Elateridae of the British Isles

Agriotes obscurus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Size – 7-10mm.

Description – Very similar to A. lineatus. A uniform mid-brown coloured species with a very dense covering of lighter brown/cream hairs. The pronotum and elytra appear rounded. Rows of pits form ridges down the length of the elytra that appear in ‘pairs’ and are a darker brown colour to the rest of the elytra. The legs and antennae are slightly darker brown than the rest of the insect. The antennae are slightly longer than the length of the head and pronotum.

National Biodiversity Network map showing the distribution of Agriotes obscurus across Britain and Ireland.

British and Irish distribution of Agriotes obscurus (Linnaeus, 1758) based on records held by the National Biodiversity Network.

Distribution data supplied by:

  • Dorset Environmental Records Centre
  • National Trust
  • Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Merseyside BioBank
  • Lothian Wildlife Information Centre
  • Merseyside BioBank
  • Countryside Council for Wales
  • Highland Biological Recording Group
  • Greenspace Information for Greater London
  • North East Scotland Biological Records Centre
  • Countryside Council for Wales
  • Balfour-Browne Club
  • Natural England
  • Leicestershire Environmental Resources Centre
  • National Trust for Scotland (staff)
  • Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre
  • Staffordshire Ecological Record
  • Staffordshire Ecological Record

Distribution – Much commoner than A. lineatus, being widely distributed and common throughout England and Wales. Less frequent in Scotland.

Agriotes lineatus (Linnaeus, 1767)

Size – 8-11mm.

Description – A fairly uniform mid-brown coloured species with a dense covering of light brown hairs. The pronotum and elytra have a rounded appearence. Rows of pits form distinct ridges running the length of the elytra and are noticeably darker brown than the rest of the elyra. The legs and antennae are unicolourous with the rest of the insect. The antennae just reach the posterior edge of the pronotum. 

National Biodiversity Network map showing the distribution of Agriotes lineatus across Britain and Ireland.

British and Irish distribution of Agriotes lineatus (Linnaeus, 1767) based on records held by the National Biodiversity Network.

Distribution data supplied by:

  • National Trust
  • Merseyside BioBank
  • Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Countryside Council for Wales
  • Balfour-Browne Club
  • Natural England
  • Leicestershire Environmental Resources Centre
  • Greenspace Information for Greater London
  • Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Distribution – Widespread and fairly common in England up to Staffordshire, scarcer in Wales. Only scattered and historical records in northern England and Scotland.

Photo by K.V. Makarov courtesy of www.zin.ru/Animalia/Coleoptera

Photo by K.V. Makarov courtesy of www.zin.ru/Animalia/Coleoptera

Species Accounts

Notes on species accounts

Distribution accounts are adapted from the National Biodiversity Network (maps provided from NBN) and from the Provisional Atlas of the Click Beetles (Coleoptera: Elateroidea) of the British Isles, H. Mendel (1988), Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.

Biology and habitat accounts are derived from-

Alexander, K.N.A. (2002). The invertebrates of living and decaying timber in Britain and Ireland. A provisional annotated checklist. English Nature Research Reports Number 467. English Nature. Peterborough, UK. 

Leseigneur, L. (1972). Coleopteres Elateridae de la Faune de France. Societe Linneenne de Lyon. Lyon, France.

Agroatlas – Interactive Agricultural Ecological Atlasof Russia and Neighbouring Countries. Economic Plants and their Diseases, Pests and Weeds. www.agroatlas.ru


I am currently looking for photographic images to use on the species account pages. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has good quality photographs of any of the British species who would grant permission for their work to be used on this site. Full credit will be given with each work, using wording of the owners choice. I am ideally looking for photographs of card mounted specimens, however any quality images would be gratefully accepted.

