Forget Paul, John, George and Ringo, the true superstars of Coombes Valley have six legs, a hard exoskeleton and can be quite fearsome predators: THE BEETLES.
With over 4000 beetle species in the UK, you might be thinking, “Help!” when you want to find out what beetle species you’ve found. However, with a little help from my friends here at Coombes Valley, I’ve compiled a list of some info about the most common, and most funky, beetles you're likely come across on the reserve.
Great diving beetle and great diving beetle larva
The Great Diving Beetle
This giant of the pond can grow up to 3.5cm as an adult, and as larvae, can be up to 6cm long! The diving beetle is a ferocious predator in ponds, and will prey on most invertebrate pond life. The more adventurous among them have been known to dine on small fish!
Luckily, you don’t need a yellow submarine to see these underwater monsters. You may spot their olive-green body popping up to the surface every now and again in ponds, or slow moving rivers. They do this in order to trap air bubbles under their wing case, which they use like a SCUBA suit, allowing them to spend more time hunting underwater.
Great diving beetles can also fly, and will use the reflection of moonlight on ponds to find new habitats. Unfortunately, this means they sometimes find themselves stranded after mistakenly landing on wet pavements and roads. Talk about a hard day’s night!
Violet ground beetle, taken by Steve Brown
Common Black Ground Beetle
There are roughly 350 species of ground beetle in the UK, and most look quite similar; black body, head and legs, and a liking for dead wood and leaf litter. The common black ground beetle is one of these many species. Its reddish-brown legs and grooved wing case are the main clues when trying to identify it.
Ground beetles are often flightless, and instead use their wing casings as body armour, the thick exoskeleton covering their vulnerable body. Most ground beetles are nocturnal, and spend the nights hunting aphids, slugs, and snails.
When dawn comes around, and the beetles are thinking “here comes the sun”, they find somewhere dark to spend the day. There they keep out of danger from predators such as toads, shrews, and of course, the blackbird.
Devil's coach horse beetle, taken by Richard Revels
Devils Coach Horse Beetle
Just in case the name of this beetle isn't enough to make you get back, the devils coach horse beetle has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to make sure you let it be.
At the front, their vicious pair of mandibles can give a painful bite both to its prey, as well as any potential predators. And at the back, it can raise its abdomen to a scorpion-esque pose, before emitting a foul-smelling fluid from its back end, putting the would-be predators off their meal.
Like the common black ground beetle, the devils coach horse is a nocturnal hunter, and spend their days hiding under dead wood. However, the devils coach horse looks more like an earwig than a ground beetle. There are many myths and superstitions regarding the devils coach horse including the idea that it can curse people by pointing their upraised body in their direction.
Building a Den on a Woodland explorer afternoon, taken by Lucy
A great way to show kids all the different beetles Coombes Valley is home to is to bring them along to the woodland explorers afternoon every Tuesday in August, for pond-dipping, mini-beast hunting and den building. Busy Tuesdays? You can also come pond-dipping any time, its on eight days a week! For more details about both, check our website on http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/c/coombeschurnet/events.aspx
So for now, Hello, and goodbye!