Tag Archives: Beetle

2021 Round-up

Although I’ve been quiet on here recently, I’ve been making quite a lot this last couple of months. I’m going to use this post to share some personal highlights!

I upload most things onto my Instagram and everything onto my YouTube channel. I also have a Twitter and a TikTok account, if those are more your thing!


8-Bar Beetle Songs

“Why is no one making music about beetles?!” Well now they are!… or at least I am.

In September 2021, I produced my first mini-album of songs about beetles, ‘8-Bar Beetle Songs‘, and I am in the process of releasing the final couple of tracks of ‘8-Bar Beetle Songs II: Introductions‘!

8-bar beetle songs artwork and an assortment of pixel art beetles and instruments
The album artwork for ‘8-Bar Beetle Songs’ and ‘8-Bar Beetle Songs II: Introductions’ was created by Alicia Hayden. The pixel art was created by myself.

I’ve used the songs as an opportunity to learn how to produce my own music in my room and to celebrate the extraordinary diversity of beetles! There have been many challenges, but I’ve had a huge amount of fun!

For the first series I picked whatever species I felt like making music about, but for the second I’ve tried to tie them together under the theme of ‘introductions’: introduced beetle species, beetles affected by introductions, and species who I think people won’t have heard of! In fact most of the species were completely new to me when I wrote their songs!

Keep your ears open for the release of the last couple of tracks!

Short Songs

I have also produced a number of short songs about wider ecology, and how humans interact with nature.

I have already released a handful of new short songs since the beginning of this year, but my favourite from 2021 is ‘This Meadow‘ – a song about a walk in North Yorkshire.

Short Films

I have also featured in (and composed music for) a handful of Short Films by Alicia Hayden. You can watch them using the menu at the top of this page. My personal favourites were ‘Looking for Lapwings’ and ‘A Song for Maria’.

A lanternfly with the text A Song for Maria a film by Alicia Hayden, and Will Pearce on a bench with the text Looking for Lapwings
My two favourite short films that I have been a part of over the last few months have been (left to right) ‘A Song for Maria’ and ‘Looking for Lapwings’.

Looking for Lapwings is a 5-minute film where Alicia introduces me to the moors of North Yorkshire – it came “Second Place” in Hen Harrier Day’s Young Filmmaker Challenge 2021, and was awarded an “Honourable Mention” in Adventure Uncovered’s Film Festival 2021, super short category.

In A Song for Maria I was given the opportunity to visit the Oxford University Museum of Natural History’s Library and look at one of Maria Sibylla Merian’s books (‘The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname,’ published 1705), to find inspiration for a new piece of music. At the end of the film I perform this song live to a (very forgiving!) crowd of friends and family – my first ever live performance of my own music! You can listen to the song here.

This short film was created as part of Alicia’s Masters in Wildlife Filmmaking at the University of the West of England. I cannot thank her enough for offering me this opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History Library for letting us visit and film in their beautiful building, as well as Lady Margaret Hall for allowing me to perform in the lovely Talbot Hall.


I have published 3 blog posts so far, about 3 very different beetle species – if you haven’t already, please check them out! I hope that you discover something you didn’t know before!

green tiger beetle larva, common red soldier beetle, and grooved water scavenger beetle in triptic
My three blog posts so far have been on (clockwise from left) the Green Tiger Beetle, the Common Red Soldier Beetle, and Helophorus brevipalpis.

In the future, the blog is where I’ll put updates about my work, as well as the occasional beetle post!

An enormous thank you to Alicia Hayden. I am indebted to Alicia for the artwork she has provided for the blog and the music I have written, and for the films we have made together. She has offered me so many wonderful opportunities this last year and I can’t wait to see where next year takes us both! I have provided links to Alicia’s social media below:

Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha Fulva in Flight

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Beetle

Common Red Soldier Beetle (Rhagonycha fulva)

Names aren’t easily come by when you’re a beetle – even in the UK, where coleopterists have been documenting beetle diversity for hundreds of years, only about 5% of beetles have common names. The reason of course being that experts don’t tend to give out common names, that’s the job of the general public – you and me! So from now on, I’ll be handing out names in an attempt to address this. If you have any suggestions or know of any previously suggested names that sadly never caught on, please do share them with me!

The reason I bring up the issue of names is because the beetle I want to talk about today has more than its fair share of them. This is fortunate not only because its scientific name, Rhagonycha fulva,is a bit of a mouthful, but also because these names give us a descriptive, memorable, and entertaining look into the life of a rather charming beetle.

Common Red Soldier Beetle

The most widely used English name for this beetle is the ‘Common Red Soldier Beetle’: ‘Common’, because they’re found in abundance; ‘Red’, because they’re orange; and ‘Soldier’ because the bright colours are reminiscent of the uniforms of British Soldiers in days gone by.

It’s not just in English that we seem a bit off with our description of the colour – across Europe, the colours red, yellow, and ‘red-yellow’ come up consistently. This is because the word ‘orange’, much like the fruit, is a (relatively) recent arrival in here Europe.

The Hungarian name, ‘Feketevégű lágybogár’, means ‘black-tipped soldier beetle’, and is a reference to the dip-dyed ends of the elytra.