Please e-mail ctenicera@elateridae.co.uk

Species Accounts of the British Elateridae

Agrypnus murinus

Lacon querceus

Hypnoidus riparius

Actenicerus sjaelandicus

Anostirus castaneus

Ctenicera cuprea

Ctenicera pectinicornis

Calambus bipustulatus

Aplotarsus angustulus

Aplotarsus incanus

Paraphotistus impressus

Paraphotistus nigricornis

Prosternon tessellatum

Selatosomus aeneus

Selatosomus cruciatus

Selatosomus melancholicus

Cidnopus aeruginosus

Kibunea minuta

Limoniscus violaceus

Denticollis linearis

Athous haemorrhoidalis

Athous vittatus

Athous subfuscus

Athous bicolor

Athous campyloides

Diacanthous undulatus

Stenagostus rhombeus

Hemicrepidius hirtus

Adrastus pallens

Adrastus rachifer

Synaptus filiformis

Agriotes acuminatus

Agriotes lineatus

Agriotes obscurus

Agriotes pallidulus

Agriotes sordidus

Agriotes sputator

Dalopius marginatus

Ampedus balteatus

Ampedus cardinalis

Ampedus cinnabarinus

Ampedus elongantulus

Ampedus nigerrimus

Ampedus nigrinus

Ampedus pomonae

Ampedus pomorum

Ampedus quercicola

Ampedus rufipennis

Ampedus sanguineus

Ampedus sanguinolentus

Ampedus tristis

Brachygonus ruficeps

Ischnodes sanguinicollis

Megapenthes lugens

Procraerus tibialis

Elater ferrugineus

Sericus brunneus

Panspaeus guttatus

Melanotus castanipes

Melanotus punctolineatus

Melanotus villosus

Fleutiauxellus maritimus

Negastrius arenicola

Negastrius pulchellus

Negastrius sabulicola

Oedostethus quadripustulatus

Zorochros meridionalis

Zorochros minimus

Cardiophorus asellus

Cardiophorus gramineus

Cardiophorus ruficollis

Cardiophorus vestigialis

Dicronychus equisetioides


Protected Species and Conservation Designations

One species of British Elaterid, Limoniscus violaceus (the Violet Click Beetle), is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (WCA). The species was scheduled in 1998 and has since been added to the EU Habitats and Species Directive in Annexe 2a.

This designation within the WCA protects Limoniscus violaceus from-

Section 9.1 – intentional killing, injuring, taking

Section 9.2 – possession or control

Section 9.4a – damage to, destruction of, obstruction to access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection

Section 4b – disturbance when occupying such a place

Section 5a – selling, offering for sale, possessing or transporting for the purpose of sale

Section 5b – advertising for buying or selling

It’s designation under the EU Species and Habitats Directive ensures member states have an obligation to maintain, enhance and monitor their populations of the species through the network of Special Protection Areas (SAC’s).

The following table lists the conservation designations of British Elaterids.

Species Reporting Category Designation

UK Biodiversity Action Plan list Red Listing based on pre 1994 IUCN guidelines Rare and scarce species Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 EU Habitats and Species Directive
Lacon querceus Priority Species Endangered
Anostirus castaneus Priority Species Endangered
Ctenicera pectinicornis Nationally Notable A
Calambus bipustulatus Nationally Notable B
Aplotarsus angustulus Rare
Paraphotistus impressus Nationally Notable B
Paraphotistus nigricornis Rare
Selatosomus cruciatus Extinct
Limoniscus violaceus Priority Species Endangered Schedule 5 Sections 9.1, 9.2, 9.4a, 9.4b, 9.5a, 9.5b Annexe 2a
Athous subfuscus Rare
Athous campyloides Nationally Notable B
Diacanthous undulatus Nationally Notable B
Adrastus rachifer Rare
Synaptus filiformis Priority Species Endangered
Agriotes sordidus Rare
Ampedus cardinalis Vulnerable
Ampedus cinnabarinus Rare
Ampedus elongantulus Nationally Notable A
Ampedus nigerrimus Endangered
Ampedus nigrinus Nationally Notable B
Ampedus pomorum Nationally Notable B
Ampedus quercicola Nationally Notable B
Ampedus rufipennis Priority Species Vulnerable
Ampedus sanguineus Extinct
Ampedus sanguinolentus Nationally Notable A
Ampedus tristis Vulnerable
Brachygonus ruficeps Endangered
Ischnodes sanguinicollis Nationally Notable A
Megapenthes lugens Priority Species Endangered
Procraerus tibialis Rare
Elater ferrugineus Endangered
Melanotus punctolineatus Priority Species Endangered
Fleutiauxellus maritimus Nationally Notable A
Negastrius pulchellus Vulnerable
Negastrius sabulicola Vulnerable
Oedostethus quadripustulatus Nationally Notable A
Cardiophorus asellus Nationally Notable B
Cardiophorus gramineus Extinct
Cardiophorus ruficollis Extinct
Cardiophorus vestigialis Vulnerable
Dicronychus equisetioides Vulnerable

Species List

Taxonomy follows Duff, 2008.

