Garden Wildlife
             Garden Wildlife
Fungus-eating and other beetles
 
By Steve Head
 
Jennifer Owen recorded over 27 thousand beetles from over 440 species in 40 families in her Leicester garden, mostly caught in malaise traps, pitfall traps or (a minority) in mercury-vapour light traps.  This is a good proportion of the 103 beetle families currently recognised on the UK checklists, but these figures really illustrate what a huge diversity of beetles exist in our small island.  Some of the beetle families listed by Owen have been renamed to reflect current practice.
 
The other pages on beetles on this website cover the common, ecologically important and generally larger beetles.  This page is based on the additional beetle families recorded by Jennifer Owen, but this is far from a definitive list of what could be found in gardens.  While her sampling effort is probably unequalled in any private garden in the world, her list reflects the geology and landscape around her home. Sampling in gardens in other parts of the country will undoubtably record additional species and families.
 
So little is known of beetle ecology in gardens that it would be really helpful if keen garden owners made a point of studying their beetle fauna and their garden role, although the identification of the smaller species can be really challenging!
 
Fungus and decaying wood beetles.
The larger families are described in Dead wood beetles but there are many additional families of small, sometimes rare and obscure beetles that feed on fungi, on fungi in rotting wood, and sometimes on the associated microfauna such as springtails and mites.
 
Ciidae Tiny (1-3mm) brown beetles often associated with particular fungus species. Owen recorded 5 specimens of one species Cis boleti.
 
Cryptophagidae  Small (1-11mm) "Silken fungus beetles". Mostly fungus eaters, but some are found in wasp and bumblebee nests. Owen caught 67 specimens from 11 species Cryptophagus dentatus
 
Alexiidae Tiny (1.2mm) "Handsome fungus beetles"  Owen recorded 3 specimens of Sphaerosoma piliferum, the only UK Alexiid, which is black and nearly circular in outline, a bit like a ladybird.
 
Erotylidae  Small (2-7mm) "Pleasing fungus beetles", often found below rotting bark or on tree fungi. Owen found  two specimens of one species. There are 8 known in the UK.
 
 
 
Latridiidae (Sometimes spelled Lathridiidae) Tiny (1-3mm) "Minute brown scavenger beetles". Found in several microhabitats which include compost heaps and leaf litter as well as rotting bark and fungi.  Owen found 1134 specimens from 8 species. The commonest by far was Cortinicara gibbosa.(1-1.6mm) shown to the right
Cleridae  Medium sized (6-16mm) "Chequered beetles".  All 14 British species are uncommon.  They are found on stored products and carrion, some are predators.  Owen found one specimen of Thanasimus formicarius.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Leiodidae  Small (1-7mm) "Round fungus beetles" Poorly known because hard to identify. Owen found 4 specimens from 2 species.
 
Melandryidae  Small to medium (3-15mm) "False darkling beetles". Found with fungi or rotting bark. Owen found 5 specimens of one species.
 
Mycetophagidae  Tiny (1-2mm) beetles living in rotting wood and debris. Owen found one specimen of one species.
 
Aderidae Tiny (1-2mm) "Ant-like beetles" somewhat ant-like beetles found as larvae in rotting tree heartwood and leaf litter. Owne found one specimen of Aderus populineus
 
Anthicidae Small (2-5mm) "Ant-like flower beetles". Strikingly ant-like adults on flowers, but larvae in decaying plant material and compost heaps. Owen found 14 specimens of 3 species.
 
Scraptiidae  Small (2-5mm) “False or tumbling flower beetles” Larvae live in dead wood or leaf litter. Owen encountered over 1,500 from 6 species, including nearly 1,250 Anaspis maculata, (shown on the right) which can be abundant on flowers of elder, hogweed and daisies.
Cantharidae  small to medium sized (2-15mm) "Soldier beetles". Predators, more readily flying than most beetles. Owen found 16 specimens from 8 species. One of these, Rhagonycha fulva (right) the common red soldier beetle, can be very abundant on flowers in the summer.
 
 
Tenebrionidae Small to large (2-25mm) "Darkling beetles", many of which are synanthropic, feeding on stored products.  Owen found three specimens of Lagria hirta, the larvae of which eat decaying pant material, while the adults are found on flowers.
 
