Violet click beetle

This enigmatic and elusive deadwood denizen is both beautiful and globally endangered. It is European red listed and so rare in the UK that all of its known homes are protected. The slender 12mm adult beetle is black with a metallic blue sheen. Their glossy, orange larvae, known as wireworms, resemble the mealworms fed to garden birds.

Fast Facts

Latin name: Limoniscus violaceus

Notable feature: A long, thin black beetle with a blue sheen.

Rarity in the UK: Rare / Common

Where in the UK: Only known from 3 sites in England.

From the heartwood

Like many other rare beetles, the violet click beetle breeds in decaying wood, but it has particular tastes. They only breed in the hollows of Ash and Beech where the heartwood is undisturbed and has decayed into a black mulch, like damp soot .This only occurs in large,ancient trees that are hundreds of years old, which are few and far between. Because of this, the Violet click beetle has only ever been found in three locations in the UK; Windsor Great Park, Bredon Hill (Worcestershire) and Dixton Wood (Gloucestershire).

Violet click beetles are thought to breed repeatedly in the same tree until it rots away and the adults fly off to find new breeding sites. We must plan into the future to ensure there are always suitable ancient trees available for these rare beetles.

Taste tests

We still have much to learn about the Violet click beetle, but it is so rare that we can’t risk disturbing their existing habitat. Trials are being carried out using compost bins and wooden boxes filled with materials found in tree holes, including wood mulch, leaf mould, pigeon droppings and carrion to see whether violet click beetles will breed in them.

Friends in high places

Fortunately, dedicated conservation efforts are underway to ensure the Violet click beetle has a future in Britain. It is a focus of the Back from the Brink Ancients of the Future Project led by Buglife, aiming to conserve species reliant on ancient and veteran trees. Harriett Baldwin MP (West Worcester) is also lending her political support as an MP Species Champion of the violet click beetle. Bredon Hill is part of her constituency, and she will be helping to protect and promote this threatened species.

Fun Fact

Like other click beetles (family Elateridae) the violet click beetle has a peg and groove on its thorax, which can be snapped together with a ‘click’ to propel the beetle away from danger.