Melinopterus Mulsant, 1842
This Holarctic genus includes about 20 species (although the synonymy is extensive and confusing) of small to medium-sized dung beetles, The greatest diversity is in Asia; 2 species are native to North America while 12 occur in Europe and of these 4 extend north to the UK. Only 6 species are widespread in Europe, these include our UK species as well as M. reyi (Reitter, 1892), from southern and central Europe, and M. pubescens (Sturm, 1800) which is a more eastern species although it is also known from North Africa. M. stolzi (Reitter, 1906) is widespread in Southern Europe and extends to North Africa while M. guillebeaui (Reiller in Heydon, Reitter & Weise, 1891) is restricted to France and Austria, the rest are restricted to the Iberian Peninsula although 3 of these extend south into North Africa. Our UK species are readily recognized by the following combination of characters: Small to medium-sized species, 3-7 mm, elongate, parallel-sided or with elytra slightly dilated apically, and moderately convex. Head dark, with or without pale lateral marks to the clypeus, pronotum dark with pale lateral and sometimes also basal and/or apical margins, elytra pale brown or yellowish- or greyish-brown with variable but usually large diffuse darker areas, often extending across the disc and laterally towards the base, sutural margin always black, antennae dark with pale basal segments, legs brown or with paler tarsi. Clypeus obliquely expanded in front of the eyes and narrowed to a sinuate apical margin surface finely punctured, with or without a distinct frontoclypeal suture, and usually distinctly tuberculate in males. Pronotal surface evenly convex and with double punctation, at least towards the lateral margins, lateral and apical margins evenly curved, basal margin finely bordered, although this may be interrupted at the centre, produced back medially and weakly sinuate or straight towards the angles. Scutellum short, at most 10% of the sutural length. Elytra elongate and at most only slightly dilated from the shoulders, interstices weakly convex and finely punctured, the ninth not raised apically, striae complete and punctured except
Melinopterus sphacelatus 1
Melinopterus prodromus 1
Melinopterus consputus 1
Melinopterus punctatosulcatus 1
Melinopterus prodromus 2
Melinopterus sphacelatus 2
Melinopterus consputus 2
Melinopterus prodromus 3
for the eighth stria which is abbreviated before the base. The length of the eighth stria is important for identifying the species. In all cases the elytra are pubescent towards the apex but this is sometimes difficult to appreciate as it is weaker in females and tends to be missing in old specimens, in such cases specimens should be examined carefully in good light at X50. Legs long and robust. Middle and hind tibiae expanded apically, with two external ridges, apico-ventral spines of varying length and paired terminal spurs, front tibiae fossorial with three large external teeth in the apical half. All tarsal segments simple, the basal hind tarsomere not widened apically.
Our species may be determined as follows:
Eighth elytral stria longer, continuing almost to the apex of the scutellum where it often unites with the seventh stria.
Eighth stria shorter, ending well before the apex of the scutellum although there may be a few isolated punctures towards the base.
Posterior pronotal margin substantially pale. Very common species.
Posterior pronotal margin entirely black. Very rare, Kent only.
On average larger, 4.0-7.4 mm. Clypeus entirely dark or with some obscure paler areas but not with well-marked clear patches, punctures irregular and varying in size. Front tibial spur truncate in males. Very common species.
On average smaller, 3.5-5.5 mm. Clypeus dark with a well-defined pale patch about each lateral angle, punctures fine and evenly distributed. Very local in the south.
All species are active from late summer until late spring or early summer, they are often active during mild winter spells and tend to peak during May and again in September or October. All are associated with dung or decaying vegetation etc. and all may be found in open situations on well-drained chalky or sandy soils. Both sphacelatus and prodromus are among our commonest members of the subfamily, they may occur in almost any situation and are usually the first dung beetles to be seen in the spring, often in numbers flying in woodlands, parks and even town centres and gardens.
Melinopterus consputus (Creutzer, 1799)
Widespread and locally common throughout southern and central Europe from Portugal to Ukraine and Greece, including many of the Mediterranean islands, but rather more sporadic and scarce further north to the UK, Denmark and some of the southern Baltic countries, this species is otherwise generally common across much of the Palaearctic region from North Africa, the Middle east and Asia Minor to Siberia and Mongolia. In the UK it is very local and generally scarce in south eastern England and there are occasional records from the south west and the midlands but our own observations suggest it may be spreading. Adults occur from September until May; overwintering under dry dung or in the ground and peaking in abundance during early spring and autumn. Despite the species local occurrence it is usually common where it occurs, and it often occurs alongside similar and very common species such as M. prodromus or M. sphacelatus. The typical habitat is open dung pasture on well-draining chalky or sandy soils although adults may also occur among dung on woodland borders and bridle paths etc. and they have been recorded from decaying vegetation. Breeding occurs in spring and early summer and larvae develop rapidly and pupate among dung. New generation adults occur from early September when they often appear in numbers flying over pasture on warm afternoons or crawling on the surface of older dung pats. Adults may be sampled from dung at any time during their season, during the warmer months they soon appear in fresh dung, during the winter among old and dry pats and they sometimes appear in numbers among flood refuse.