 
Lesser plant-based beetle families
 
Attelabidae Medium sized (5-6mm) "Leaf-rolling weevils" regarded as primitive among weevils. Females roll a foodplant leaf tightly around each egg laid. Owen found 4 specimens of the Apple fruit weevil Rhynchites aequatus (now apparently in genus Neocoenorrhinus)
 
Byturidae   Small (3-5mm) "Fruitworm beetles" Leaf, flower bud and fruit eaters. Owen collected 3 specimens of the only two British species, one Byturus tomentosus is a common raspberry pest.
 
 
Byrrhidae small to large (1-10mm) "Pill beetles". Thought to feed as larvae and adults on moss. Their antennae and legs fit into grooves when disturbed, so the animal becomes a hard-to-tackle pill or seed like object.  Owen found one specimen of Simplocharia semistriata.
 
 
Oedemeridae Medium to large (5-17mm) "False blister beetles". Many are shiny with metallic colour, elongate.  Larvae develop in plant stems, adults on flowers.  Owen caught 12 specimens of Oedomera lurida.
 
Lesser predatory beetle families
Monotomidae  (Previously Rhizophagidae)   Small (1-5mm) predators in decaying material, compost heaps and bird's nests.  Owen found 14 specimens of Monostoma picipes 
 
Histeridae tiny to medium (1-10mm) "Hister beetles". Ladybird-like with very ovoid bodies, but brown without spots. They are predatory and often also eat carrion. Britain has 52 species, but Owen found only 1 specimen of Cantharis livida.
 
Dasytidae  Tiny to medium sized (1-7mm) Metallic coloured "Soft-winged flower beetles"  Larvae are predators of other organisms in rotting wood, whie adults are found on flowers.  Owen found six specimens from two species of Dasytes.
 
Salpingidae Small (2-4mm) weevil-like predatory beetles which eat other insects beneath bark or in dead wood.  Owen found 18 specimens of Rhinosimus planirostris.
 
 
 
Other beetles
 
Ripiphoridae One British species Metoecus paradoxus. Young larvae from eggs laid on rotting wood seize hold of wood-collecting wasps, and are carried into the wasp nest where it lives as a parasitoid on a growing wasp grub. Owen found two specimens.
Phalacridae Tiny (1-3mm) "Shining flower beetles" Broadly ovoid shiny dark beetles found as adults on flowers.  Owen found 120 specimens from 4 species, nearly all Stilbus testaceus. (photo right)
Fungus-eating and other beetles
 
By Steve Head
 
Jennifer Owen recorded over 27 thousand beetles from over 440 species in 40 families in her Leicester garden, mostly caught in malaise traps, pitfall traps or (a minority) in mercury-vapour light traps.  This is a good proportion of the 103 beetle families currently recognised on the UK checklists, but these figures really illustrate what a huge diversity of beetles exist in our small island.  Some of the beetle families listed by Owen have been renamed to reflect current practice.
 
The other pages on beetles on this website cover the common, ecologically important and generally larger beetles.  This page is based on the additional beetle families recorded by Jennifer Owen, but this is far from a definitive list of what could be found in gardens.  While her sampling effort is probably unequalled in any private garden in the world, her list reflects the geology and landscape around her home. Sampling in gardens in other parts of the country will undoubtably record additional species and families.
 
So little is known of beetle ecology in gardens that it would be really helpful if keen garden owners made a point of studying their beetle fauna and their garden role, although the identification of the smaller species can be really challenging!
 
Fungus and decaying wood beetles.
The larger families are described in Dead wood beetles but there are many additional families of small, sometimes rare and obscure beetles that feed on fungi, on fungi in rotting wood, and sometimes on the associated microfauna such as springtails and mites.
 
Ciidae Tiny (1-3mm) brown beetles often associated with particular fungus species. Owen recorded 5 specimens of one species Cis boleti.
 
Cryptophagidae  Small (1-11mm) "Silken fungus beetles". Mostly fungus eaters, but some are found in wasp and bumblebee nests. Owen caught 67 specimens from 11 species Cryptophagus dentatus
 
Alexiidae Tiny (1.2mm) "Handsome fungus beetles"  Owen recorded 3 specimens of Sphaerosoma piliferum, the only UK Alexiid, which is black and nearly circular in outline, a bit like a ladybird.
 
