Guide to families

For a simple picture guide to the British families click HERE.

With more than 4000 species in about 1300 genera and nearly 100 families our fauna can be very difficult for the beginner to comprehend, especially so because of the way evolution works, which means that species from distantly-related families may look superficially similar because of morphological convergence, and similarly species within a family may look very different because of divergence. In such cases the answers lie in the fine detail. The majority of our species are included within a dozen or so large and distinctive families and so there will be plenty of stuff to keep the beginner occupied but unusual specimens will soon appear that will be more difficult to assign, and this is the point of what follows. Most of this page is devoted to assigning specimens to their correct families but the method we use is intended to be simple and user-friendly; it relies heavily on pictures (a resource that hasn’t always been available in the past) because visual recognition is what our human brains are very good at, but in each case we include a few simple notes of guidance which should be taken very seriously as they are chosen to overcome some of the problems of convergence and divergence.

It should be realized from the beginning that a basic familiarity with the terminology of beetle morphology is absolutely essential and we have tried to keep this simple. For the purpose of identification, where a critical visual awareness is the most important aspect (at least to the family level), this is all that is required and to facilitate this we have included a few diagrams that will provide all that is needed to use this page. Insect morphology is a vast and daunting subject that is mostly irrelevant to the study of beetles at this level but it really should be understood that in order to understand beetle evolution it is vital to understand this in fine detail- see the notes at the end of this article (actually I believe that the only way to really understand beetle evolution is by studying their molecular biology but so many people disagree with this that it will not be mentioned again, at least not here). The obvious step is to make sure that sufficient pictures are available to make the user of a guide to families confident that they have not mistaken something for something else. In truth this cannot be done without picturing at least all the genera, but the number of pictures can be drastically reduced by including a few words of guidance, and this is how our rather unorthodox guide to families will work.

Basic beetle morphology (Joy, 1932)

A close look at the pictures will often suffice, the comments should help, and the family links will give plenty of examples and advice. In most cases the following list can be inspected very quickly as many of the species included are so very distinctive, this should be at least as quick as using a key and should provide a confident elimination or match. Great care should be taken to measure the length of a specimen as this can sometimes eliminate groups of families. At this point it should be mentioned that experienced coleopterists know what features to look for, they also have a very critical eye for detail and the ability to assess things like the number of tarsal segments when these might seem confusing, these things cannot be understood without a good deal of experience and so those attempting to place specimens for the first time should be aware that a very critical eye needs to be developed, after a while many features and groups will be instinctively ignored because that’s what experience allows, but at first pay critical attention to any features mentioned. Comments in square brackets can be ignored [they are mostly for the pedantic] but may provide some insight to our fauna. Another aspect of identification must be mentioned and it is something that all experienced coleopterists understand, information about the origin of a specimen can greatly facilitate identification, if it was found in dung or at sap or on a particular plant this can suggest a species or group of species, and when sampling for a particular species this can dictate which trapping method to use or which plants to look at. Such things are for the experienced beetler and are only mentioned briefly below, on the other hand each family is linked to a page that should provide an abundance of such information as well as a much wider range of photographs of named species, in fact the majority of our species are featured and so with a little searching this site should get most specimens to at least the generic level.

MYXOPHAGA 

Minute Bog Beetles

1 species

  • 0.6-0.8mm

  • Hemispherical, dark brown or black.

  • Antennae 11-segmented with a 3-segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula 3-3-3

  • Very rare, wetland margins.

ADEPHAGA

Whirligigs

12 species

  • 3.5-7.8mm

  • Highly modified legs, reduced antennae and horizontally-divided eyes - nothing else remotely similar.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic.

Crawling Water Beetles

19 species

  • 2.4-5mm

  • Short filiform antennae, punctured elytral striae. Legs long and slender.

  • [Greatly expanded hind coxal plates]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic.

Burrowing Water Beetles

2 species

  • 3.5-5mm

  • Similar to Dytiscidae but the ventral surface is flat and some middle antennal segments are enlarged.

  • Elytra with large punctures, especially in the apical half. 

  • [Hind coxae elevated medially.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic.

Screech Beetles

1 species

  • 8-10mm

  • Large and prominent eyes. Body very convex ventrally.

  • Tibiae with long apical spurs.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic.

Diving Beetles

120 species approx.

  • 1.9-38mm

  • Shape varies from broadly-oval to elongate-oval but always more-or-less boat-shaped, convex above and below.

