Cardinal click beetle (Ampedus rufipennis)

Cardinal click beetles
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Cardinal click beetle fact file

Cardinal click beetle description

GenusAmpedus (1)

This click beetle has bright red wing cases (elytra), a shiny black thorax and a covering of fine black hairs (2). The larvae are cylindrical and elongate, yellowish-orange in colour and are quite active. They are similar in appearance to the familiar garden wireworm, to which they are related (4).

Elater rufipennis.
Length: 10-12 mm (2)

Cardinal click beetle biology

Like all click beetles, this cardinal click beetle has a novel means of righting itself, should it be flipped over onto its back. The back is arched, and the beetle flips up into the air with an audible 'click', often landing back on its feet.

This beetle has been reported to develop in rotten heartwood of oak, beech, ash, and elm. This makes it extremely difficult to study the life-history of the species, as such habitats are rare, and have a very high importance for conservation (5). The larvae are predatory on other insects in decaying wood (6). Fully grown larvae pupate at the end of the season before hibernating through winter in the adult form, emerging the following year (5).


Cardinal click beetle range

Recent records of this beetle are from a few scattered sites, extending in a line from Herefordshire to East Kent, with sites in Worcestershire, and Berkshire (5).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Cardinal click beetle habitat

This species is associated with decayed wood, typically red heart-rot, on logs, boughs, trunks and occasionally stumps of a fairly broad range of tree species (5). Studies have shown that the ideal habitats for this beetle in Denmark take the form of free-standing old broadleaved trees and fallen boughs on forest edges that have a south-west facing aspect, as well as swamp forest containing free-standing alders and fallen tree trunks (5).


Cardinal click beetle status

Classified as Vulnerable in Great Britain (3).


Cardinal click beetle threats

All beetles that depend on dead wood habitats are threatened by the loss of old woodlands and parklands, due to development or agricultural expansion. Old trees and fallen dead wood are often removed from woodlands, reducing the available habitat for these beetles (6). Furthermore, the age structure of trees within sites may be skewed, and as a result, a constant supply of old wood may be lost (6).


Cardinal click beetle conservation

A grouped action plan for 10 beetles associated with dead wood ('saproxylic beetles') has been produced under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). The plan aims to maintain the range of these beetles. Moccas Park in Herefordshire and Bredon Hill, Worcestershire are both National Nature Reserves (NNRs), and the Windsor Forest area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); this click beetle should therefore receive a certain level of protection within these sites (3). In addition, management measures at both Windsor Forest and Windsor Great Park now involve the retention of dead wood (6). English Nature has commissioned a project on saproxylic invertebrates and their conservation in the UK. This study has highlighted the need for further research into the ecology and life-history of all these species (5).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

The UK BAP group action plan for saproxylic beetles (beetles associated with dead wood) is available at:



Information authenticated by Dr Roger Key of English Nature.



In beetles and earwigs, the hard fore wings. They are held aloft when the insect flies, and are often coloured or patterned.
A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
The process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect's development when the huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary
  2. Joy, N.H. (1932) A practical handbook of British beetles. Volume 1. H. F. & G. Witherby, London.
  3. Shirt, D. B. (1987) British Red Data Books: 2 Insects. Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough.
  4. Key, R. (January, 2004) Pers. comm.
  5. Cheesman, O.D (2003) (unpublished). Research on saproxylic invertebrates and their conservation in the UK (contract FST 20-37-02) Final report. CABI report xB1992. CABI Bioscience. Egham Surrey.
  6. UKBAP

Image credit

Cardinal click beetles  
Cardinal click beetles

© Roger Key

Dr Roger Key
Tel: +44 (0) 1845 567 292


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