Why do they need my help?
Oil beetles are under threat. Populations have declined due to the loss of flower-rich habitats owing to changes in countryside management. As oil beetles are nest parasites of solitary bees, declines in populations of wild bees has worsened their fortunes further as they depend on them for survival.
With your help we can get a better understanding of the distribution of oil beetles in Scotland, which will guide us in our conservation work to enhance habitats to secure their future.
Fun fact: Adult oil beetles vary in size depending on the amount of food they consume as a larva. They are called oil beetles because they exude a yellowish oily substance from their leg joints when threatened.
Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus)
Oil beetles have an amazing life cycle, intricately linked to that of solitary bees. After hatching, oil beetle larvae (known as triungulins) make their way onto a flower head where they lie in wait for a solitary bee. Using specialised hooks on their feet, they attach themselves to the back of a visiting female bee and when the bee returns to its underground nest, the triungulin disembarks and continues its development underground, eating through the bee’s stores of pollen and nectar. The following year, it emerges as an adult oil beetle ready to start the life cycle all over again.
There are five species of oil beetle in the UK, only three are found in Scotland, these are the Black Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus) and Short-necked Oil Beetle (Meloe brevicollis). They are large, shiny black beetles, often with a slight blue or green tinge to their colouring that can be seen in wildflower-rich grasslands, heathland, and coastal areas from March to June. They are often seen crossing footpaths due to the availability of compact bare ground in which they can burrow.
Short-necked Oil Beetle (Meloe brevicollis) triungulins © John Walters
This survey is in partnership with the National Oil Beetle Recording scheme, launched in 2021. This scheme was established to help us understand more about oil beetle abundance, distribution and ecology in the UK.
No prior knowledge is needed to take part, anyone and everyone is encouraged to submit records using the iRecord app (with multiple photos if possible), or to send in details via email. A handy identification guide can be found here
More details can be found at the following link: Oil Beetle Recording Scheme | UK Beetle Recording (coleoptera.org.uk)
Short-necked Oil Beetle (Meloe brevicollis) © Suzanne Burgess
Species on the Edge is an ambitious 4-year programme for species recovery in Scotland that aims to take action on over 37 declining and threatened species across Scotland’s coasts and islands. It is a partnership programme of eight organisations, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The partnership consists of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, The Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, NatureScot, Plantlife and RSPB Scotland.
One of these species is the Short-necked Oil Beetle, which has only been found in a handful of locations within Scotland – the Isles of Coll, Islay and Tiree (Inner Hebrides), as well as Uist and Barra (Outer Hebrides). Classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, this species is at high risk of extinction and therefore it’s imperative that we learn more about this amazing beetle to help improve its fortunes.
We welcome any records, however we are particularly interested in records from Argyll and the Hebrides as these are the locations where Short-necked Oil Beetles are likely to be found.
For more information on how to get involved in other Species on the Edge work please contact our Conservation Team via [email protected]
Surveying for Oil Beetles