Quick facts

Common name: devil’s coach horse beetle

Scientific name: Ocypus olens

Family: Staphylinidae

Habitat: woodland, grassland, urban

Diet: insects and invertebrates

Predators: birds, mammals

Origin: native

What does the devil's coach horse beetle look like?

Adults: have a long, uniformly black body, short wing cases and a long, thick abdomen. When threatened, the beetle raises its abdomen in similar style to a scorpion and opens its powerful jaws. A relatively large beetle, it can grow up to 3cm long.

Larvae: are long and black, but often have brown legs.

Credit: Dave Bevan / Alamy Stock Photo

What do devil's coach horse beetles eat?

Powerful predators of the insect world, the devil’s coach horse feeds on a range of invertebrates. Worms, slugs, caterpillars, spiders and woodlice are all among the prey taken. Fast moving, the beetle uses its powerful jaws to catch prey on the ground. The species is capable of flying, but is rarely seen in the air.

Did you know?

This species has been associated with evil since the Middle Ages. It was thought to be able to curse people by pointing its raised body in their direction.

How do devil's coach horse beetles breed?

After mating in the autumn, the female lays a single egg in a damp area like moss or leaf litter. Once hatched, the larvae live and feed underground preying on other invertebrates. After several months, the larvae enter pupation and emerge in adult form around one month later.

Credit: Gillian Pullinger / Alamy Stock Photo

Where do devil's coach horse beetles live?

The devil’s coach horse is common across the UK and occurs in a variety of habitats including woodland, grassland, gardens and hedgerows.

Did you know?

In Ireland it was believed the beetle could strike a person dead on sight and would eat sinners!

Signs and spotting tips

Devil’s coach horse beetles are nocturnal, spending the day hidden under stones or fallen leaves. If you disturb a beetle it will adopt its defensive pose and may even release a foul-smelling secretion. Be careful, as the species’ strong jaws can give a painful bite.

Credit: Larry Doherty / Alamy Stock Photo

Threats and conservation

The Devil’s coach horse is common and widespread across the country, with no specific threats.

Did you know?

The devil’s coach horse is a member of the rove beetle family, which contains close to 1,000 species in the UK alone.