Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Oil beetles have fascinating life-cycles. The larvae are parasites of a number of species of ground-nesting solitary bee. Towards the end of spring, female oil beetles dig burrows in the ground close to colonies of host bees, into which they lay around 1000 eggs. These eggs usually hatch the following year in order to coincide with the emergence of the bees. The oil beetle larvae (known as tringulins) are very active, and climb up onto flowers where they wait for a host bee. They attach themselves to the bee, and if they are lucky and attach to the right type of species they will be flown to the host's burrow, where the tringulin oil beetle turns into a grub-like larva, and develops, feeding upon the pollen stores and eggs of the host. The larva pupates and the resulting adult beetle spends the winter inside the host's burrow before emerging the following spring (4).
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Description

The oil beetles are a family of beetles that share a fascinating life-cycle in which the larvae are parasites of certain bees or grasshoppers (2). This species, Meloe proscarabaeus is bluish black in colour with a long swollen abdomen (2), which is particularly pronounced in females when they are producing eggs. Females are usually much bigger than males (4).
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Distribution

Range

Only three of the nine oil beetle species native to Britain remain, and the number of sites supporting these species has declined drastically. This beetle was once common (3), but is now restricted to the west of Britain (4). It is also found in Europe (2).
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Ecology

Habitat

In Europe, the black oil beetle shows a preference for low-lying flat terrain (2). In Britain it is found on heaths, coastal cliffs and moors (1).
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Associations

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / parasite / ectoparasite / blood sucker
adult of Atrichopogon lucorum sucks the blood of inter-segmental membrane of adult of Melo

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

Vulnerable. This species has declined drastically in recent years (3).
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Threats

The reasons for the decline of this species may reflect declines in host bee populations.
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Management

Conservation

Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, is currently running the Oil Beetle Project, which aims to establish the current range of Britain's remaining oil beetles and to carry out research into their life-cycles and ecology in order to guide conservation actions targeted at these beetles (4).
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Wikipedia

Meloe proscarabaeus

Meloe Proscarabaeus (male)

Meloe proscarabaeus is a European oil beetle. It lives in meadows, field margins and other warm sites in all but the far north of the continent. It lacks hind wings and the elytra are correspondingly reduced in size.

Life cycle[edit]

Eggs are laid in the soil by females. When the larvae hatch, they climb into a flower, and await visiting solitary bees. With their well-developed claws, the larvae attach themselves to the bee and return with it to its nest. Here, they feed on the bee's eggs and the pollen and nectar it had collected. The larva pupates in the bee's nest, and leaves the nest to seek a mate directly afterwards.

Sources[edit]

  • Michael Chinery (1993). Collins Field Guide: Insects of Britain and Northern Europe. 3rd edition. HarperCollins, London. pp. 320 pp. + 60 colour plates. ISBN 0-00-219918-1. 
  • Wilfried Stichmann (1999). Der große Kosmos Naturführer. Tiere und Pflanzen. Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart. p. 896 pp. 
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