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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

08 April, 2011

Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus)

I am not sure what I marvel at most, the bewildering complexity of nature or the dedicated research scientists who unravel it for the rest of us to understand!

Seeing this creature climbing up the garage wall sent me running for the camera and the field guide. I had seen Oil Beetles before but normally on the Purbeck coastal cliffs; I did not expect one in our garden. What I discovered was, frankly, amazing!

It seems that in spring the female Oil Beetle lays an enormous amount of eggs in soil, several thousand per batch and several batches per individual.

The eggs soon hatch in to wriggling larvae with strong jaws and claws. They climb up on to the heads of Dandelions and await the arrival of their host insects.

When an insect comes along to feed on the Dandelion the larvae attaches itself but only a very few actually attach to the right host, a species of solitary bee! Those that make the wrong choice perish while the lucky ones cling on and are transported back to the bee's nest.

Once there, it eats ONE egg! After that it turns its attention to eating the bee's food.reserves, nectar and pollen. After several moults the larvae turns in to a grub, pupates and emerges as an adult in spring ready to mate and start the complex cycle again.

Now is that amazing or not?