Beetle cottages to solve a Scarlet riddle

Monday 14th July 2014

Buglife has built miniature thatched cottages at the edges of a farmer's field in Essex, in an attempt to save the rare Scarlet malachite beetle.

This bright red and metallic green beetle is believed to use the thatch of real country cottages to lay its eggs and hatch out its pink grub-like young, but the exact nature of how it uses the thatch remains a mystery. The thatched cottages it uses must be close to suitable meadows with flowering grasses and a good supply of pollen. This very beautiful but rare beetle is known from only a handful of locations in the New Forest and Essex.

Beetle cottage

Buglife's work is funded by Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and is in collaboration with Ian Hughes of Lifeforms , who has also successfully reared an adult Scarlet malachite beetle in captivity for the first time, as well as being the designer of the beetle cottages. Ian Hughes stated 'We have built Scarlet Malachite beetle cottages' – logpiles with thatched roofs – to encourage the beetle to use them so we can fathom out their diet during the early larval stages without damaging existing roofs.'

This beetle was once widespread in southern Britain but appears to be one of the worst victims of the loss of traditional rural ways. Vicky Kindemba, Buglife's Conservation Delivery Manager hopes that ‘Eventually more beetle cottages can be built at the edges of meadows in these key locations. If the beetle is found to successfully use them for breeding, the miniature cottages could be the key to their survival '.