  • Eyes at most only moderately convex, antennae filiform.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic, but many species attracted to light.

Ground Beetles

360 species approx.

  • 1.5-35mm

  • At least some sensory setae on the body.

  • Antennae filiform.

  • Some colourful and/or metallic species.

  • [Prosternum with distinct notopleural sutures, hind coxae dividing the first visible sternite and not expanded laterally to meet the elytral epipleura, hind trochanters extending some way along the hind margin of the femora.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, rarely with bilobed segments.

  • Most habitats, rarely aquatic.

POLYPHAGA
HYDROPHILOIDEA

Grooved Water Scavenger Beetles

20 species

  • 2.1-7.1mm

  • Maxillary palps as long as antennae. Pronotum with longitudinal grooves, the innermost of which are sinuate or kinked about the middle.

  • Elytra with punctured striae, sometimes with longitudinal ridges.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Mostly aquatic, some terrestrial species.

Minute Mud Beetles

1 species

  • 1.5-2.0 mm

  • Unique appearance. Head hidden from above, 9-segmented antennae with a pubescent 3-segmented club.

  • Large elytral punctures.

  • Outer margin of front tibiae angled.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4

  • Wetland margins.

Hydrochid Beetles

7 species

  • 2.1-4.7 mm

  • Eyes convex and very prominent, no longitudinal grooves to the pronotum, elytra with punctured striae.

  • Palps not greatly longer than the antennae, antennal club 3-segmented.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic and wetland margins.

Filter-Feeding Water Beetles

1 species

  • 5-7mm

  • Anterior margin of head emarginate. Very transverse pronotum. Palps longer than the antennae. Tibiae without long apical spurs.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Aquatic and wetland margins.

  • Thought to be extinct in the UK.

Water Scavenger Beetles

74 species

  • 1.2-70mm

  • Elongate - oval and continuous in outline, convex above and flat below. Antennae inserted under the side of the head, almost always 9-segmented, club with 3 segments. Palps longer than the antennae (or very nearly so in some smaller species).

  • Tarsal formula usually 5-5-5; a few aquatic species are dimorphic, the males having 4-segmented front tarsi.

  • Aquatic, dung and compost, regularly at light.

False Clown Beetles

1 species

  • 5.5-6.5 mm

  • Antennae not geniculate, with a 3-segmented club, all the segments clearly visible. Front tibiae with fine spines but without teeth and lacking tarsal grooves. Elytra leaving one abdominal tergite exposed, each with nine distinct rows of punctures.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Northern conifer forests.

Clown Beetles

53 species

  • 0.8-11.0 mm

  • Antennae geniculate and clubbed. Front tibiae with tarsal grooves and usually dentate externally, elytra usually leaving two abdominal tergites exposed. Elytra very variable but never with nine rows of punctures.

  • Most genera are distinctive but experience will be needed with some of the small specimens, all of which are pictured on the family page.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5

  • Carrion, dung, decaying wood and vegetation.

STAPHYLINOIDEA

Moss Beetles

33 species

  • 1.0-2.8 mm

  • Palps at least as long as the antennae, in most cases very much longer. Antennal club 5-segmented.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, often appearing 4-segmented.

  • Aquatic and wetland margins.

Feather-Winged Beetles

76 species

  • 0.5-1.3 mm

  • Tiny species, antennae distinctive; one or (usually) two large basal segments, others  with long fine setae, club long and loose, insertions separated by at least the length of the two basal segments.

  • Tarsal formula variable, 2- or 3-segmented.

  • Decaying wood and vegetation.

Fungus Beetles

94 species

  • 1.3-6.0 mm

  • Most are elongate - oval and discontinuous in outline, some have a distinct occipital ridge, in many the base of the elytra is slightly narrower than the pronotal base. Most have a distinctive antennal club, five-segmented with the second segment smaller than the first and third (some Cucujidae also have this form of antennal club but are otherwise very different.)

  • Agathidium have a normal three segmented club but the species are globose and distinctive, Colon have a four-segmented club but are otherwise distinctive, Choleva and Catopidius have almost filiform antennae but the occipital ridge is obvious, Parabathyscia and Leptinus are eyeless, and Platypsyllus is uniquely weird.

  • Tarsal formula variable, 3-3-3 to 5-5-5.

  • Carrion and decaying vegetation.

Carrion Beetles

21 species

  • 9-30 mm

  • Either 12-30mm with elytra truncate, exposing the abdominal apex (Nicrophorinae) OR 9-17mm, head very narrow compared with the pronotum, elytra without punctured striae and front tibiae characteristic (Silphinae).