3.5-5.5 mm. Elongate and moderately convex, forebody dark with pale markings, elytra yellowish-brown with diffuse darker markings, antennae dark with several basal segments contrastingly pale, legs pale brown. Clypeus dark with a well-defined pale lateral patch, obliquely and moderately strongly expanded in front of the eyes and narrowed to a sinuate apical margin, surface finely and evenly punctured throughout. Posterior clypeal margin in males with three distinct tubercles, the median more developed, and an indistinct frontoclypeal suture, females with tubercles barely suggested but with a distinct frontoclypeal suture. Pronotum dark with pale lateral margins, sometimes also with the apical and basal margins narrowly pale, surface evenly convex and with a mixture of larger and very fine punctures although in males the larger punctures tend to be absent from the disc, posterior angles rounded and basal margin sinuate medially and oblique towards the angles. Elytra with complete punctured striae and weakly convex interstices, the eighth stria abbreviated at the base; much shorter than the seventh and ending well before the scutellum (sometimes there are a few finer punctures towards the base but these do not form a complete stria, examine both sides), colour variable, pale with the suture darkened but otherwise without well-defined dark marks. The elytra are very finely pubescent towards the apex but this wears very easily and may be absent on older specimens.
Melinopterus prodromus (Brahm, 1790)
This widespread Western Palaearctic species is generally common throughout Europe, extending north into the UK and central provinces of Fennoscandia, it is widespread in North West Africa and to the east it reaches Central Asia and Mongolia, and it is now widely established across the United States and Canada following introductions from Europe. In much of Central and Northern Europe it occurs in all but the higher mountain areas and is among the commonest members of the subfamily, in the UK it is generally abundant throughout England and Wales though less so in the north, and more local and scarce in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Adults occur year-round and are often among the first beetles seen in flight, they sometimes swarm in woodland or on moorland during February and March and may often be seen in town centres, parks and gardens, they remain common through spring and early summer and peak again, though less so, during late summer and autumn. Typical habitats are woodland, parkland and moorland; they are often common on dung pasture but are much more eurytopic than many other dung species. Adults are general dung feeders and might occur on any type of dung in most situations (although they are sometimes said to occur only rarely in cow dung) but they also more polyphagous and occur among compost and decaying vegetation generally. While adults are often associated with dung, the larvae are reported as obligate detritivores which develop in spring and early summer and pupate towards the end of summer and in early autumn to produce new-generation adults which will go on to overwinter. Adults may be sampled from early spring until November or December although care must be taken because they often occur among numbers of the closely similar M. sphacelatus (Panzer, 1798), they are often present among winter flood refuse and occasionally appear among extraction samples from a wide range of not too wet habitats.
4.0-7.0mm. Head black or obscurely paler anteriorly, pronotum black with yellow lateral margins which may continue narrowly across the anterior margin but which do not, or only very slightly, extend across the base, elytra pale brown or yellowish with a variable and usually obscure darker marking which extends narrowly from below the shoulders and expands across the disc towards the apex, legs pale to dark brown, usually darker towards the apex of the tibiae and tarsomeres, antennae substantially dark. Head produced and distinctly angled in front of the eyes and slightly sinuate across the anterior margin, surface very finely punctured and smooth, lacking a fronto-clypeal suture. Pronotum curved or slightly sinuate laterally to rounded anterior angles (from above) and obtuse posterior angles, surface with a mixture of very fine and much larger punctures. Elytra with punctured striae complete to the apex, the eighth beginning between 1.5 and 2X the scutellar length from the base and not uniting with the base of the seventh stria, interstices slightly convex and finely punctured throughout and with distinct pubescence towards the apex, sometimes only visible laterally. The longer apical spur on the middle and hind tibiae is distinctly shorter than the basal tarsomere and the terminal spur on the front tibiae is dimorphic, truncated in the male and normal in the female.
