Extra virgin

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 19 February 2017 09:15

Last week I got a message from Mark Telfer saying he was coming down to look for Mediterranean Oil-beetles (or Olive Oil-beetles as I prefer) Meloe mediterraneus at Newhaven Fort. So, only the day after seeing Steve Teale at the Fort and then Sussex Moth Group, I was back with Steve for the third time in two days (prior to that I haven't seen him for about five years). Steve Teales are a bit like Bloxworth Snouts in that regard. 

Anyways, these beasts are known to be nocturnal so we recced the site about and hour before sunset and waited until dark. Amazingly Steve found a dead one just as it was getting dark.

It didn't take long before Mark found one at the base of the cliffs, much further down than I was looking. I thought they were would be further up the cliffs but they were all pretty much on the grassy area below which is mostly dominated by Yorkshire Fog. It appears there is a thick thatch here that they can retreat into in the day and then come out at night to graze on it! We recorded about 18 individuals and Steve and Thyone stayed a bit longer and recorded up to 28 I think, in two different 100 km squares (the colony is right on the edge of TQ and TV).

This species is quite close to the Rugged Oil-beetle Meloe rugosus that I saw seven years ago in Brighton in Woodvale Crematorium. I think that when I saw this in 2010, mediterraneus was thought to be extinct and it wasn't in the keys. It all comes down to a groove on the pronotum that you can just make out in my photos but it's not that clear. Have a look at John Walters' page for separating the oil beetles. Meloe rugosus has a much more strongly punctured pronotum too and that is visible in this photo.

With the Olive Oil-beetle, you can see the pronotum is much less punctured and clearly lacks the central groove. It's great to know these fascinating creatures are doing so well at this site. I think Mark said there are only two other sites in the UK for it! Here is Mark extracting some olive oil from one...

I can't help think that they look like that annoying man from that insurance comparison website. Or even better, Mr Creosote! I had no idea that these animals are such active eaters as adults but it's obvious now I come to think about it. Great to observe their behaviour and learn a bit more about them.

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