Devil’s coach horse

A Devil’s coach horse (Ocypus olens) was found and identified in Kestrel Field yesterday by Sarah Gould. Ocypus olens is a swiftly-moving ground beetle species and this one was moving so swiftly that Sarah was unable to get anything more than a blurred, but perfectly identifiable, picture which we sent to Ian for confirmation. This is a new species for the reserve’s comprehensive lists

The Devil’s coach horse is a long, black beetle, a nocturnal predator that feeds on a range of invertebrates including worms, slugs, caterpillars, spiders and woodlice. Sarah wrote, sounding quite nervous, “It was really rather big, at least two inches long. It had its tail curled up when I first saw it, like a scorpion’s tail.”

[1] Sarah’s blurred picture of a fast-moving Devil’s coach horse; [2] Devil’s coach horse larva.

If it feels threatened, a Devil’s coach horse will adopt this aggressive, scorpion-like position with raised rear end and open jaws. If the threat persists, it squirts a foul-smelling fluid from its abdomen. But beware: a Devil’s coach horse can also give a painful bite with its strong pincer-like jaws.

The species is capable of flying, despite its short wing cases, which cover only its thorax. Those of a nervous disposition might be pleased to know that it is rarely seen in the air, much preferring to run along the ground.

Females lay their eggs in the soil, where they hatch into wingless carnivorous larvae which pupate as the summer ends, and overwinter as pupae among the leaf litter. The new generation of adults will emerge the following spring.

The Devil’s coach horse is a member of the rove beetle family, of which there are more than 1,000 species in the UK.

5 thoughts on “

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  1. Looking at your post about the coach horse beetle I found one in the park in 2018 and even took a photo of it. I will send you the photo on here it is dated 2018 kind regards Chris Seymour.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Though, I wasn’t nervous. I love bugs and critters and am always happy to encourage them out of harms way. I’m just so lucky to live where I do so I can be surrounded by such diverse wildlife. Let’s hope we see some more of these larger critters! 🐜

  3. Many years ago when I lived in Kent, devil’s coach horse beetles were often seen in the house. If my baby daughters bib fell to the floor after feeding her, it would not be long before one of these beetles could be seen eating any food dropped on it!

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