Sun beetle, Amara aenea

Garden wildlife identifier: beetles

Discover some of the UK's beetle life with help from our illustrated identification guide.

Tidying the garden often uncovers an interesting selection of beetles that live in lawn edges, compost heaps or lurk under logs, as they're well adapted to pushing through root thatch and getting into tight spaces.

Most are useful predators of other invertebrates like bugs, aphids, springtails and maggots. They can be picked up carefully between finger and thumb if you want to relocate them to a nature area. Some larger beetles will try to nip with their jaws, but they can't pierce human skin.

To encourage them and other beneficial insects to take up residence in your garden, be sure to create habitats for them such as dead wood stacks, compost heaps and bug boxes.

Take a look at our garden wildlife identifier for UK beetles, below. 

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Black clock beetle (Pterostichus madidus)

Slim, shining and with both black- and red-legged colour forms, this is one of our commonest ground beetles. Lacking wings, it’s flightless but runs like the wind. Usually a nocturnal predator, it also nibbles strawberries. Length 14-16 mm.

Blue ground beetle (Leistus spinibarbis)

Rounded thorax and wing-cases are metallic blue in sunlight; chestnut legs and broad, flat, reddish jaws. Fast runner, often found in small groups under stones and logs. Length 8-10 mm.

Devil's coach horse (Ocypus olens)

Matt black, gothic monstrosity with large jaws. Threateningly rears up its tail, scorpion-like, for defence; no sting, but exudes smelly liquid from tail tip. Its short wing cases allow flexibility for crawling in tight spaces. Length 20-28 mm.

Rove beetle (Philonthus politus)

The largest family of beetles, this is black with a metallic tinge on short wing cases. Dwelling in manure and compost, it is fast and agile, and eats fly maggots. Flies readily. Length 10-11 mm.

Sun beetle (Amara aenea)

One of the many greenish, brassy or bronze, oval and rather flattened species Amara. Runs fast, especially in sunshine when its metallic glinting body confuses the eye as it zigzags madly over the patio. Length 5.5-6.0 mm.

Broad ground beetle (Abax parallelepipedus)

Large, broad, flat, almost rectangular, shiny black with deeply ridged wing-cases. Flightless, it likes hedge bottoms, log piles, rockeries, damp areas of rough grass. Length 16-19 mm.

Want to spot more garden invertebrates? Why not take a look at more of our wildlife identifiers to ladybird larvae and dragonflies and damselflies

Many thanks to Chris Shields, for providing the beautiful illustrations used in this feature.

www.illustratedwildlife.com

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Beetle facts

  • Beetles form the order Coleoptera, which contains more species than any other order of insects
  • The smallest known beetles are featherwing beetles of the genus Nanosella. Less than 1mm long, they live on the underside of bracket fungi
  • Several beetles vie for the spot of biggest beetle, with contenders including goliath beetles, titan beetles and giant wetas
  • The largest beetle found in the UK is the stag beetle, Lucanus cervus
  • Some of the best slug-eating beetles in the UK include the violet ground beetle and common ground beetle
  • Some beetles can be kept as pets, such as giant African fruit beetles and sun beetles
  • Household beetles you may encounter include carpet beetles, death watch beetles and furniture beetles

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