Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Minotaur Beetle in Nottinghamshire (A true Winter Beetle) by Lamia textor
Minotaur beetle spoil heap - Budby Heath, February. 
A little late this week for my weekly blog.   I was going to write on Sunday but the weather was nice for a change so I got myself out up onto Budby Heath National Nature Reserve, Sherwood Forest country. My principal aim was to try and find a one of our truly winter beetles Typhaeus typhoeus, also one of the few British beetles with a common English name, the Minotaur beetle.  Hopefully the photograph on the previous blog shows pretty well how they got that name, a fine set of Horns carried by the male only. In Nottinghamshire I can only regularly find them on Sandy soils.  That precludes finding them along the Trent Valley but they are pretty common at Budby and also on the Sandy Soils of Wollaton Park.  These beetles both male and female excavate and provision vertical tunnels up to 1.5 metres in depth, with side chambers that are filled with  mainly rabbit dung on Budby Heath and Deer Dung at Wollaton Park.   I used to in the past find them most commonly in Cow dung, when Nottinghamshire County Council kept Cattle at the park.  These have been gone several years now and it makes finding the beetles a little difficult. Well back on Budby Heath, Sunday, the air temperature was about 9 degrees Celsius, a little cool but no wind so felt rather pleasant, having been hovering around about this daytime temperature for a couple of days.  The upshot of the trip, I didn't see any this year, however there was plenty of Minotaur beetle activity.  It's pretty easy to find where they have been as they produce voluminous casts of spoil where they have been digging.  It is also pretty common to see Rabbit droppings near the entrance, waiting to be pulled down into the hole.  At times if the weather is right you can find the adult, they often sit at the top of there hole, I'm presuming that they are guarding it from intrusion, but I have now way of proving whether this is the case. Any how, I've not mastered inserting two photographs into one blog,  If anyone can give me tips then please let me know, so with this blog is a photograph of their spoil heap marking the tunnel entrance and on the previous blog are set specimens of both male and female Minotaur beetles.  I would be grateful if you let me know if you are aware of any other places in Nottinghamshire where these impressive and wonderful insects live.  

Finally - why are they active in Winter?  Well it appears they are originally of a Mediterranean origin, where winter activity avoids the harsh summer extremes of the area. Although our winters can be quite bad as long as their has not been a frost and and it's reasonably damp and mild they are active.  Best time to search for activity - Late October through to March.     


  1. Was on Wollaton Park this Sunday gone. Next time there will challenge myself to find one of these. I'm often around the woods close to Papplewick and Blidworth which are nicely sandy but I guess the lack of ruminants there may negate the presence? Or, will they be present if there is a good head of rabbits? Thanks for the blog and info., very interesting!

  2. They used to be quite common on Wollaton Park, you should be able to find the casts easy enough. I used to find them in the field where the old cricket pitch used to be. On budby heath they feed almost exclusively on Rabbit dung at this time of the year, and there isn't a great abundance of rabbits. In autumn they ise whats left of the cattle dung. Thoresby estate remove their longhorn cattle for the winter so no dung left for them then.

  3. P.s. let me know if you find any. Regards Adrian.