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Devil's Coach-Horse Beetles

Identify It >   Invertebrates Section >   Beetle Section >   Devil's Coach-Horse Beetles >

Scientific name:  Staphylinus olens

Size:  Grows to a length of around 28mm

Distribution:  Found throughout the UK

Months seen:  April to October.  Most sightings in late summer and early autumn

Life Span:  Approximately 9 - 12 months

Habitat:  Woodlands, meadows, gardens and hedgerows

Food:  Insects, spiders, worms and woodlice

Special features:  The Devil's Coach-horse Beetle is one of around 1000 species of 'rove' beetles found in the UK.  It is a fast moving beetle which is capable of flight, but prefers to spend most of its life on the ground.

The other popular name for this beetle is 'Cocktail', because of its habit of raising its tail like a scorpion (see photos above) when it feels threatened.  For extra effect it usually opens and closes it's large jaws.  The 'Devil's Coach-horse' name came from Irish mythology where this particular beetle was considered symbol of corruption.  It was believed to have the power to kill on sight, and that it would eat sinners.  When the beetle raised its tail, it was thought to be casting a curse.

It cannot sting like a scorpion, but it does have another, rather bizarre defense mechanism.  At the end of its abdomen are a pair of white glands which can emit a foul smell.  It can also squirt a stinking brown fluid from its mouth and anus.

The Devil's Coach-horse is a carnivorous insect, feeding on other insects and other small creatures.  Its large pincer-like jaws are used to crush and kill its prey.

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