An unexpected trend is that in most European languages our beetles are not ‘soldiers’ but ‘soft-wings’. In Germany they call them ‘Weichkäfer’ or ‘soft beetles’, and here in the UK we have the name ‘Leatherwings’. The reason being that soldier beetles have weaker exoskeletons than most other beetles.

Why did people know this? Did people regularly squish beetles? Did they closely examine their pliable wings? Were soldier beetles crushed and used by apothecaries as an aphrodisiac (much like the Spanish Fly, Lytta vesicatoria)?

These questions haunt my dreams – if anyone happens to know the answers, please tell me!

Bloodsucker Beetle

The English name ‘Bloodsucker’ is likely a reference to the striking colouration. Alternatively, it could refer to the menacing maggot-like larvae, which predate slugs, caterpillars, and other small invertebrates.

That being said, its not ‘blood’ that the Soldier Beetle larvae are after, but haemolymph (a green fluid – more on that another time). Additionally, they don’t so much ‘suck’ as mash their food. Still a nice name I suppose.

Hogweed Bonking Beetle

For some observers, the anatomy of the Common Red Soldier Beetle was not what made the biggest impression, and thanks to these individuals we have some of the best names of all.

In English we have the ‘Hogweed Bonking Beetle’ – ‘Hogweed’ being a preferred landing platform and feeding station for the beetle, and ‘Bonking’ being a very important (and popular) activity among Soldier Beetles.

For the best name of all we have to go to Norway, where we meet the ‘Prestebille’, or ‘Priest Beetle’, so named for their evident devotion to a life of celibacy!

Whatever you choose to call them (please let it be Priest Beetle), let it mean something.

Thanks for reading!

“We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save” – Robert Macfarlane, author of ‘The Lost Words.’

Illustration by Alicia Hayden – https://aliciahaydenwildlifephotography.zenfolio.com/

Sources and wider reading:

Beetles in the Birdbath

Birdbath Beetle (Helophorus brevipalpis)

For one afternoon my favourite animal was a Grooved Water Scavenger Beetle.

… really?

I mean, beetles are already a relatively niche interest (here in the UK at least), but a ‘grooved water scavenger’ one… what does that even mean?

Last winter, my dad and I decided to take on a more ‘rewilding-focused’ approach to managing the garden, and by the summer the garden was a jungle of unexpected species. The approach had certainly worked well for some areas, but the birdbath was in a sorry state: on the surface was a dusting of organic debris; at the bottom, a thick film of rust. I was about to fish some fallen flowerheads out, when I noticed a golden gleam moving beneath the muck.

A tiny, copper speck was shuffling about in the rust. Now that I had my eye in, I realised these little beasts were everywhere – swimming around, covered in muck, making the most of whatever nutrition they could find at the bottom of the birdbath. None of them seemed like they were in any hurry, and whenever they came up to breathe, they would get glued to the surface of the water by surface tension – if I hadn’t seen them diving already, I probably would have rescued a handful of the struggling individuals and felt really good about myself after! (It turns out that many Helophorus species are unable to dive from the water surface, and instead have to clamber down emergent vegetation)

Grooved Water Scavenger Beetle (Helophorus brevipalpis) by Alicia Hayden

My new friends turned out to be Grooved Water Scavenger Beetles (my best guess would be Helophorus brevipalpis) – a relatively common family of beetles with grooves down their elytra, which will happily colonise an ephemeral (temporary) pool. For those who can find ephemeral pools, such bodies of water provide abundant nutrients and warmth, without the hassle of predatory species. In fact, I didn’t see any other species in the birdbath (not including the countless microscopic individuals undoubtedly helping the beetles in breaking down the detritus). In case I hadn’t made it clear enough, these beetles are real opportunists – they’ll happily occupy any stagnant puddle, or rockpool, anything they can get their tarsi on!

Helophorus eggs are laid in the ground, in a silk-spun satchel with a spindly ‘mast’. The threads in the mast trap air, so that in the event of flooding the mast rises up out of the sediment, providing the eggs with oxygen. The larvae emerge and gorge themselves on invertebrates even smaller than they are, and after a couple weeks they dig a hole and pupate. Some beetles will then dig their way out of this hole, but my (frankly, rather lazy) beetles will wait for a downpour to break the earth open for them.

Birdbath by Alicia Hayden

I think it was the unexpectedness of the discovery, the improbability that anything would have so successfully taken advantage of such an unlikely habitat, that really caught my attention.

So, yeah, for one afternoon, my favourite animal was a Grooved Water Scavenger Beetle – beat that!

Please note that not all British Helophoridae share the same life histories, and for the purposes of this post I have guessed that my beetles were Helophorus brevipalpis.

Many apologies to Grooved Water Scavenger Beetles for the assertion that they are lazy.

References and wider reading:

  • https://www.ukbeetles.co.uk/ is an incredible resource for (you guessed it) UK beetles
  • Angus, R.B. (1973) The habitats, life histories and immature stages of Helophorus F. (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae). Trans. R. Ent. Soc. Lond. 125(1), 1-26