Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seaside beetle

We found this little black snail beetle Silpha atrata, about 1cm. long with beautifully sculptured patterns on its elytra, on Warkworth sand dunes in Northumberland this afternoon.

It's a specialist feeder on snails, with a long narrow head that fits comfortably inside a snail shell opening. Apparently it bites the snail first, with poisonous fangs, causing the snail to withdraw into the shell and secrete bubbles of mucus, which the beetle chews through when it forces its way in to feed on its victim. There's no shortage of Cepaea snails on the dunes for it to feed on. You can see it in action by clicking here and  clicking here

Sounds like the kind of beetle I could do with in my garden, to combat the snail menace.

There aren't many insects about yet, as the promised spring has yet to deliver much warmth, but this is a beetle species that's most often seen in late winter and very early spring. 


  1. Great photo. We saw our first 7-spot ladybirds and Gorse Shield Bugs this last w/e at Minsmere. Also two tiny iridescent beetles (like mini Dock Beetles) in the mossy undergrowth.

  2. Hi Caroline, So far this year I've only seen a couple of drone flies and one bumblebee (today)- slowest start to the season that I can remember!