Ground beetle (Harpalus froelichi)

Harpalus froelichi
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Ground beetle fact file

Ground beetle description

GenusHarpalus (1)

This vulnerable ground beetle is black in colour (3), and has a long oval-shaped body with powerful mouthparts and relatively short legs. The antennae and legs have a reddish tinge and the wing cases, known as ‘elytra’, feature obvious striations (4). This species has fine hairs on the underside of the abdomen (5).


Ground beetle biology

Recent studies have thrown light on this little understood ground beetle (3). Unlike many ground beetles, which are largely predacious, both the adults and larvae of this species feed mainly on seeds of herbacious weeds (2). Feeding trials have shown that the seeds of knotgrass (Polygonum) are preferred in captivity (3). The adults are active at dusk and at night; they fly well and are attracted to light (2). This beetle breeds, and is most active in flight, in the late summer-autumn (5).


Ground beetle range

This beetle was once found in Dorset, but has not been seen there since the 1920s. It has also been lost from the East Anglian coast, where it was last seen in the 1930s (2). At present, this species is known only from a few sites in west Norfolk and west Suffolk. Recent surveys discovered new sites, bringing the total number to 5 across both counties (3). This beetle also occurs in continental Europe. Great Britain and northern France represent the western extremes of the population (2).


Ground beetle habitat

Harpalus froelichi inhabits the margins of agricultural fields, where it is found in sandy soils; it is also known to live in coastal sand dunes (2).


Ground beetle status

Classified as Vulnerable in Great Britain (2).


Ground beetle threats

Factors thought to be responsible for the decline of this species include the use of herbicides and seed-cleaning techniques, as well as the loss of suitable habitat, often as a result of agricultural intensification (2).


Ground beetle conservation

This ground beetle is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). As such, a Species Action Plan has been devised to coordinate conservation efforts (2). English Nature set up the Scarce Ground Beetle Project (SGBP) in 2000. This project has funded studies on a number of rare ground beetles, including Harpalus froelichii. The SGBP is trying to accurately determine the status of this beetle and to discover more about its lifecycle and other aspects of its ecology, in order to guide efforts to conserve this species (3).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.


Information authenticated by Dr Martin Luff of the School of Biology, University of Newcastle, with the support of the British Ecological Society:



Pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
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.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003):
  2. UK BAP Species Action Plan (September 2003):
  3. Scarce Ground Beetle Project Newsletter No 2. October 2002. English Nature, Peterborough.
  4. Harde, K. W. (2000) A field guide in colour to beetles. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  5. Luff, M. (2004) Pers. comm.

Image credit

Harpalus froelichi  
Harpalus froelichi

© Roger Key

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


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