it attaches itself to the back of a feeding bee, then disembarks once inside the bees’ nest. Here, the larva feeds on the bees’ pollen and nectar, developing into an adult beetle before leaving the burrow.

Beetle on a blade of grass

What is a short-necked oil beetle’s favoured habitat?

Short-necked oil beetles live in wildflower-rich cliff-top grasslands, heathlands and machair environments. The best time to see them in from late March to June, when the adults are active.

Where else can short-necked oil beetles be found in the UK?

Once more widespread, the short-necked oil beetle population declined dramatically during the 20th century. There were no recorded sightings of the beetle in the UK between 1948 and April 2006, when it was rediscovered in south Devon.

It is currently known to exist on the island of Coll in the Inner Hebrides, Salisbury Plain and in south Devon.

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Short-necked oil beetle, Meloe brevicollis
The short-necked oil beetle’s scientific name is Meloe brevicollis
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How can you help?

If you think you have found a short-necked oil beetle, please send details of your sightings, along with a photograph(s), to info@buglife.org.uk.