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Carrion and decaying fungi etc., often at light.

Rove Beetles

1100 species approx.

  • 0.9-30 mm

  • Most are elongate and have short elytra which leave the abdomen substantially exposed, Scydmaeninae, and to a lesser degree Scaphidiinae, are the exceptions but they are otherwise very distinctive.

  • Most morphological features vary between and within subfamilies but the various forms will soon become familiar.

  • Certain Omaliinae have two ocelli and in Metopsiinae there is a single ocellus.

  • Pselaphinae have clubbed antennae and some have hugely-developed palps.

  • In most scydmaeninae the elytra cover the abdomen, they are small, at most 2.1 mm, and generally distinct; all have 5-segmented tarsi, all coxae are distinctly separated and most have small pits along the base of the pronotum and a small terminal maxillary palpomere.

  • Tarsi various but never pseudotetramerous on all legs.

  • All habitats, many on wetland margins but no true aquatic species.

SCARABAEOIDEA

Dor Beetles

8 species

  • 7-26 mm

  • Very distinctive; mandibles projecting, eyes divided by a horizontal bar, antennae 11-segmented. Elytra very convex and covering abdomen.

  • Males of some species have horns.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Dung pasture and woodland, often at light.

Skin Beetles

3 species

  • 5-12mm

  • Antennae 10-segmented with a 3-segmented, internally-expanded club. Pronotal and elytral sculpture distinctive. mm

  • 5 visible sternites, epipleura wide to elytral apex.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Bird nests, bones and carrion, sometimes at light.

Stag Beetles

4 species

  • 9-75mm

  • Antennae geniculate with a loose lamellate club. Dorsal surface glabrous. Five visible abdominal sternites.

  • Sexually dimorphic, all very distinctive.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Decaying wood, often at light.

Scarab Beetles

84 species

  • 2.5-35 mm

  • Antennae 9- or 10- segmented with a tight lamellate club expanded internally. Six visible abdominal sternites.

  • Very variable.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Dung, roots, flowers, decaying organic matter, often at light.

SCIRTOIDEA

Plate-Thighed Beetles

1 species

  • 3.3-3.7 mm

  • Elongate-oval, broadest in front of the middle and continuous in outline, pronotum broadest across the base and rounded anteriorly, elytra striate.

  • [The tarsi will separate this species from superficially-similar melandryids etc, and the form of the pronotum from any elateroid group.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, all segments obvious, none bilobed.

  • Fungi, adults at flowers.

Fringe-Winged Beetles

10 species

  • 0.9-1.8 mm

  • Very convex, head strongly converging before and behind the eyes. Antennae 10-segmented with a 2-segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4, without bilobed segments.

  • Among decaying plant material.

Marsh Beetles

20 species

  • 2.0-5.5 mm

  • Soft-bodied, elongate-oval, pubescent, delicate filiform or weakly serrate antennae, pronotum very transverse, elytra without striae.

  • Only Scirtes is atypical - expanded hind femora and very long hind tibial spurs.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, usually with the fourth segment bilobed.

  • Mostly wetlands, damp wood and tree hollows.

DASCILLOIDEA

Orchid Beetles

1 species

  • 8-12 mm

  • Entirely brown and finely pubescent. Long filiform antenna. Pronotum transverse, sinuate across the base. Elytra without striae.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, with extensively bilobed segments.

  • Grassland.

BUPRESTOIDEA

Jewel Beetles

17 species

  • 2-13 mm

  • Head transverse with very large eyes, most species elongate and metallic. First antennal segment about as long as the second.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Woodland or shrubby vegetation.

BYRRHOIDEA

Pill Beetles

13 species

  • 1.5-10 mm

  • Continuous in outline, convex above and (less so) below. Antennae clubbed or gradually thickened, not geniculate. Elytra completely cover the abdomen. Legs flattened, tibiae with tarsal grooves. Legs retract tightly under the body.

  • Prosternal process reaches deeply into the mesosternum, middle coxae widely separated

  • Tarsal formula variable, 4-4-4 or 5-5-5.

  • Terrestrial, most habitats.

Riffle Beetles

12 species

  • 1.2-4.0 mm

  • Legs, and especially the tarsi, very elongate, the terminal tarsal segment long and thickened apically. Antennae usually filiform, palps much shorter than antennae – but see Macronychus. Elytra covering the abdomen, with striae and sometimes also longitudinal ridges.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Aquatic and wetlands.

