Natural History Notes

The Devil’s Coach Horse

PICTURE: Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle, Ocypus olens,

Brankley Pastures Nature Reserve, Staffordshire,

9th April, 2016 on a DNHS outing - Photo by Bill Grange

We found two of these formidable 2.5 centimetre long beetles under logs in different parts of the reserve.

This aptly named beetle is the largest species found in Britain of the huge (in terms of species) Staphylinidae family, colloquially known as rove beetles. These characteristically have extremely short wing cases, leaving the abdomen exposed.

The Devil’s coach Horse is a predator of all kinds of small creatures, including worms, slugs and other insects. It is reasonably common throughout Britain.

Here, not surprisingly, it is demonstrating its threat posture, its huge jaws agape and the abdomen raised, at the tip of which are exposed two white stink glands.

Bill Grange


PICTURES: Phasia Hemiptera - left: male, alongside the Caldon Canal,  Staffordshire (on a survey walk for the DNHS one two weeks later), 27th July 2015 - right: female, Pleasley Pits Nature Reserve, Derbyshire, 8th August 2015. Below right: Forest Shield Bug, Pentatoma rufipes. Photos by Bill Grange

This is one of a small group of distinctive Tachinid flies. The specimen seen on 27th July was the first Steve Plant and I had encountered. This species is strongly sexually dimorphic, meaning that the female is different in form from the more colourful male. It is reasonably common in the southern half of Britain

A parasite of shield bugs, the known hosts including the Green Shield Bug and Forest Shield Bug. The female lays her eggs on these insects and the larvae then develop inside the living host.

Bill Grange