Thursday, 29 May 2014

Green Beetles and Other Insect Beasties

Walking around with a camera one comes home with all sorts of pictures of bugs and other wildlife, each of which, with modern digital technology, took seconds to take.  Hours can then be spent in sometimes futile attempts to identify each beastie.  With this one, I've failed.  It's a shame, as this really was a very spectacular insect, and the picture hardly does justice to him.

This gorgeous chap is a green tiger beetle, which must be fairly common as he appears on most beetle identification websites.  He's said to frequent sandy heaths and well-drained soils, which describes pretty accurately where we found him.

This identification is, I hope, fairly straightforward: it's a dor beetle.  This doesn't sound a very exciting name, nor does the beetle look in any way important, but it's a member of the scarab family of dung beetles.  Anyone who had seen Tutankhamun's death mask and other jewellery will know that the dung beetle was worshipped in ancient Egypt: seeing the persistent way in which these beetles rolled sperical balls of dung across the desert, the ancient Egyptians imagined it was one of these who pushed the sun across the sky each day.

This butterfly, resting on a dead bracken stalk, is a green hairstreak, easily identified because British butterflies have the good fortune to have an excellent identification website here.

Because we don't have too many dragon and damsel flies in the UK, identifying them isn't too difficult either.  This is a four-spotted chaser, so called for the dark spots on each of its four wings.  Identification is helped by another good website, here.  These dragonflies are the first to be around in May, but are still sluggish in the cooler weather - hence the photograph.

There's a good moth and butterfly identification website here, but that does't mean it's easy to identify one moth, like this one, out of the hundreds that are flittering around the place.  This is one of the many small moths that can be seen amongst the heather on a warm day.  They're mostly about 15mm across, and have very erratic flight paths, seeming to specialise in crashing into foliage rather than landing on it.

Matters become even worse with this one, which I cannot find, pretty as it is.  He has a very distinctive wing shape, clear markings, and thin antennae - but they don't help.

But this one, with its very characteristic shape, distinctive colouring, slightly tattered wing edge, and that stripe running across its wings, should be easy.  Score on this one: 0/10.  Perhaps I should stop bothering to take pictures of moths.


  1. I think the bottom one is the White Pebbledash Moth sitting on its usual foodsource

  2. Ground beetle...Calosoma scrutator?

  3. I think the first beetle photo is of a Golden Ground beetle, Carabus auratus.


  4. The multi coloured beetle I would say is a ground beetle (carabidae), they eat slugs and the such, they can very from black to green, red, yours seems to have all the colours. Ive tried with the moths but like you am struggling.


  5. The beautiful ground beetle (top) is Carabus nitens, one of our most colourful beetles.The colours are formed not from pigment but from ridges in the surface of the carapace which refract the light so we see the different wavelengths. The first of the moths I cannot identify straight off but will enjoy the challenge. The second is a Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata. The third is a thorn moth but specifically uncertain. I have this problem too when returning from a walk with my camera!

  6. Many thanks to all of you for the comments. It does look as if the beetle is Carabus nitens, and many thanks to you, Derryck, for sorting out two of the moths. I can't help you any more with the first moth other than to say there were plenty of them around again today on our walk beyond Ockle. Jon

  7. Now at home, my trusty book shows the first moth to be a Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria). Perhaps the fact they were common on the heath confirms the ID. Notice the fine antennae showing that this is a male who uses them to detect pheromone molecules, guiding him to a female. Compare them to a typical female moth in the next photograph. The Thorn (last picture) is still a puzzle; maybe it is yet another Ardnamurchan lost-world variant.

  8. A quick and accurate reply from a kind gentleman at the Butterfly Conservation, Richard Fox, identified the last moth as Scalloped Hazel Odontoptera bidentata. It is common but very variable being seen from almost white to almost black, hence the difficulty; my book only shows the two extreme forms! More beautiful photographs of entomological interest, please, Jon.

  9. Dear Derryck - Again, many thanks for your efforts in identifying the moths. I have carefully recorded all the names against the photos in my insect album, but the huge variety within each species daunts me. And, yes, I keep finding yet more I can't identify - will put them on the blog in due course. Jon