Long-toed Water Beetles

9 species

  • 3.5-5 mm

  • Long-oval, entirely pale to dark brown. Antennae very short and highly modified, legs long and slender

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Aquatic and wetlands.

Minute Marsh-loving Beetles

1 species

  • 1.5-1.8 mm

  • Short pubescence forming wavy patterns, without elytral striae, antennae distinct; segments 9 and 10 quadrate or slightly transverse, segment 11 enlarged.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Wetland margins.

Mud-loving Beetles

8 species

  • 2-5 mm

  • Long-oval, discontinuous in outline, elytra patterned. Antennae short and highly modified, external margin of front tibiae with long teeth or spines.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4.

  • Wetland margins.

Water Penny Beetles

1 species

  • 2-2.6mm

  • Flattened and almost circular, antennae filiform or weakly serrate, elytra with strongly impressed and weakly punctured striae.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Wetland margins, permanently damp grassland and woodland.

Toe-winged Beetles

1 species

  • 3.5-5 mm

  • Eyes large and strongly convex, male antennae pectinate, female antennae weakly serrate, pronotum produced over the head, elytra with incomplete punctured striae.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, third segment strongly lobed but narrow.

  • Aquatic and wetlands.

ELATEROIDEA

False Click Beetles

7 species

  • 3-11 mm

  • Long-oval species, narrowed anteriorly and posteriorly, Melasis is the only exception. Labrum not visible from above, second antennomere inserted eccentrically on the basal segment.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Decaying wood.

Throscid Beetle

7 species

  • 1.5-4 mm

  • Long-oval species, narrowed anteriorly and posteriorly, entirely brown, pubescent, eyes notched anteriorly, antennae clubbed.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Mostly woodland but may be swept or netted in many situations.

Click Beetles

74 species

  • 1.5-21.0 mm

  • Long-oval species, narrowed anteriorly and posteriorly, colour very variable. Labrum visible from above, second antennomere inserted concentrically on the basal segment. Most with produced posterior pronotal angles and all with striate elytra.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Most habitats including wetland margins but never aquatic.

Net-winged Beetles

3 species

  • 5-13 mm

  • Head small and transverse. Ronotum broadest across the base. Elytra red or orange with distinct sculpture of longitudinal and transverse ridges.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, with some segments bilobed.

  • Decaying wood and surrounding vegetation.

Fireflies

3 species

  • 5-23mm

  • All stages glow to some extent, adults brightly so. Head covered by pronotum, sexually dimorphic, all readily identified from pictures.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Grassland and woodland pathways.

Soldier Beetles

41 species

  • 2-15 mm

  • Elongate, flattened and soft-bodied, usually colourful. Long filiform antennae, convex and prominent eyes. Very distinctive; even the small and obscure species are soon recognized as cantharids.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, with some bilobed segments.

  • Most habitats, especially open areas with lots of flowers.

DERODONTOIDEA

Tooth-necked Fungus Beetles

1 species

  • 1.5-2.6 mm

  • With a small ocellus beside each eye.  Antennae with a loose 3-segmented club, pronotum and elytra strongly punctured.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, three basal segments strongly lobed.

  • On conifer foliage especially pine.

BOSTRICHOIDEA

Larder Beetles

40 species

  • 1.5-11 mm

  • Very variable but the combination of clubbed antennae (sometimes highly modified) and very strongly sinuate pronotal base will place most species, all are distinctive and can be identified to genus by comparing with pictures. [Head with a dorsal ocellus, if not the underside with dense silky pubescence.]

  • Our two oddities are Thorictodes heydeni and Thylodrias contractus.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Wild and artificial habitats, sometimes indoors.

False Powderpost Beetles

5 species

  • 2-15 mm

  • Elongate, parallel-sided species. Head hypognathous. Elytra completely covering the abdomen. Antennae widely separated, with a 2- (Lyctus) or 3-segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Among decaying wood.

Spiderweb Beetles

56 species

  • 1.5-9.0 mm

  • To the generic level all are very distinctive, many have modified antennae, either pectinate, serrate or with the last three segments modified, and in most species they are closely approximated.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Mostly woodland, often indoors.

LYMEXYLOIDEA

Timberworm Beetles

2 species

  • 6-18 mm

  • Highly modified palps in male. Females superficially like cantharids but are more elongate, have shorter antennae and lack lobed tarsal segments.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Woodland and parkland.

