Ground beetle (Pterostichus aterrimus)

Pterostichus aterrimus
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Ground beetle fact file

Ground beetle description

GenusPterostichus (1)

Pterostichus aterrimus is a large and shiny black ground beetle that has curved edges to the pronotum(2). The wing cases (elytra) are covered in deep pits, the presence of which allows this species to be distinguished from the very common ground beetle Pterostichus madidus (4).

Length: 13 - 15 mm (2)

Ground beetle biology

Little is known of the biology of this beetle. Both the adults and the larvae are predatory. Adults have functional wings, and they have been seen flying. This species has an annual life-cycle, with breeding occurring in spring. The larvae are present in summer (3).


Ground beetle range

This beetle was found in the Norfolk Broads, East Anglia until 1910 (3). It was recorded as in the New Forest from 1969 to 1973 at a site that has since dried out and become unsuitable for the species (3). It was discovered in Northern Ireland in County Armagh in 1982, where it persists today at 7 sites (3) (4). Elsewhere, this species is found in western and central Europe, reaching into western Siberia. A few populations also occur in north Africa (2).


Ground beetle habitat

Inhabits wet fens and bogs close to water on peaty or muddy soils (5).


Ground beetle status

Classified as Endangered in Britain (3).


Ground beetle threats

Factors responsible for the decline in this species are thought to include widespread drainage of peat bogs and fens (4), as well as water abstraction (3).


Ground beetle conservation

This beetle is listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and a Species Action Plan has been produced to coordinate conservation. This plan aims to maintain the current populations, as well as restore the species to at least two appropriate sites within the historic British range before 2010 (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:



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.
In insects, the hardened cuticle on the upper surface of the first thoracic segment (the part of the body nearest the head).


  1. NBN Species Dictionary. (Feb 2003). Available on-line from:
  2. Anderson, R. & McFerran, D. (2001) The Ground Beetles of Ireland.
  3. UK BAP Species Action Plan for Pterostichus aterrimus. (November 2003):
  4. Shirt, D. B. (1987) British Red Data Books: 2 Insects. JNCC, Peterborough.
  5. Luff, M. (2004) Pers. comm.

Image credit

 Pterostichus aterrimus  
Pterostichus aterrimus

© Roy Anderson

Roy Anderson


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