|Female Meloe mediterraneus. Photograph courtesy of John Walters.|
The beetles were found at Bolt Head, a National Trust site in South Devon by a local naturalist who was carrying out a study for the Oil Beetle conservation project. The discovery was confirmed by Darren Mann who is a specialist in British Oil Beetles. It is the first record for this species in over 100 years and the first ever for Southwest England. It is currently the only site that this species has been found at but it is hoped that with further survey work more populations can be found in other areas of the county.
Prior to its rediscovery, the Mediterranean Oil Beetle was only known to have ever existed in the east of the country- in Essex and Kent. The beetle was last sighted in Kent in 1906 and was thought to be extinct in the UK until rediscovered this year.
One reason for Meloe mediterraneus remaining undiscovered was that the specimens were mistaken for the similar looking Rugged Oil Beetle, Meloe rugosus (previously blogged about by us here). The adult Mediterranean Oil Beetle is slightly larger than the Rugged Oil Beetle, and has a larger thorax. The Rugged Oil Beetle also has a crease down the centre of the thorax that is absent in the Mediterranean Oil Beetle.
|Photograph to illustrate the differences between Meloe rugosus (left) and Meloe mediterraneus. Note the groove on the thorax of Meloe rugosus. Photograph courtesy of John Walters.|
The triungulins (larvae) are possibly even more distinctive, with those of Meloe mediterraneus being entirely orange whilst those of Meloe rugosus have an obvious dark head.
|Triungulin of Meloe rugosus (left) and Meloe mediterraneus (right). Photographs courtesy of John Walters.|
In the news: Buglife, The Telegraph, WildlifeExtra
Mini guide to identifying Oil Beetles