Friday, November 2, 2012

Encounters 5 - bloody nose beetle

Beetles are extraordinary creatures. They are amongst our most beautiful insects, they play a vital role in our eco-system, many have astonishing life-cycles. And yet of 4000 species in the UK, I could put a name to less than a dozen.  I ought to know more about beetles.

Last Friday as I walked to St David's Head we came across this chap. He was crossing the coast path near to Porth Melgan, and looked vulnerable to birds so I gave him a helping hand. He's a bloody nose beetle, one of the commoner species in Pembrokeshire, and October is evidently late for him to be out and about.

Quite why I've decided this beetle is a 'he' I can't say, for in truth I've no idea of its gender. Identification is tough enough; sexing them damn near impossible. There isn't a fully comprehensive UK field guide, though to be fair, a huge number of those 4000 species will be LBJs (Little Brown Jobs). I generally use Michael Chinery's  Pocket Guide to Insects or even the (more truly pocketable) Collins Gem series.  Other than that I take a photo and try my luck on Google or one of the many insect forums.

But in a way, identification barely matters.

This particular bloody nose crawled over my hand, each step a soft and delicate placement, tickling my palm - his exoskeleton iridescent in the light. I thought he was gorgeous. If  I were forty years younger I'd have popped him in a matchbox as a pet! Bloody nose beetles are named for their habit of discharging a red fluid when threatened - this foul-smelling liquid deters predators. Thankfully he didn't spew up on my hand and I like to think he sensed I meant him no harm.

I laid him down in some tall grass by a drystone wall. He'll not survive the winter, but his larvae will, and next year there'll be more of these fascinating creatures under our feet - if ever we care to look.

P.S.  For one of the best amateur nature blogs I know, try following Wanderin' Weeta. Her self taught recording and identification of even the tiniest creatures is an inspiration and delight.


  1. The woman sho comes to muck us out once a week likes to crush anything in her path...from us to beetles snd is most upset that we rescue the latter.
    Clearly she does not think she is part of the same creation.

  2. I'm not a fan of creepy crawlies if the truh be known but there is something very personable about beetles.

  3. Thanks for the link! And the good words! Made my day!

  4. Hello Mark:
    Fascinating. But we are left rather sad that she/he will not survive the winter.

  5. I have almost given up on trying to identify beetles. Yes, got the book, and yes, search on the internet, but generally, no longer do I make the effort I once did. My assumption is, they add a great deal to creation and even though there are those that cause great destruction, who am I to judge. (google long horn beetle nova scotia). I'm a no spray kind of gal.

    Loved your last entry on the Starlings; how wonderful to experience that!

  6. I'm rather fond of beetles too, though I can identify very few by sight, and will always try to save, not squash. I love the descriptive humour in the name of this one.