CLEROIDEA

1 species

  • 2-3 mm

  • Distinctive colour and pattern. Pubescent and randomly punctured. Antennae 11-segmented with a long 3-segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, segments without lobes.

  • Woodland and parkland.

Bark-Gnawing Beetles

5 species

  • 2.7-11 mm

  • Very variable but all species very distinctive and easily recognized among our fauna. Elytra continuously rounded apically and covering the abdomen. Antennae 11-segmented, clubber or gradually thickened.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 4-4-5, never pseudotetramerous, terminal segment usually as long as the others combined.

  • Woodland or artificial conditions.

1 species

  • 4.5-6.5 mm

  • Elongate and randomly punctured, the clubbed antennae, large head and shield-shaped pronotum are distinctive.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, basal segments of front tarsi bilobed.

  • Stored product pest, very infrequent in the UK.

Checkered Beetles

14 species

  • 6-16 mm

  • Elongate, pubescent, patterned or brightly coloured. Elytra completely covering the abdomen, with punctured striae and continuously curved apically. Abdomen with six visible sternites. Antennae serrate, clubbed or, rarely, filiform.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with one or more lobed segments and without appendages below the claws.

  • Woodland, fungi, grassland, some stored product pests.

Soft-Winged Flower Beetles

9 species

  • 3-7 mm

  • Elongate, pubescent, elytra without striae. 11-segmented antennae to some extent serrate. [All abdominal sternites free. All lack the eversible visicles seen in Malachiidae.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with at most only weakly lobed segments.

  • Woodland and grassland.

Flower Beetles

17 species

  • 2-7 mm

  • Soft-bodied, elongate and mostly colourful, with 11-segmented, filiform or (usually) serrate antennae which sometimes have modified basal segments. Males, and some females, possess red or yellow eversible vesicles on the margins of the thorax. [All abdominal sternites free.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with at most only weakly lobed segments.

  • Woodland and grassland.

CUCUJOIDEA

Raspberry Beetles

2 species

  • 3.2-4.6 mm

  • Elongate, pubescent, head produced in front of convex eyes, antennae clubbed, pronotum explanate and impressed along the base

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with segments 1 and 4 small, 2 and 3 bilobed and the terminal segment as long as the others combined.

  • On flowers.

Dry Fungus Beetles

2 species

  • 1.2-2 mm

  • Two very different species, convex and pubescent with randomly punctured pronotum, striate elytra and 10-segmented antennae, in Aspidiphorus with a very long 3-segmented club, in Sphindus with a normal 3-segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 (males) or 5-5-5 (females).

  • Woodland etc, fungivores.

False Skin Beetles

2 species

  • 2.8-3.3 mm

  • Elongate and near parallel-sided, pubescent throughout, elytra with punctured striae, pronotum with a fine ridge parallel to the lateral margin. Antennae clubbed.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with the segments not strongly lobed.

  • Under bark or among fungi.

Pleasing Fungus Beetles

8 species

  • 2-7 mm

  • Clubbed antennae, striate elytra (except Cryptophilus integer). Most are elongate-oval, many are distinctively coloured.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • Among fungi or under bark.

Root Eating Beetles

23 species

  • 1.5-4.7 mm

  • Elongate form, compact antennal club, punctured elytral striae, exposed pygidium.

  • Two very distinctive genera; Rhizophagus glabrous with smooth pronotal margins, and Monotoma pubescent with toothed pronotal margins.

  • Tarsi appear 3- or 4-segmented, the last segment very long.

  • Woodland and decaying vegetation.

Silken Fungus Beetles

100 species approx.

  • 0.8-4 mm

  • Elongate except for Ootypus and Ephistemus, antennae usually clubbed, in many species inserted very close together, maxillary palpi diminutive.

  • In Cryptophagus, Henoticus and Micrambe the pronotal margins are characteristically toothed.

  • In Atomaria the antennae have some alternating long and short segments.

  • Our other genera are all distinctive in fine detail - always bear in mind the small size.

  • Many species have a characteristic rectangular scutellum.

  • [Front and hind coxal cavities widely open posteriorly, elytra continuously-rounded apically and completely covering the abdomen.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 in the male, 5-5-5 in the female.

  • Various terrestrial habitats, mostly among decaying wood and vegetation.

Grain Beetles

12 species

  • 2-7 mm

  • Very variable; antennae filiform to distinctly clubbed, pronotum with lateral teeth and/or produced anterior angles. Not continuous in outline; elytra elongate and broader across the shoulders than the base of the pronotum.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 in both sexes but may appear 4-segmented due to the small fourth segment.