Erotylidae  Small (2-7mm) "Pleasing fungus beetles", often found below rotting bark or on tree fungi. Owen found  two specimens of one species. There are 8 known in the UK.
 
 
 
Latridiidae (Sometimes spelled Lathridiidae) Tiny (1-3mm) "Minute brown scavenger beetles". Found in several microhabitats which include compost heaps and leaf litter as well as rotting bark and fungi.  Owen found 1134 specimens from 8 species. The commonest by far was Cortinicara gibbosa.(1-1.6mm) shown to the right
 
Leiodidae  Small (1-7mm) "Round fungus beetles" Poorly known because hard to identify. Owen found 4 specimens from 2 species.
 
Melandryidae  Small to medium (3-15mm) "False darkling beetles". Found with fungi or rotting bark. Owen found 5 specimens of one species.
 
Mycetophagidae  Tiny (1-2mm) beetles living in rotting wood and debris. Owen found one specimen of one species.
 
Aderidae Tiny (1-2mm) "Ant-like beetles" somewhat ant-like beetles found as larvae in rotting tree heartwood and leaf litter. Owne found one specimen of Aderus populineus
 
Anthicidae Small (2-5mm) "Ant-like flower beetles". Strikingly ant-like adults on flowers, but larvae in decaying plant material and compost heaps. Owen found 14 specimens of 3 species.
 
Scraptiidae  Small (2-5mm) “False or tumbling flower beetles” Larvae live in dead wood or leaf litter. Owen encountered over 1,500 from 6 species, including nearly 1,250 Anaspis maculata, (shown on the right) which can be abundant on flowers of elder, hogweed and daisies.
Tenebrionidae Small to large (2-25mm) "Darkling beetles", many of which are synanthropic, feeding on stored products.  Owen found three specimens of Lagria hirta, the larvae of which eat decaying pant material, while the adults are found on flowers.
 
 
Lesser plant-based beetle families
 
Attelabidae Medium sized (5-6mm) "Leaf-rolling weevils" regarded as primitive among weevils. Females roll a foodplant leaf tightly around each egg laid. Owen found 4 specimens of the Apple fruit weevil Rhynchites aequatus (now apparently in genus Neocoenorrhinus)
 
Byturidae   Small (3-5mm) "Fruitworm beetles" Leaf, flower bud and fruit eaters. Owen collected 3 specimens of the only two British species, one Byturus tomentosus is a common raspberry pest.
 
 
Byrrhidae small to large (1-10mm) "Pill beetles". Thought to feed as larvae and adults on moss. Their antennae and legs fit into grooves when disturbed, so the animal becomes a hard-to-tackle pill or seed like object.  Owen found one specimen of Simplocharia semistriata.
 
 
Oedemeridae Medium to large (5-17mm) "False blister beetles". Many are shiny with metallic colour, elongate.  Larvae develop in plant stems, adults on flowers.  Owen caught 12 specimens of Oedomera lurida.
 
Lesser predatory beetle families
Cantharidae  small to medium sized (2-15mm) "Soldier beetles". Predators, more readily flying than most beetles. Owen found 16 specimens from 8 species. One of these, Rhagonycha fulva (right) the common red soldier beetle, can be very abundant on flowers in the summer.
 
 
Monotomidae  (Previously Rhizophagidae)   Small (1-5mm) predators in decaying material, compost heaps and bird's nests.  Owen found 14 specimens of Monostoma picipes 
 
Histeridae tiny to medium (1-10mm) "Hister beetles". Ladybird-like with very ovoid bodies, but brown without spots. They are predatory and often also eat carrion. Britain has 52 species, but Owen found only 1 specimen of Cantharis livida.
 
Dasytidae  Tiny to medium sized (1-7mm) Metallic coloured "Soft-winged flower beetles"  Larvae are predators of other organisms in rotting wood, whie adults are found on flowers.  Owen found six specimens from two species of Dasytes.
 
Salpingidae Small (2-4mm) weevil-like predatory beetles which eat other insects beneath bark or in dead wood.  Owen found 18 specimens of Rhinosimus planirostris.
 