Melinopterus punctatosulcatus (Sturm, 1805)
This species occurs throughout most of the northern Palaearctic region from Portugal to Mongolia. The synonymy is very complicated but there seem to be two widespread subspecies: M. p. hirtipes (Fischer von Waldheim, 1844) is mostly eastern, extending west into Fennoscandia, where it reaches the Arctic Circle, and eastern Europe, while the nominate subspecies occurs in Western Europe and North Africa, extending east to Ukraine and north to Germany and the UK. Both subspecies occur sporadically throughout the range and both seem to be generally scarce although they may sometimes be overlooked as both are easily confused with the widespread and abundant M. prodromus, with which they often occur. The species was for many years considered likely to be extinct in the UK but it was recently rediscovered at Deal in Kent after an absence of more than 70 years, see https://morethanadodo.com/tag/dung-beetles/ Adults occur from September to May and may be found by searching among herbivore dung, especially sheep dung on light chalky or sandy soils.
4.6 mm. Forebody, except for the lateral and apical pronotal margins, scutellum and elytral suture black, elytra brown with darker markings, these vary from well-defined and extensive with only pale humeral and discal spots or stripes, to diffusely darker areas across the base and on the disc, antennae dark with at least some paler basal segments, legs brown with darker tarsi. Clypeus obliquely expanded in front of the eyes then narrowed to a sinuate apical margin, surface finely punctured throughout. Frontoclypeal suture tuberculate in males. Pronotum transverse, evenly curved laterally to slightly protruding anterior angles and rounded posterior angles, apical margin weakly curved, basal margin produced medially and finely bordered, surface with large and very fine punctures, the larger punctures sometimes almost absent from the disc. Pronotal colour varies; the anterior angles and lateral margins are always yellow although this may not continue to the base, the apical margin may be narrowly yellow but the basal margin is always dark (this will separate the species from M. sphacelatus in which the basal margin is pale.) Elytra elongate and slightly dilated from rounded shoulders to a continuous apical margin, with complete punctured striae except for the eighth which is abbreviated near the apex of the scutellum where it almost unites with the seventh stria (in M. prodromus the eighth stria ends well before the scutellary apex), interstices very weakly convex and finely punctured, surface pubescent towards the apex, examine at X50 as this is not always obvious in females or in older specimens.
Melinopterus sphacelatus (Panzer, 1798)
A common and often abundant species from lowlands to the alpine zone throughout Europe and North West Africa, extending north to the UK and reaching the Arctic Circle in Fennoscandia, it occurs throughout Western Russia but probably does not reach as far as Central Asia. In the UK it is generally common throughout England and Wales with the exception of much of the West Country and widespread though very local and scarce through Scotland and Northern Ireland. Adults occur year-round, they are active over a very long season from early spring and peak in abundance in May and June and again, though less so, in October and November. They are often the first beetles observed in flight in the spring, often in woodland or parkland but also in gardens and more generally, at this time they often swarm in company with M. prodromus (Brahm, 1790) and more often than not remote from dung pasture, when the weather warms up they become common on pasture and soon appear in abundance in dung of all kinds. Large numbers of adults may be found in dung during spring and autumn but they are also frequent in compost and decaying organic matter generally and they continue to fly through the summer. Mating occurs in the spring and larvae develop through spring and summer to produce the autumn generation of adults that will overwinter, but while it is likely that larvae may develop in dung they are more likely to more widely polyphagous and develop among compost and decaying matter generally. Adults may be sampled in a range of habitats from early spring until the winter although they become scarce during the warmest part of the summer, during the winter they may be common in flood refuse and they occasionally appear in extraction samples, in our local South Hertfordshire woodland they appear in grass tussocks through the winter, often in numbers and sometimes along with M. prodromus.
4.0-6.4 mm. Head black or diffusely slightly paler anteriorly, pronotum black with yellow lateral margins which extend narrowly across the apical margin and to some extent across the base but usually not meeting at the centre, elytra pale brown with a very variable and usually diffuse darker marking that extends narrowly from below the shoulder and broadens out across the disc to just before the apex, legs pale to dark brown, usually with the femora and apices of the tibiae and tarsomeres darker, antennae substantially dark. Head widely transverse (from above), distinctly and slightly obtusely angled in front of the eyes and very slightly sinuate across the anterior margin, surface shiny and sparsely and very finely punctured, in most specimens with a distinct fronto-clypeal suture although this may be weak or interrupted at the middle. Pronotum transverse, laterally rounded to obscure anterior angles and straight or slightly sinuate before obtuse posterior angles, lateral and basal margins finely bordered, surface with a mixture of very fine and much less numerous larger punctures. Elytra with distinct punctured striae complete to the apex, the eighth striae beginning near the level of the apex of the scutellum and joining, or almost joining, the base of the seventh, interstices weakly convex and finely punctured, in most specimens with distinct pubescence in the apical half, this is often rubbed and only visible laterally. The longer spur on the middle and hind tibiae is slightly shorter than the basal tarsal segment, and the terminal spur on the anterior tibiae is tapered to a point in both sexes.