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As Spring approaches, people across the country are being asked to keep their eyes peeled for little black glossy creatures called oil beetles. These fascinating minibeasts have been living in the UK for thousands of years but sadly, their future is under threat.
There were once nine species of oil beetle living in the UK, but now there are only four. Areas of wildflowers, heath, and coastlines are some of their favourite locations but over the years these habitats have been slowly disappearing. They are black and quite big so they are easily spotted on pathways and bare ground. Last year hundreds of people joined in the first nationwide hunt for the insects, seen from March - June. This year the important hunt begins again. Will you help?
These beetles are very interesting and go through many different transformations before they become an adult beetle. They also have a very gruesome way of life...
Oil beetles lay eggs in little burrows under ground. When the eggs hatch the larvae come out - this is the first stage of their transformation to becoming a beetle. Once hatched, the small beetle larvae wriggle up to the surface and attach themselves to bees! Once attached they hitch a ride to the bees' nest where they eat the bees' eggs and all the pollen they collect. Without bees these oil beetles wouldn't survive so they are a good indicator of a healthy habitat.
Oil beetles get their name from the oily toxic liquid they secrete from their leg joints which keeps predators away. They also look a bit oily, as they are black with often a lustrous violet or blue shimmer - one of our most beautiful creepy crawlies!
So, if you want to find out more about the last four species of oil beetles, help protect their habitats and go on a detective mission to find one visit the wildlife charity Buglife, and find out about their Oil beetle hunt.
Photograph © Slideshow Bob CC BY-SA 2.0