The UK press has been celebrating the rediscovery of the short-necked oil beetle, Meloe brevicollis, in south Devon. From the Independent:
"About 40 individuals have since been identified on grassland between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail in Devon. The last time there was a confirmed sighting was at Chailey Common in East Sussex 59 years ago.
"The natural habitats of the short-necked oil beetle, Meloe brevicollis, have been affected by the spread of intensive agriculture since the Second World War. However, the site in Devon is on a steep slope down to the sea, so it has avoided the sort of agricultural intensification affecting neighbouring land.
"This has allowed the beetle to complete its complicated life-cycle, which involves a period of parasitism inside a bee's nest during the beetle's larval stage." ...
"Adult oil beetles live for about three months and are slow-moving and flightless. Their main defence is to exude a toxic oily secretion when they feel threatened.
"Females lay up to 1,000 eggs in a burrow they dig in soft or sandy soil. When the young hatch in spring, they climb up vegetation and lie in wait on flowers for a passing mining bee to take the young beetle back to the bee's nest, where the beetle changes into a maggot-like larva that devours the bee's egg and stores of pollen."
What seems to be glossed over in the various news articles, however, is that this is the rediscovery of a population, not the species itself. This beetle is found elsewhere in Europe (and Russia). Blister beetles are nice large species, and it is certainly noteworthy that a UK native has reappeared, but be aware that the media is focused on the sensational, not the factual, aspects of this rediscovery.
Labels: insects, rediscovered