Mediterranean Oil Beetle

Fast Facts

Latin name: Meloe mediterraneus

Notable feature: Oil beetles are rather strange-looking beetles, their large abdomens protruding from under short elytra (wing cases) – they have been described as looking like someone whose waistcoat won’t button up!

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Where in the UK: Only known from a handful of sites in South Devon, and a site in Sussex in the UK

Mediterranean Oil Beetle (Meloe mediterraneus) © John Walters

The Mediterranean Oil Beetle (Meloe mediterraneus) is a native oil beetle in the UK.  Very similar in appearance to the Rugged Oil Beetle (Meloe rugosus) the Mediterranean Oil Beetle has a rectangular shaped thorax which is wider than it is long without a distinct groove running down the centre.

The Mediterranean Oil Beetle’s antennae are straight.

The Mediterranean Oil Beetle is a dull black colour with a roughened surface.

There are 5 species of oil beetle in the UK; 3 are rare in the UK (2 of these, including the Mediterranean Oil Beetle are listed as Vulnerable).  A further 3 species of oil beetle have become extinct in the UK- Meloe autumnalis, Meloe cicatricosis and Meloe variegatus.

  • Size: Adults can be 20-26mm in length
  • Life span: From egg to adult approximately 1 year
  • Diet:  Larvae (known as triungulins) feed on stores in solitary bee nests, including the pollen and the bee egg and/or larvae.  Adult oil beetles feed on the leaves and petals of flowering plants and grasses.
  • Reproduction: Oil beetles have one of the most extraordinary life cycles of any British insect – they are nest parasites of solitary mining bees.  Female oil beetles dig nest burrows in the ground, into which they lay hundreds of eggs.  Once hatched, the active, louse -like, larvae climb up onto flowers and lay in wait for a suitable bee.  Their hooked feet enable a firm hold on an unwitting bee collecting pollen for its own nest.  Once in a bee’s nest the larva disembarks and eats the bee’s eggs and the store of pollen and nectar.  The larva develops in the bee burrow until it emerges as an oil beetle ready to mate and start the whole cycle again.
  • When to see:  Adult Mediterranean Oil Beetles are nocturnally active and are found from September to April on coastal grasslands.
  • Population Trend:  Unknown but assumed to be declining – the Mediterranean Oil Beetle is classed as Nationally Rare within Great Britain and Vulnerable on the GB IUCN Red List
  • Threats:  Loss of diversity and abundance of mining bee hosts due to the loss of wildflower-rich coastal grassland.
  • Fun Fact:  The Mediterranean Oil Beetle was rediscovered in the UK by a Buglife project in 2012, this was the first sighting for over 100 years!

How you can help: 

Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Mediterranean Oil Beetle through specific projects, such as Life on the Edge, and campaigns, but we need your help!

Join a recording scheme and log your finds – send any records/sightings to the Oil Beetle Recording Scheme or download the iRecord app and get recording!

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