It's good to bee back! Beetle not seen in UK for more than a century spotted on the South Coast after hitching ride across the Channel from bees
14:57 GMT, 14 December 2012
A species of beetle thought to be extinct for more than 100 years has been spotted on the South Coast – after flying back to the UK on the back of a bee.
The Mediterranean oil beetle was last seen in Essex in 1906, and it was believed that it had simply died out.
But the insect has now been spotted on National Trust land between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail on the Devon coast.
It is thought the parasite beetle may have travelled back to England on bees flying across the English Channel; their larvae are parasites of several species of ground nesting bee.
Back in black: The Mediterranean oil beetle had not been seen recorded anywhere in the country since it was spotted in Kent in 1906
Bright future: The larvae of the Mediterranean oil beetle on a flower on the South Devon coast
Though experts say the nocturnal animals are difficult to spot and there is a chance it might not actually have been extinct – and the beetle has been here for decades unnoticed.
Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager for the charity Buglife, said the large matt-black beetle was between two and three centimetres long.
Fab five: The discovery takes the total number of oil beetles species in the UK to five
Mr Whitehouse said they were nocturnal and difficult to find and were last seen in Essex in 1906.
He said: 'We have been studying the beetles in south Devon intensely for the last two years.
'We saw one that looked a bit different but it had previously been misidentified as a Rugged oil beetle.
'I investigated further and was amazed to find that they were a long-lost species.'
He said the discovery of the 'fascinating'' beetles is 'great news' and took the total number of oil beetles species in the UK to five.
He said the beetle may have been alive and well undetected in the south west for decades or may have recolonised more recently.
Mr Whitehouse said oil beetles were reliant on bees to complete their life cycle and so acted as an 'early warning system' for the state of the bee population.
The Mediterranean oil beetle's larvae are parasites of a number species of bee.
The female beetle lays her eggs close to bee colonies which eventually hatch to allow the active larvae to climb onto flowers and wait for a suitable bee before being flown to a burrow to develop.
Mr Whitehouse added: 'As bees have declined, beetles have disappeared. if the bees are in trouble, beetles are the first thing to go.'
Andy Foster, biological survey team leader at the National Trust, said: 'This is remarkable following the discovery of the rare short-necked oil beetle from the same area of South Devon only a few years ago, and demonstrates the value of detailed studies which can lead to such unexpected results.
'One can't help feeling there are other colonies out there just waiting to be found it's crucial that we understand where these threatened species survive and understand more about their habitat requirements.'
New find: The insects had been previously misidentified as rugged oil beetles
Experts say the beetle may have been carried back tot he UK by bees
The beetles were spotted on National Trust land between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail (pictured) on the Devon coast