I went to Brynna Woods in search of bluebells and found beetles instead, the black oil beetle no less, Meloe proscarabaeus.
I was extremely lucky as oil beetles are an endangered species in Britain, with three native species already declared extinct and the remaining five under threat. The main reason for this is because their lifecycle depends on the solitary bee and changes in the way the environment is managed means bee numbers are also declining.
You see, oil beetles are most peculiar little critters. Their larvae strategically position themselves on flowers awaiting the arrival of solitary bees out collecting pollen and nectar. Then, using special hooks on their feet, they hitch a ride on the bees when they depart. Back in the bees’ nests, the larvae feed on the bees’ supplies of nectar and pollen, and also the bees’ eggs. The larvae continue to develop inside the bees’ nests until they emerge as adult beetles, ready to mate, lay their eggs, and begin the lifecycle all over again. No bees, no beetles!
With the support of Natural England, Buglife are working with the National Trust and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on an oil beetle species recovery programme. You can read more here.