 
Other beetles
 
Ripiphoridae One British species Metoecus paradoxus. Young larvae from eggs laid on rotting wood seize hold of wood-collecting wasps, and are carried into the wasp nest where it lives as a parasitoid on a growing wasp grub. Owen found two specimens.
Phalacridae Tiny (1-3mm) "Shining flower beetles" Broadly ovoid shiny dark beetles found as adults on flowers.  Owen found 120 specimens from 4 species, nearly all Stilbus testaceus. (photo right)
Cleridae  Medium sized (6-16mm) "Chequered beetles".  All 14 British species are uncommon.  They are found on stored products and carrion, some are predators.  Owen found one specimen of Thanasimus formicarius.
 
 
 
 
 
Lampyridae  Glow-worms.  Medium to large beetles (5-25mm), well known for their bioluminescence. There are three recorded British species, one of which is probably extinct and another confined to one site in Hampshire. The species found (if you are lucky) in gardens is Lampyris noctiluca.  The small male is relatively normal in appearance, but with colossal night-vision eyes, while the larger adult female lacks wings and is rather larval in appearance.
Above: Male (left) and female (right) glow worms.
 
Right:  Female glow-worm displaying
Light production in the glow-worm is the key to its mating behaviour.  The strongly bioluminescent females stay static on vegetation, waving their lantern-like abdomen to attract males.  The display starts at dusk and lasts for about two hours for up to 10 nights until mated.  The males are less strongly lit, but can fly competently to find and mate with females. Females lay egs close by in damp spots under logs, moss or in grass tussocks.
 
Neither sex feeds as an adult, but the larvae are voracious predators of slugs and snails. Thirty seven species eaten in captivity are listed by John Tyler (see reference below), including a number of garden "pests".  The insect makes a series of small bites into the mollusc's skin, injecting a paralytic toxin and digestive enzymes.  The body of the paralysed snail or slug dissolves and the larva ingests a broth of mollusc soup.
 
Glow-worm larvae hatch in the autumn, and live for about 30 months, before pupating and emerging in early summer of their third year.  They prefer open chalk or limestone grass or hedges to woodland, so should thrive in suitable gardens, but are not often recorded.  Jennifer Owen did not find them in her study.
 
Reference: Tyler, J. 2002 The Glow-worm. Lakeside Printing Ltd Sevenoaks ISBN 0 9523526 1 3
 
Websites: 
UK Glow-worm Survey   
Mark Telfer's page on glow-worms  
Earth-born Stars. Christopher Gent's 10 minute video on glow-worms
 
Lampyridae  Glow-worms.  Medium to large beetles (5-25mm), well known for their bioluminescence. There are three recorded British species, one of which is probably extinct and another confined to one site in Hampshire. The species found (if you are lucky) in gardens is Lampyris noctiluca.  The small male is relatively normal in appearance, but with colossal night-vision eyes, while the larger adult female lacks wings and is rather larval in appearance.
Above: Male (left) and female (right) glow worms.
 
Right:  Female glow-worm displaying
Light production in the glow-worm is the key to its mating behaviour.  The strongly bioluminescent females stay static on vegetation, waving their lantern-like abdomen to attract males.  The display starts at dusk and lasts for about two hours for up to 10 nights until mated.  The males are less strongly lit, but can fly competently to find and mate with females. Females lay egs close by in damp spots under logs, moss or in grass tussocks.
 
Neither sex feeds as an adult, but the larvae are voracious predators of slugs and snails. Thirty seven species eaten in captivity are listed by John Tyler (see reference below), including a number of garden "pests".  The insect makes a series of small bites into the mollusc's skin, injecting a paralytic toxin and digestive enzymes.  The body of the paralysed snail or slug dissolves and the larva ingests a broth of mollusc soup.
 
Glow-worm larvae hatch in the autumn, and live for about 30 months, before pupating and emerging in early summer of their third year.  They prefer open chalk or limestone grass or hedges to woodland, so should thrive in suitable gardens, but are not often recorded.  Jennifer Owen did not find them in her study.
 
Reference: Tyler, J. 2002 The Glow-worm. Lakeside Printing Ltd Sevenoaks ISBN 0 9523526 1 3
 
Websites: 
UK Glow-worm Survey   
Mark Telfer's page on glow-worms  
Earth-born Stars. Christopher Gent's 10 minute video on glow-worms