If you have seen one of these fascinating beetles then please help Buglife's national survey of them.
At one time the UK used to have 9 species, but now there are only believed to be 4, the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), the Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), the Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) and the Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugusus).
These are fairly large beetles that can be up to 40mm long and can be seen anytime between April and August. The female lays hundreds of eggs in the soil close to a solitary bee nest. The eggs can take a year to hatch upon which the larvae climb plants, such as Lesser celandine, to wait for a visiting bee whereupon they hitch a ride back to the bee's nest where they spend the rest of their development feeding upon bee eggs and pollen. Linked as they are to declining bee species this is one fear as to causes for the decline of all oil beetles.
Its vital this survey is undertaken as only 3 of the 4 species listed have been seen recently and these are all declining. The Short-necked oil beetle (seen below) was thought to have been extinct in Britain since 1948 till it was seen in 2007 at Wembury in South Devon, and that place on this very day is where the new survey is being launched. If you want to take part go to the following link to register. My thanks to John Walters for these fantastic photos.