Beetle-mania at Lanhydrock

You could find an oil beetle on the Lanhydrock estate © National Trust

You could find an oil beetle on the Lanhydrock estate

An organically managed parkland, a good proportion of semi-natural ancient woodland and individual trees of up to 700 years old make Lanhydrock in Cornwall a real haven for bugs. The ancient trees with all their associated dead wood and decay are just like high rise flats for thousands of creepy crawlies whilst large lumps of dead timber lying on the ground are ideal cul-de-sacs.

Many of the beetles and bugs are extremely tiny and are rarely ever noticed but we do have some quite large and spectacular ones to find as well.

The oil beetle

The oil beetle is one of the largest beetles in the UK and can be found wandering around some of our woodland paths and adjoining flower-rich parkland during spring and early summer. They get their name from a toxic oily substance they secrete from their leg joints to put off would be predators.

They also have a fascinating, if rather gruesome life cycle. The female will dig a hole in the ground and lay up to 1,000 eggs. These hatch into small three legged things called trigulins that crawl up onto nearby plants and then attach themselves to mining bees. They then get taken back to the bees’ nest where they feed on bee eggs, before pupating and then eventually emerging as the adult oil beetle.

Due to a reduction of flower rich meadows over the past century, four out of eight oil beetle species have now become extinct and even the remaining four are quite scarce. Thankfully Lanhydrock, with our positive conservation management, still remains a beetle hotspot.

The rhinoceros beetle

Rhinoceros beetles are fantastic looking and you might expect they’d be a bit threatening. They’re perfectly friendly though, and will not bite or sting at all. In fact, certain species of rhino beetle are kept as pets in Asia.

They’re not totally unlike their namesakes though. The males will occasionally fight with each other to establish feeding territories and to attract a mate. They’re also incredibly strong and certain species can lift up to 850 times their own weight, a bit like you or me lifting a 65 tonne weight.

Their larvae love to feed on rotten wood and especially like old beech trees. They can even be spotted on a sunny day lying out on a log soaking up the rays.

Where to look

See what beetles you can find out on the estate. Looking under a piece of wood on the ground is often a good place to start, but remember to put everything back as you found it. It is the bugs’ home after all.