Beetle thought to have been extinct 100 years ago has ‘flown back on a bee’

December 14, 2012 | by | 1 Comment

A species of beetle thought to be extinct for more than 100 years has been found on the coast of Britain after flying in – on the back of a bee.

The Mediterranean oil beetle was believed to have died out in the UK and was last seen in 1906 in Essex.

But the species has now been spotted on National Trust land between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail on the Devon coast.

The Mediterranean oil beetle which has been spotted in the UK for the first time in over 100 years

The Mediterranean oil beetle which has been spotted in the UK for the first time in over 100 years

It is thought the parasite beetle may have travelled back to England on bees flying across the English Channel.

But experts admit the nocturnal animals are difficult to spot and might not actually have been extinct – and were there for decades unnoticed.

Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager for the charity Buglife, said the large matt-black beetle was between two and three centimetres long.

Mr Whitehouse said they were nocturnal and difficult to find and were last seen in Essex in 1906.

He said: ”We have been studying the beetles in south Devon intensely for the last two years.

”We saw one that looked a bit different but it had previously been misidentified as a Rugged oil beetle.

“I investigated further and was amazed to find that they were a long lost species.”

He said the discovery of the ”fascinating”’ beetles is ”great news” and took the total number of oil beetles species in the UK to five.

He said the beetle may have been alive and well undetected in the south west for decades or may have recolonised more recently.

Mr Whitehouse said oil beetles were reliant on bees to complete their life cycle and so acted as an ”early warning system” for the state of the bee population.

Their larvae are parasites of several species of ground nesting bee.

The female beetle lays her eggs close to bee colonies which eventually hatch to allow the active larvae to climb onto flowers and wait for a suitable bee before being flown to a burrow to develop.

Mr Whitehouse added: ”As bees have declined, beetles have disappeared. if the bees are in trouble, beetles are the first thing to go.”

Andy Foster, biological survey team leader at the National Trust, said: “This is remarkable following the discovery of the rare short-necked oil beetle from the same area of South Devon only a few years ago, and demonstrates the value of detailed studies which can lead to such unexpected results.

“One can’t help feeling there are other colonies out there just waiting to be found it’s crucial that we understand where these threatened species survive and understand more about their habitat requirements.”

Category: News

Comments (1)

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  1. Fredrico Flange says:

    I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but is ‘Extinct’ the right word to use here?

    I normally think in terms of “an extinct species” rather than the change of the area any species currently inhabits.

    Is there a better word to describe the phenomenon you are discussing?

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