Quantock Mini Beasts

As April gives way to May and the weather warms  it’s well worth looking out for some of the Quantock’s smaller and lesser known animals that hunt out on the open heathland. These are the predatory beetles. Many beetles feed on leaves and flowers but others are very efficient hunters chasing down and eating anything smaller than themselves.

The top, apex predator, beetle hunter on our hills is the Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris.  Up to 17mm long and a wonderful metallic green and with very big eyes, these beetles can be found hunting on the bare on paths and tracks. This is a very fast moving beetle, they run and fly extremely fast, hunting for anything that crosses the open ground they are patrolling. I have seen them jump on flies, ants, beetles and also small worms. Their great speed makes them a great ambush predator. Their great speed can also it hard for the human eye to follow. Green Tiger Beetles can be found on all the higher ground on Quantock where ever there is bare ground.

Glow Worm Lampyris noctiluca

Another predatory beetle, but much slower moving, is the Glow Worm Lampyris noctiluca. The male beetle is a fairly typical beetle-shaped beetle, and they are slim and brown. But the females look like some sort of strange small caterpillar, they don’t have wings or wing cases, and it’s also the female that does the glowing. They can be found, at night, sitting on bare ground on the edge of paths and tracks with the tip of their abdomen aglow hoping to lure in males to mate with them. The reason Glow Worms don’t have to be fast running predators is because they feed on small snails.

There are many other largish predatory beetles found across the Quantocks including the Violet Ground Beetle Carabus violaceus which eats anything a bit smaller than itself including slugs, the Snail killing Beetle Ablattaria laevigata, another one specializing in eating snails and the Devil’s Coach-horse Ocypus olens which hunts small insects mainly at night.

Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagoycha fulva

The orangey-red Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagoycha fulva, which you can often find in large numbers siting on flowers during summer, is supposedly a vegetarian feeding on pollen but if a small insect gets too close they will often turn predator and pounce and eat it.

If you want to learn more about these “mini beasts” when out on the hills you have to walk reasonably slowly, and keep your eyes firmly on the ground to have chance to see, and get familiar, with these small but highly efficient predators.

Written by Nigel Phillips