  • Woodland, stored products and wetlands.

Flat Bark Beetles

2 species

  • 3.5-4.5 mm

  • Distinguished by the very flat body and the form of the last five antennal segments. Abdomen with 5 visible sternites.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 in male, 5-5-5 in female.

  • Under bark.

Shining Flower Beetles

16 species

  • 1.5-3.5 mm

  • Convex above, flat below, continuous in outline, glabrous and shiny. Elytra with at least a sutural stria. Antennae clubbed.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5.

  • On flowers.

Flat Beetles

9 species

  • 1.3-5.0 mm

  • Small size, elongate and very depressed form and filiform antennae are distinctive. All other superficially similar species have clubbed antennae.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 or 5-5-4 in males, 5-5-5 in females.

  • Under bark or among stored products.

False Pollen Beetles

9 species

  • 1.5-3.5 mm

  • Elytra without striae, antennae with elongate club, two or three abdominal segments exposed beyond the elytra.

  • [Elongate antennal club and exposed abdominal segments will distinguish from superficially similar members of the Nitidulidae.]

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with bilobed basal segments.

  • Wetland margins, grassland and flowers.

Pollen Beetles

92 species

  • 1.4-6.5 mm

  • Elongate-oval and rather depressed, compact antennal club (there are a few exceptions), pronotum transverse and with smooth lateral margins, elytra often near-truncate and usually exposing the abdominal apex, tibiae often toothed or spinose.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-5, often with various lobed segments.

  • Flowers, sap, carrion etc.

1 species

  • 1-1.5 mm

  • Black, globular and discontinuous in outline, pronotum without structure, elytra without striae, antennae clubbed.

  • [Abdomen with five ventrites - in nitidulids there are six. Clypeus not expanded - in clambids it is widely expanded in front of the eyes.]

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4.

  • Single UK record from birch.

Potato Beetles

5 species

  • 1.5-4.7 mm

  • Elongate and parallel-sided, pronotum long relative to the elytra which always completely cover the abdomen, pronotum smooth laterally, elytra striate. Clubbed antennae, short legs.

  • Anommatus are blind, Teredus have a 2-segmented antennal club.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4.

  • Decaying wood or in soil.

Minute Bark Beetles

5 species

  • 1.5-2.5 mm

  • Cerylon are distinctive; elongate with randomly-punctured head and pronotum and striate elytra which cover the abdomen, antennae clubbed, insertions visible from above black or red/brown. Murmidius have short ridges and antennal cavities on the anterior half of the pronotum.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4.

  • Decaying wood.

1 species

  • 1.4-1.7 mm

  • Oval, convex and pubescent, randomly punctured throughout, three segmented antennal club; the terminal segment rounded.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4 with the two basal segments bilobed.

  • Decaying wood, fungi.

Handsome Fungus Beetles

8 species

  • 1-6 mm

  • Pronotum with impressed lines or basal fovea. Very variable and only sensibly arrived at by reference to good pictures, this is a reasonable way to deal with the few UK species as each is very characteristic regarding colour, size and (especially) the form of the pronotum.

  • Tarsal formula 3-3-3 or 4-4-4.

  • Wood and fungi, a few occur indoors in damp cellars etc.

Ladybirds

55 species

  • 1.1-9.0 mm

  • Oval and rounded (2 exceptions are our species of Coccidula), elytra without striae. Larger species are usually glabrous and have longer antennae, many smaller species are pubescent and have shorter antennae, in most the antennal club is gradual and truncate.

  • [Some Phalacridae might be mistaken for the present group but they always have striate elytra.]

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4 but appear 3-segmented due to the tiny third segment hidden within the strongly-lobed second segment.

  • Various terrestrial habitats, sometimes indoors.

Hooded Beetles

11 species

  • 0.5-1.0 mm

  • Small size, continuous in outline, disproportionally large basal antennomere, antennal club long and sometimes ill-defined.

  • Tarsal formula 3-3-3 or 4-4-4-.

  • Decaying wood and vegetation.

Mould Beetles

57 species

  • 1.0-3.0 mm

  • Despite the morphological variety of our UK species as a whole, members of this family will soon be obvious by sight; they are small, elongate and discontinuous in outline, the forebody is usually narrow compared with the oval elytra, the head and pronotum are often sculptured and the elytra are striate, often with longitudinal ridges. Eyes prominent, the antennae are usually widely separated, long and slender with a large, often globose, basal segment and a loose, three segmented club.

