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Wales Oil Beetle Survey

There are three species of oil beetle found in Wales. Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus),and Black oil beetles (Meloe proscarabaeus) are widespread and can be locally common whereas the Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugosus)  is rare and known only from a small number of sites in south-east  Wales.   In other parts of Britain Mediterranean (Meloe mediterraneus) and Short-necked oil beetles (Meloe brevicollis),  can be found, but are rare. It is possible that these species are present in Wales but we need your help to find them! 

Oil beetles are conspicuous, charismatic insects which are often encountered when out walking and enjoying the countryside. Their habit of seeking out bare compacted earth in which to dig nest burrows means that they are frequently seen on footpaths. The best time of year to look for Violet and Black oil beetles is March to June.

female Black oil beetle (c) Steven Falk
male Violet oil beetle (c) Steven Falk

Please keep a look out for these beetles when walking on the Wales Coast Path, in meadows, grasslands and open woodlands and let us know if you find them by submitting your sighting records and uploading your photos. Your records can make a real difference to our oil beetle conservation work in Wales.


If you need help to identify the oil beetles you find, you can download the Welsh oil beetle identification guide. As well as taking part in our oil beetle hunt please explore our webpages for more information on oil beetle conservation.


Top tips for oil beetle hunting

How to look

You can either go out especially to look for oil beetles or you can keep your eyes peeled for oil beetles on all of your countryside walks and travels. Oil beetles are large, shiny, black and slow moving so they can be easy to spot.

Where to look

Good places to look include bare ground near footpaths (as this is where they dig nest burrows), wildflower-rich grasslands, woodland edges and heathland.

Oil beetle are fascinating. Did you know that they depend on bees for their life cycle? As strange as it sounds looking for bees could lead you to an oil beetle. Look for wildflower areas or sandy soils where solitary bees may nest – these are hotspots for oil beetles.

When to look

The best time of year to look out for oil beetles in March to June. Most insects are more active on warm sunny days so bear this in mind before you head out on the hunt for oil beetles.

Getting close to an oil beetle

Buglife asks you not to disturb oil beetles. Although they are gentle creatures they can extrude a foul oil based liquid from their knee joints that may cause irritation. Remember oil beetles are under threat so if you do take a closer look be gentle and put the beetle back where you found it.

Taking photos of oil beetles

We would like to use your photos to identify the species of oil beetle that you have found. Here are some tips for taking photos of oil beetles:

  • please try and take pictures as close as you can get to the beetle (use the macro setting on your camera if you have it), and make sure the beetle is in focus!

  • one of the best identification features of oil beetles can be found at the base of the thorax (the middle bit of the beetle's body) - please try and focus on this part of the beetle from the top down.

  • taking a beetle photo in shade rather than direct sunlight can help us to see the different parts of the beetle clearly.

  • if your beetle won't stay still try giving it some celandine flowers to eat - it might stop for a snack!