Monitoring the Oil Beetle in Nottinghamshire
The Oil Beetle in Nottinghamshire
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The rediscovery of the Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus) in Nottinghamshire for the first time in over a 100 years, has since provided us with the chance to monitor the colony over successive years.

The discovery by Adrian Dutton and his wife in 2011, of Meloe proscarabaeus on lowland heath within the Sherwood Forest NNR, was followed a couple of years later by James Glendenning's report of a second colony in the grounds of Newstead Abbey.

This page purely serves to provide summaries of our survey results of the Sherwood Forest colony. For further details on the life history of this extremely large beetle, click on the above link.

 
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2017 survey results and notes

Chloe Ryder of the RSPB reported the first of the year's Oil Beetles were already active on February 23rd. This is the earliest date we know of since they were found back in 2011, beating last year's early date of February 28th, by some five days.

2016 survey results and notes

Following an almost non-existant Winter, where at home we had recorded frosts on fewer than ten occasions and just an inch of snow for one day (to the end of February) we made an earlier than normal first visit to the western end of Budby South Forest. The first Oil Beetle was found almost immediately following arrival on site and a total of eight males were eventually recorded on 28/02/02.

Our second visit was some three weeks later on 20/03/16 and an impressive count of 44 Oil Beetles was made. Approximately 75% were males and several females were recorded mating. However, all females and most of the males we found, were still well short of their normal weight and emergence seems to be a more prolonged process this year. Oil Beetles from the Newstead Abbey colony were recorded from mid-March at the latest by Dave & Veronica McGeever, who counted 20 adults (50% m/f) on 14/03/16.

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  2015 survey results and notes

Our first site visit to Budby South Forest on 07/03/15, coincided with the first warm day of the Spring. Despite the early first date of the previous year, we were surprised to find that Oil Beetles were already out (despite a cool Spring to date) and had been so for a few days at least. All but one of the 36 counted were males, most were small and busy feeding up. Sean Tobin emailed us to say that the Oil Beetle colony at Newstead Abbey, had first been recorded on 06/03/15 this year.

2014 survey results and notes

With the mild Winter continuing and a gradual warming of the daily temperatures, the first Oil Beetles were found to have already emerged at their Budby South Forest site by 03/03/14, over a month earlier than in 2013.

We were actually surprised to find any, and in fact were just checking the state of the site in readiness for the beetles possibly emerging in a couple of weeks time. So we were amazed to record our first Oil Beetle within a few minutes of searching, eventually recording a total of 19 Oil Beetles, all of which proved to be males. Just under a week later (09/03/14), a further survey resulted in the first females being recorded, but only seven females out of an excellent total of 54 adults.

2013 survey results and notes

Delayed by the very cold weather during March, when we did make one site visit around mid-month, the first adults were not out until 06/04/13, when 25 (17 males and eight females) were recorded during a thorough survey of the western end of the site. A single female found in a new area, was well away from the main colony and the first real sign of range expansion across the site.

The following day (07/04/13) we conducted a second thorough site survey, this time recording approximately 70 adults. The count consisted of 34 males and 26 females, but we were unable to locate Oil Beetles in any additional areas of the site. Most of the beetles recorded were grazing and included several mating pairs.

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A later site visit was made on 20/04/13, resulting in a count of 41 adults. Burrowing females, completed burrows containing eggs and mating pairs were observed.

On 22/04/13 we received news of a report of Meloe proscarabeus at a second Nottinghamshire site by James Glendenning. Following a short survey of the site the following day, we located a total of five males and four females. Unfortunately, these were the only live beetles we found and the dead numbered over 25.

At first we were not going to publish the location of the find, but we now feel that it is OK to mention that the site is located in a very public area of Newstead Abbey grounds. It therefore seems logical to believe that Oil Beetles may also be present at additional sites in Nottinghamshire.

 
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2012 survey results and notes

We made just two site visits during 2012, recording totals of 61 adults on 23/03/12, followed by 47 adults on 05/04/12. There was evidence (through records) of a slight increase in range, but this continues to be extremely localised on site.

Heavy machinery used in managing the site, or for the movement of Longhorn Cattle, was believed by one observer to have had an extremely detrimental affect on the burrows made by females.

2011 survey results and notes

In 2011 we made several attempts to locate this beetle and were eventually successful on our third visit on April 12th. We found ten beetles in one very small area of the site, followed by another female well away from this, later found to be the same location as the original record.

The following afternoon, a further survey revealed that the colony covered a slightly larger area than was first realised. A count of 33 was made, consisting of slightly more females than males. Several other adults were found trodden on, but the colony seems to be reasonably well populated, with a later survey on April 20th, revealing 37 adults (21f and 16m) and also showing evidence of colony dispersal east and west, but still remaining within a very small area of the site.

It was interesting to note that during the morning, both males and females were found grazing on grass, which on very warm days, was often found to be in areas of shade. Fescue grasses were largely ignored by feeding adults, the beetles preferring slightly coarser grass.

By April 29th, a further survey of the area found a total of ten adults, all of which were females. Many of these were still burrowing in sandy/stony sections of the preferred path, but there was again, further evidence of continued spread eastwards.

 
The Oil Beetle in Nottinghamshire
Beetles
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