  • Tarsal formula usually 3-segmented, sometimes the basal segments are lobed ventrally but none appear bilobed from above.

  • Decaying wood and vegetation, sometimes indoors where several are pests of stored products.

TENEBRIONOIDEA

Hairy Fungus Beetles

15 species

  • 1.8-6.0 mm

  • Elongate-oval and pubescent, antennae clubbed or gradually expanded towards the apex.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4 (males), 3-4-4 (females). All segments are plainly visible and there are no bilobed segments hiding smaller ones. 

  • Among fungi on decaying wood.

Tree Fungus Beetles

22 species

  • 1.0-4.0 mm

  • Elongate and very convex, antennae with one or two larger, globular segments at the base and a loose 3-segmented club, legs short and robust. Elytra randomly punctured or with irregular or indistinct striae.

  • Some Scolytinae are similar but here the antennae are different, they have a distinct scape and a compact club, many species have striate elytra and/or bilobed tarsomeres.

  • Tarsal formula 4-4-4, lacking bilobed segments (can appear 3-segmented).

  • In fungus.

Polypore Fungus Beetles

4 species

  • 3-6 mm

  • Elytra without striae and antennal club distinct and 4-segmented (Tetratominae) OR Hallomenus binotatus which is very different but can be recognized on sight (see picture).

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4.

  • Decaying wood, among fungi.

False Darkling Beetles

17 species

  • 2.5-16.0 mm.

  • Antennae never distinctly clubbed, insertions visible from above. Most species elongate and narrowed anteriorly and posteriorly. Osphya resembles a cantharid.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4.

  • Decaying timber, at fungi or sap, sometimes on flowers.

Tumbling Beetles

17 species

  • 2-9 mm

  • Head truncate, separated from the rounded pronotum by a narrow neck, abdomen produced into a style.Hind legs long and flattened.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4.

  • On flowers and decaying wood.

Wedge Beetles

1 species

  • 8-12 mm

  • Antennae, pronotum and strongly divergent elytra unique.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4.

  • Larvae develop in wasp nests, adults on flowers or near nests, often around buildings hosting nests.

Ironclad Beetles

12 species

  • 2.2-7.0 mm

  • Elongate and mostly parallel-sided, antennae distinctly clubbed except in the unmistakable Orthocerus, the insertions placed laterally in front of the eyes and always widely separated.

  • Most are distinctively coloured, many have pronotal sculpture, and all have striate elytra which cover the abdomen. Endophloeus and Langelandia are uniquely odd-looking.

  • Tarsal formula 3-3-3, 4-4-4 or 5-4-4.

  • Decaying wood, fungi.

Darkling Beetles

34 species

  • 1.5-30 mm

  • Very variable but antennal insertions always covered by lateral margin of head (although sometimes only partly so in members of Alleculinae).

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4.

  • Saproxylic, avian nests, beaches, flowers, several stored product pests.

False Oil Beetles

10 species

  • 5-13 mm

  • Elongate and narrow, the base of the pronotum narrower than the elytra across the shoulders. Eyes convex and prominent, antennae filiform

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 with the penultimate segment bilobed.

  • On flowers or at light.

Oil Beetles

10 species

  • 8-40 mm

  • Head with small eyes and broadly-rounded temples, antennae filiform (or nearly so)

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 without contrasting bilobed segments.

  • Terrestrial in a variety of habitats.

Palm Beetles

1 species

  • 5-10 mm

  • Elongate, suggestive of a weevil but with filiform antennae.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 with the penultimate segment strongly bilobed

  • Old records only, presumably long extinct in the UK. On flowers or bark.

Log bark Beetles

1 species

  • 7-16 mm

  • Elongate and very flattened, antennae filiform, pronotum with broad longitudinal impressions.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 without bilobed segments.

  • Pine bark.

Cardinal Beetles

3 species

  • 7-20 mm

  • Elytra red and smooth, without distinct structure. Pronotum broadest about the middle, elytra with broadly-rounded shoulders.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 with the penultimate segment bilobed.

  • Wooded areas and parkland.

Narrow Bark Beetles

11 species

  • 1.5-4.5 mm

  • Elongate and discontinuous, head about as wide as the pronotum, elytra long-oval with broad shoulders, broader than the pronotum. Eyes convex and prominent. Pronotum smooth or toothed laterally. Antennae inserted laterally in front of the eyes, clubbed or gradually widened. Some species rostrate.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 without bilobed segments.