Family ELATERIDAE Leach, 1815

Subfamily AGRYPNINAE Candèze, 1857
AGRYPNUS Eschscholtz, 1829
ADELOCERA sensu auctt. partim non Latreille, 1829

LACON sensu auctt. non Laporte, 1836
murinus (Linnaeus, 1758)

LACON Laporte, 1836
ADELOCERA sensu auctt. partim non Latreille, 1829
querceus (Herbst, 1784)
varius (Olivier, 1790)

Subfamily HYPNOIDINAE Schwarz, 1906
HYPNOIDUS Dillwyn, 1829
CRYPTOHYPNUS Eschscholtz, 1830
riparius (Fabricius, 1793)

Subfamily DENTICOLLINAE Stein & Weise, 1877
Tribe CTENICERINI Fleutiaux, 1936
ACTENICERUS Kiesenwetter, 1858
CORYMBITES sensu Fowler, 1889 partim non Latreille, 1834
sjaelandicus (Müller, O.F., 1764)
tessellatus sensu (Fabricius, 1775) non (Linnaeus, 1758)

ANOSTIRUS Thomson, C.G., 1859
CALOSTIRUS Thomson, C.G., 1864
CORYMBITES sensu Fowler, 1889 partim non Latreille, 1834
castaneus (Linnaeus, 1758)

CTENICERA Latreille, 1829
LUDIUS sensu Eschscholtz, 1829 non Berthold, 1827
CTENICERUS Stephens, 1830 (misspelling)
CORYMBITES Latreille, 1834
cuprea (Fabricius, 1775)
aeruginosa sensu (Fabricius, 1798) non (Olivier, 1790)
pectinicornis (Linnaeus, 1758)

CALAMBUS Thomson, C.G., 1859
SELATOSOMUS sensu auctt. partim non Stephens, 1830
bipustulatus (Linnaeus, 1767)

APLOTARSUS Stephens, 1830
SELATOSOMUS sensu auctt. partim non Stephens,
angustulus (Kiesenwetter, 1858)
incanus (Gyllenhal, 1827)
quercus sensu (Gyllenhal, 1808) non (Olivier, 1790)
ochropterus (Stephens, 1830)

SELATOSOMUS sensu auctt. partim non Stephens, 1830
impressus (Fabricius, 1793)
nigricornis (Panzer, 1799)
metallicus (Paykull, 1800)

PROSTERNON Latreille, 1834
CORYMBITES sensu Fowler, 1889 non Latreille, 1834
tessellatum (Linnaeus, 1758)
holosericeum (Olivier, 1790)

SELATOSOMUS Stephens, 1830
CORYMBITES sensu Fowler, 1889 partim non Latreille, 1834
aeneus (Linnaeus, 1758)
cruciatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
melancholicus (Fabricius, 1798) 492

Tribe DENTICOLLINI Stein & Weise, 1877
CIDNOPUS Thomson, C.G., 1859
LIMONIUS sensu auctt. partim non Eschscholtz, 1829
aeruginosus (Olivier, 1790)
cylindricus (Rossi, 1792)

KIBUNEA Kishii, 1966
CIDNOPUS sensu auctt. partim non Thomson, C.G., 1859
minuta (Linnaeus, 1758)

LIMONISCUS Reitter, 1905
violaceus (Müller, P.W.J., 1821)

DENTICOLLIS Piller & Mitterpacher, 1783
CAMPYLUS Fischer von Waldheim, 1823/4
linearis (Linnaeus, 1758)

ATHOUS Eschscholtz, 1829
Subgenus ATHOUS Eschscholtz, 1829
haemorrhoidalis (Fabricius, 1801)
obscurus sensu (Paykull, 1800) non (Linnaeus, 1758)
vittatus (Fabricius, 1793)
advena (Scopoli, 1763) 28

