RSPB Scotland Trainee Ecologist Kirsty Godsman is back with a new blog.
Bee Beetle Bonanza
I think there is just about enough time left this month to introduce you to July’s beetle of the month.
The bee beetle (Trichius fasciatus)
The bee beetle might just be my favourite beetle (and I don’t make a habit of statements like that if I don’t really mean it!). If ever there was a case for insects being cute and furry too, this is it.
As the name suggests, this is a beetle that mimics bees. This is known as Batesian mimicry and it confuses any potential predator of the harmless beetle into thinking that it is a dangerous, sting-bearing bee. There are many insects that copy the yellow and black colouration of bees and wasps. The aptly named wasp beetle, for example, is a longhorn beetle that does quite a good impersonation of a wasp.
The wasp beetle (Clytus arietis).
The masters of this trick though, in my opinion, are the flies. It took me years to trust that marmalade hoverflies were not going to sting me and sometimes you need to get really close before you can say it isn’t a bee or a wasp (hint: they have huge eyes, shorter antennae than bees and wasps and one pair of wings rather than two – although this last feature can be difficult to spot).
The deer botfly (Cephenemyia species) An incredibly convincing bee mimic. If this was a bee, however, there would be an obvious pair of antenna protruding from between the eyes.
But back to the bee beetle. This particular species is a scarab beetle of the Trichiinae family. Their larvae develop in rotting birch stumps – quite a niche! The adults are often found wrestling each other on flower heads for nectar sources and mating opportunities. Look out for them on melancholy thistles, these seem to be a favourite.
Three surprisingly strong bee beetles fighting for this melancholy thistle flower head.
This species has a very disjointed distribution in the UK, being found predominantly in Wales and the Highlands. But if you do find yourself in the right area, they can be found from June to September so now is as good a time as any to get out there and see these incredible species for yourselves.
The distribution of the bee beetle in the UK from NBN Gateway.
Fantastic! I saw a bee beetle in Strathpeffer last week and was so excited that I tweeted about it as soon as I got home!