  • Mostly saproxylic, Aglenus is a stored-product pest.

Ant Flower Beetles

13 species

  • 2.0-5.2 mm

  • Head prognathous and quadrate or nearly so, with distinct temples and a narrow neck, only Notoxus atypical with a thoracic horn.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4 with some segments lobed ventrally.

  • At flowers or among decaying vegetation.

Ant Leaf Beetles

3 species

  • 1.5-2.5 mm

  • Head hypognathous, antennae variable but not distinctly clubbed, short temples and without a distinct neck.

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4, without distinctly bilobed segments.

  • Decaying wood, often at light.

False Flower Beetles

14 species

  • 2.0-4.4 mm

  • Elongate and almost continuous in outline, head hypognathous with a truncate base delimited by an occipital crest (like Mordellids but without the abdominal style).

  • Tarsal formula 5-5-4, without bilobed segments.

  • On flowers and decaying wood.

The following groups are all distinctive but they vary a bit. There are a few exceptions but the vast majority can be recognized by the pseudotetramerous (5-segmented, but may look 4-segmented because a small segment is often obscured by the larger bilobed segment) tarsi and (in Curculionoidea) clubbed antennae or (in Chrysomeloidea) filiform or only gradually and weakly thickened antennae. Some weevils of the subfamily Scolytinae (bark beetles) do not have a bilobed third tarsomere but these are otherwise distinct - see below.

CHRYSOMELOIDEA

Longhorn Beetles

73 species

  • 2.5-53 mm

  • Filiform antennae - usually long - inserted on tubercles in front of the eyes, elytra without punctured striae. [First abdominal ventrite at most only slightly longer than the second.] Some Oedemeridae are often confused with longhorns but here the tarsi are 5-5-4.

  • At decaying wood or on flowers.

3 species

  • 2.5-3.6 mm

  • All distinctive, superficially like some Criocerinae but in all cases the form of the pronotum is distinct and there is no X-shaped impression on the frons. [All tibiae with two apical spurs.]

  • On tree and shrub foliage.

2 species

  • 4.4-8 mm

  • Distinctive, randomly punctured throughout, with large convex eyes, suggestive of various chrysomelids but without an X-shaped impression on the frons, in any case obvious from a careful inspection. [All tibiae with two apical spurs.]

  • On tree and shrub foliage.

Leaf Beetles

280 species approx.

  • 1.1-18 mm

  • Very variable but the filiform or only gradually thickened antennae and pseudotetramerous tarsi are a distinctive combination, bruchids look like weevils but the form and placement of the antennae are always diagnostic.

  • Herbaceous and woody vegetation, commonly on flowers.

CURCULIONOIDEA

Pine-flower Weevils

1 species

  • 3.0-5.5 mm

  • Long rostrum, orthocerous antennae. [Labrum articulated on the clypeus, all abdominal sternites free.]

  • Pine bark and flowers.

Fungus Weevils

11 species

  • 1.4-13 mm

  • Orthocerous antennae, usually clubbed - with these characters and with care all can be identified from comparison with pictures. [Labrum articulated on the clypeus, four basal abdominal sternites fused, pronotum at least partly bordered, third tarsomere often deeply embedded in the lobes of the second.]

  • Bark, foliage and flowers.

Leaf-rolling Weevils

20 species

  • 1.8-9 mm

  • Orthocerous antennae, always clubbed, mounted towards the middle or apex of the rostrum, elytra with punctured striae and lacking scales. [Claws connate OR mandibles with external teeth.]

  • Various broadleaf trees.

Straight-snouted Weevils

89 species

  • 0.7-4.5 mm

  • Clubbed, orthocerous antennae placed variously on a long and usually slender rostrum, colour and shape variable but always distinctive, as pictured. Nanophyinae have geniculate antennae but are very distinctive. [Trochanters long and obvious in side view.]

  • Wide range of plants, often at flowers.

True Weevils

520 species approx.

  • 1-17.5 mm

  • Very variable; with geniculate antennae except some Rhamphini, with a distinct rostrum except some Lixinae, Platypodinae and Scolytinae, with pseudotetramerous tarsi except for some scolytids and Platypodinae. In general all distinctive if the tarsal and antennal characters are remembered e.g. some scolytids may be confused with ciids but the clubbed geniculate antennae are diagnostic.  [Trochanters normal.]

  • Wide range or plants, some in decaying wood.

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