Subgenus EXANATHROTUS Méquignon, 1930
subfuscus (Müller, O.F., 1764)

Subgenus ORTHATHOUS Reitter, 1905
bicolor (Goeze, 1777)
longicollis (Olivier, 1790)
campyloides Newman, 1833
difformis Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835
cavus sensu Waterhouse, G.R., 1858 non (Germar, 1817)

DIACANTHOUS Reitter, 1905
HARMINIUS sensu auctt. non Fairmaire, 1852
undulatus (De Geer, 1774)

STENAGOSTUS Thomson, C.G., 1859
ATHOUS sensu auctt. Brit. partim non Eschscholtz, 1829
rhombeus (Olivier, 1790)
villosus sensu auctt. non (Fourcroy, 1785)

ATHOUS sensu auctt. Brit. partim non Eschscholtz, 1829
hirtus (Herbst, 1784)
niger sensu auctt. Brit. non (Linnaeus, 1758)

Subfamily ELATERINAE Leach, 1815
Tribe ADRASTINI Candèze, 1863
ADRASTUS Eschscholtz, 1829
pallens (Fabricius, 1793)
nitidulus (Marsham, 1802) non (Fabricius, 1787)
limbatus sensu (Stephens, 1830) non (Fabricius, 1777)
rachifer (Fourcroy, 1785)
minutus sensu (Olivier, 1790) non (Linnaeus, 1758)
pusillus (Fabricius, 1801)

SYNAPTUS Eschscholtz, 1829
filiformis (Fabricius, 1781)

Tribe AGRIOTINI Champion, 1894
AGRIOTES Eschscholtz, 1829
acuminatus (Stephens, 1830)
sobrinus Kiesenwetter, 1858
lineatus (Linnaeus, 1767)
obscurus (Linnaeus, 1758)
pallidulus (Illiger, 1807)
sordidus (Illiger, 1807)
sputator (Linnaeus, 1758)

DALOPIUS Eschscholtz, 1829
DOLOPIUS auctt. (misspelling)
marginatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Tribe AMPEDINI Fleutiaux, 1947
AMPEDUS Dejean, 1833
ELATER sensu auctt. non Linnaeus, 1758
balteatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
cardinalis (Schiødte, 1865)
praeustus sensu auctt. non (Fabricius, 1793)
coccinatus (Rye, 1867)
cinnabarinus (Eschscholtz, 1829)
lythropterus Germar, 1844
elongantulus (Fabricius, 1787)
elongatulus auctt. (misspelling)
nigerrimus (Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835)
aethiops sensu auctt. Brit. non (Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835)
nigrinus (Herbst, 1784)
pomonae (Stephens, 1830)
pomorum (Herbst, 1784)
ferrugatus (Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835)
quercicola (du Buysson, 1887)
pomonae sensu auctt. non (Stephens, 1830)
miniatus (Gorham, 1892)
rufipennis (Stephens, 1830)
sanguineus (Linnaeus, 1758)
sanguinolentus (Schrank, 1776)
tristis (Linnaeus, 1758)

BRACHYGONUS du Buysson, 1912
AMPEDUS sensu auctt. partim non Dejean, 1833
ruficeps (Mulsant & Guillebeau, 1855)
pallidulus (Reitter, 1911)

ISCHNODES Germar, 1844
sanguinicollis (Panzer, 1793)

Tribe MEGAPENTHINI Gurjeva, 1973
MEGAPENTHES Kiesenwetter, 1858
lugens (Redtenbacher, 1842)

PROCRAERUS Reitter, 1905
MEGAPENTHES sensu Fowler, 1889 partim non Kiesenwetter, 1858
tibialis (Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835)

Tribe ELATERINI Leach, 1815
ELATER Linnaeus, 1758
LUDIUS Berthold, 1827
ferrugineus Linnaeus, 1758

SERICUS Eschscholtz, 1829
SERICOSOMUS Dejean, 1833
brunneus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Tribe incertae sedis
PANSPAEUS Sharp, 1877
PANSPOEUS auctt. (misspelling)
guttatus Sharp, 1877

