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Ground beetles and rove beetles

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last updated Feb 4, 2014
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Violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Not all insects are pests. There are some that are beneficial by eating other small garden creatures, some of which may be pests.

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What are they? Back to top

Two soil-dwelling beetle families are primarily gardener’s friends: ground beetles (carabids) and rove beetles (staphylinids). Adults and larvae of most species in these families eat insects, slugs and other invertebrate animals. There are about 345 species of carabids and 980 species of staphylinid beetles in Britain

Rove beetles have elongate bodies with short wing-cases that leave most of the abdominal segments uncovered. They are 2-30mm (up to 1¼in) long and generally black or brown in colour. The matt black devil’s coach horse (Staphylinus olens) is one of the larger rove beetles and is often found under logs or pots. A smaller species, Atheta coriaria, is bred and supplied as a biological control for fungus gnat larvae in glasshouses.

Ground beetles are 2-25mm (up to 1in) long and mostly black but some are brown or green. Most feed at ground level, but some will climb plants to feed on aphids and small caterpillars. One common garden species, the violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus), has metallic-purple edges to the wing-cases and thorax. Being one of the bigger carabids, 20-25mm long, it will feed on larger garden pests, such as slugs, leatherjackets and cutworms. Its long legs and powerful jaws mark it out as an active predator.

Biology Back to top

Ground beetles and rove beetles typically;

  • Lay eggs in the soil or in accumulations of organic matter
  • Have larvae which are elongate, relatively soft-bodied grubs that have three pairs of legs near the head end
  • Have a head, thorax and usually some of the abdominal segments which are brown or black but the underside is creamy white
  • Have larvae which remain in the soil or leaf litter, where they feed on small invertebrate animal and their eggs
  • As adult beetles, especially of ground beetles, are much more active and may be seen running over the soil surface

Quick facts

Common name Ground beetles or carabids and rove beetles or staphylinids
Scientific name Numerous species (over 1300)
Where found Mainly on or in the soil
What do they do Mainly predatory beetles that feed on insects and other small invertebrate animals
Most active: March to October

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