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When to go beetling?

In 20 years of beetling, I have done most of it in April, May, June, July and August. In fact, I think of this as “the field season”. And if I count up the number of beetle records I’ve made by month, May, June, July and August are the top months.

So, for beetle survey work, when you want to maximise the number of records you can make for each day’s fieldwork, May, June, July and August are the best months, especially May.

But there’s more to beetling than survey work. What would be the best time of year for me to go out and get a beetle tick? Over the 20 years, most of my ticks have come from May, June and July. But that’s largely thanks to a massive amount of recording in those months.

Surprisingly, when I’ve gone beetling in October, November, December and January it’s been much better for ticks. And August has been the worst month. A beetle found in November is over three times more likely to be a tick for me than one found in August!

Compared to most other branches of entomology, one of the great things about being a coleopterist is that it is a genuinely year-round activity. Admittedly, winter beetling tends to be pretty grubby work: tussocking, and sieving through compost heaps, manure, wood-chip piles and flood debris. But I’m obviously going to have to man up and do a lot more of that sort of beetling in my next 20 years as a coleopterist.

Sieving wood-chip at Dinton Pastures, with Tony Allen and Andrew Duff.

Sieving manure at Denham Marsh Wood with Tony Allen.


  1. Mark
    You have inspired me to start beetling here in sweden, any suggestions for beginners references for this part of the world?
    Also if you ever want to do a long weekend in southern sweden, I live next to Swedish saproxylic beetle heaven – the island of Hallands Väderö… You are more than welcome. P

  2. markgtelfer says:

    Hi Phil, I’m impressed that a blog that includes sieving manure heaps in winter has inspired you to take up beetling! I don’t know of any ID guide to Swedish beetles off the top of my head. Hopefully you know about “Suomen Luteet” (Finnish bugs)? An awesome book – nowadays the first thing I turn to to identify British bugs (Heteroptera), and bound to be even more useful for you in southern Sweden. Would be great if there was something similar on beetles. There’s a great book (in English) by Bengt Ehnström on the deadwood beetles of spruce and fir in Sweden called “Life after death – an insect drama”: really inspiring.
    And cheers for the invite – that could well happen! Mark

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