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Beetles

Beetles are the largest group of insects, with about 400,000 known species around the world.

Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, meaning ‘sheath winged’, which refers to their hardened forewings. Beetles range in size from 0.25mm to more than 17cm in length, and occur in almost every habitat.

One in four of all known animal species worldwide is a beetle. About 4,000 beetle species are found in the British Isles, of which about 2,600 occur in Scotland.

Most of Scotland remains poorly surveyed, however, and knowledge of our beetle fauna as a whole is patchy and incomplete.

Ecosystem roles

Beetles fulfil a range of roles in a healthy ecosystem, for example:

  • many beetles are important pollinators
  • dung beetles (especially scarabs) remove carcasses and vast quantities of dung from the environment
  • carabid beetles can act as natural pest controllers for our crops and gardens

Problem species

Beetles that can do damage in Scotland include:

  • heather beetle – which strips vegetation
  • harlequin ladybird – a non-native invasive species that competes with our native species

Threats to beetles

Simplification of our arable ecosystems has reduced the number of useful beetle predators in our fields. Today, strips of grass may be deliberately left undisturbed in fields as beetle banks, in a bid to remedy this.

Some species in Scotland are of special conservation concern.

Find out about these on the NBN Atlas Scotland website:

Protection of beetles

Find out about our protected species of invertebrate.

Learn about protected invertebrate species and licensing.

Record sightings

Find out how to submit records of harlequin ladybird sightings on the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.