Great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis)

Great diving beetle portrait
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Great diving beetle fact file

Great diving beetle description

GenusDytiscus (1)

The great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis) is, as the name suggests, a large aquatic beetle (4). It is has a beautifully streamlined body shape and is dark brown to blackish in colour with yellow legs and a yellow border around both the head and the thorax. The wing cases, or 'elytra', are ridged in females but smooth in males. Males can also be distinguished from females by the presence of suction pads on the front legs; two of which are very large. The brownish larvae have large heads, which bear impressive, large jaws (3).

Length of larvae: up to 60 mm (3)
Length of adults: 27-35 mm (2)

Great diving beetle biology

Both adults and larvae of this beetle are voracious predators, taking a wide range of prey including fish. They actively search for prey, and periodically swim to the surface in order to take in air (3). Adults often fly at night, and may land on glass surfaces or roads, mistaking them for water (2). When threatened, they exude a foul-smelling fluid from the anus that deters potential predators from eating them (5).

Females lay their eggs in cavities, which they cut in the stems of water plants that protrude from the water. The eggs hatch after a number of weeks (5).


Great diving beetle range

Found in Europe and northern Asia and is common in Britain (3).

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

Great diving beetle habitat

This water beetle is common in most aquatic habitats, in both still and running water (3), and frequently occurs in garden ponds. The great diving beetle is scarcer in chalk and limestone areas (1), and seems to prefer ponds with plenty of weeds (4).


Great diving beetle status

The great diving beetle is common (3).


Great diving beetle threats

The great diving beetle is very common and is not threatened.


Great diving beetle conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this species.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For further information on the great diving beetle:



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In beetles and earwigs, the hard fore wings. They are held aloft when the insect flies, and are often coloured or patterned.
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.
Part of the body located near the head in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Jan 2003):
  2. Lyneborg, L. (1976) Beetles in colour. Blandford Press, Dorset.
  3. Harde, K. W. (2000) A field guide in colour to beetles. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  4. Joy, N. (1933) British beetles; their homes and habits. Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., London.
  5. Animal Diversity (March 2003):$narrative.html

Image credit

Great diving beetle portrait  
Great diving beetle portrait

© Christophe Véchot / Biosphoto

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