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Sunshiners, Moonshiners and Stem-climbers

The ground beetles in the genera Amara and Curtonotus have always been among my favourite beetles. In the Breckland, where I cut my beetling teeth, they are a highly diverse group. Along with the other seed-eating carabids (e.g. Harpalus and Ophonus), they are the ‘arable weeds’ of the beetle world, turning up in places where there is soil disturbance, bare ground and lots of ruderal plants producing lots of seeds. Several of the 32 species occurring in Britain and Ireland are rare.

Many coleopterists have struggled to identify these beetles. Even the name Amara is reputedly derived from the Latin word for bitter (amarus) in reference to the bitter experience of trying to identify them! I have now produced a detailed identification guide with photos of all but one of the species which I hope will sweeten the experience.

Download here (version 3.1, 16th October 2016): Identification guide to the Amara and Curtonotus (Carabidae) of Britain and Ireland.

The guide also introduces new English names for all the species as Sunshiners, Moonshiners and Stem-climbers.

The commonest British Amara is Amara aenea, or the Streak Sunshiner.


  1. Steve Lane says:

    Looks like a great key and the photos are useful.

    Amara famelica is known from north Warwickshire (Sutton Park), north Leicestershire (Charnwood Lodge district) and Staffordshire (Cannock Chase) heathlands. These midland heaths may well be the national stronghold of the species. Would it be more acccurate to include midland heaths in the description of the species national distribution? Staffordshire is possibly too far north to count as southern Britain.

  2. markgtelfer says:

    Thanks Steve, I’ll add that information. Now is definitely the time to be out looking for famelica: it was recorded on 25th March and 7th April last year in Surrey.

  3. Clive Washington says:

    To what extent do you regard the golden-brown colour as a useful character? I have always labeled these (naively) as aenea but this does not agree with some of your other characters and I am starting to think that I will have to rework my whole genus ID’s!

  4. markgtelfer says:

    Clive, Body colour provides some useful ID characters in Amara but I don’t make much use of it in the identification guide for two reasons. Firstly, colours are hard to describe accurately. Secondly, some species are very variable. Amara aenea will usually be coloured as in the photo above but black specimens or bright metallic green specimens do occur, and all shades in between.
    It can be hard to ignore colour when the most striking thing about a beetle is its shiny metallic bronze appearance but sometimes to identify beetles you have to train yourself to be ‘colour blind’.

  5. Chris Bentley says:

    I have a specimen with a pore puncture on one elytra and none on the other, keying out to either anthobia or lucida. In the key it mentions that in anthobia the last segment of the maxilary palp is paler than the second. Can this be used to separate it from lucida?

  6. markgtelfer says:

    Hi Chris, I would expect your specimen to be anthobia. In the species account for anthobia, I suggest that the pronotal fore-angles and the eyes are the other main differences from lucida. But these are comparative features. I don’t think there’s any difference in max palp coloration.

  7. Chris Bentley says:

    Thanks Mark. Today I’ve had a couple of identical beetles with pore punctures on both sides, and the other features seem to fit anthobia too (I’m also getting lucida too so can compare directly)

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