Almost nothing is known of the natural history of the scarlet malachite beetle. The adults have been seen most frequently on buttercups, apparently feeding on the pollen. It is known that they feed also on grass pollen, but it is likely that they are mostly predatory, feeding on other insects that visit the flowers. Only one larva has ever been found, a predatory grub found under some loose tree bark. This was hand-reared by its discoverer and only then was it identified as a scarlet malachite beetle.
Up until the 1930s this beetle was fairly widespread in southern England and was known to occur as far north as Northumberland. Since then it has declined dramatically and is confined to three or four small areas of southern England. There are recent records from the Somerset Levels and north-west Kent but the areas where this beetle occurs today are a small part of the New Forest and a cluster of villages around the Essex/Hertfordshire border. Its former distribution, from Dorset to Kent and as far north as Hertfordshire, is now restricted to nine sites.
This species seems to favour 'Old English Countryside'. Areas with flower-rich meadows and verges with large hedgerows are the habitat it likes best though no-one knows quite why. Neither is it clear which of these particular features are most important.
As with many other aspects of this species, it is not at all clear why the beetle has become so rare. Loss of suitable habitat may well be one cause but it seems that the species has never been particularly widespread.
With so little known about this beetle, efforts to conserve it have concentrated on learning more about its ecology. The scarlet malachite beetle is listed as a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and is also on English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. The targets for conserving the beetle include ensuring suitable management of the areas where it does occur and to re-introduce beetles back to areas within its former range. It is hoped that this programme will involve local groups of entomologists who, by studying the existing beetle populations, may discover more about the needs of this colourful species.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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