Subfamily MELANOTINAE Candèze, 1859

MELANOTUS Eschscholtz, 1829
castanipes (Paykull, 1800)villosus sensu auctt. partim non (Geoffory in Fourcroy, 1785)
punctolineatus (Pelerin, 1829)
niger sensu (Fabricius, 1793) non (Linnaeus, 1758)
aterrimus sensu (Stephens, 1830) non (Linnaeus, 1761)
villosus (Geoffroy in Fourcroy, 1785)
rufipes (Herbst, 1784) non (De Geer, 1774)
erythropus (Gmelin in Linnaeus, 1790)
rugosus (Marsham, 1802)

Subfamily NEGASTRIINAE Nakane & Kishii, 1956
FLEUTIAUXELLUS Méquignon, 1930
HYPNOIDUS sensu auct. Brit. partim non Dillwyn, 1829
maritimus (Curtis, 1840)

NEGASTRIUS Thomson, C.G., 1859
HYPNOIDUS sensu auct. Brit. partim non Dillwyn, 1829
arenicola (Boheman, 1852) 496
pulchellus (Linnaeus, 1761)
sabulicola (Boheman, 1851)

FLEUTIAUXELLUS sensu auctt. partim non Méquignon, 1930
quadripustulatus (Fabricius, 1793)

ZOROCHROS Thomson, C.G., 1859
HYPNOIDUS sensu auct. Brit. partim non Dillwyn, 1829
meridionalis (Laporte, 1840)
minimus (Boisduval & Lacordaire, 1835)
dermestoides (Herbst, 1806) non (Linnaeus, 1767)
quadriguttatus sensu auctt. Brit. non (Laporte, 1840)
tetragraphus sensu auctt. Brit. non (Germar, 1844)
flavipes sensu auctt. Brit. non (Aubé, 1850)

Subfamily CARDIOPHORINAE Candèze, 1859
CARDIOPHORUS Eschscholtz, 1829
asellus Erichson, 1840
gramineus (Scopoli, 1763)
thoracicus (Fabricius, 1775)
ruficollis (Linnaeus, 1758)
vestigialis Erichson, 1840
erichsoni du Buysson, 1901

DICRONYCHUS Brullé, 1832
CARDIOPHORUS sensu auctt. partim non Eschscholtz, 1829
equisetioides Lohse, 1976
equiseti sensu auctt. Brit. non (Herbst, 1784)


The Elateridae are a family within the insect Order Coleoptera (Beetles). The beetles are the largest insect order in the world with around 350,000 species currently described – 40% of all insects known to science.

4000 beetle species occur in Britain, of these 73 belong to the Elateridae.

The family Elateridae is placed within the Superfamily Elateroidea, which also includes the closely related Eucnemidae Eschscholtz, 1829, Throscidae Laporte, 1840, Drilidae Blanchard, 1845, Lycidae Laporte, 1836, Lampyridae Latreille, 1817 and Cantharidae Imhoff, 1856.

The taxonomy of the Elateridae is as follows-

Kingdom – Animalia Linnaeus, 1758
Phylum – Arthropoda Latreille, 1829
Class – Insecta Linnaeus, 1758
Order – Coleoptera Linnaeus, 1758
Superfamily – Elateroidea Leach, 1815
Family – Elateridae Leach, 1815

The name Elateridae is likely to come from the Latin ‘efferre’, meaning to raise. This refers to the beetles ability to flick themselves into the air to right themselves or avoid predation.

In Britain the Elateridae comprises 7 Subfamilies with 38 genera, the largest of which is Ampedus, with 13 species.

Vernacular Names

A number of species have aquired English names. None are standardised and should therefore be used with caution. It is recommended that scientific names (following Duff, 2008) are always used in preference to English names.  

Lacon querceus  – Oak Click Beetle.

Actenicerus sjaelandicus – Marsh Click Beetle.

Anostirus castaneus – Chestnut Coloured Click Beetle.

Prosternon tesselatum – Chequered Click Beetle.

Selatosomus aeneus – Brilliant Click Beetle.

Limoniscus violaceus – Violet Click Beetle.

Synaptus filiformis – Hairy Click Beetle.

Agriotes lineatus – Common Click Beetle, Striped Click Beetle.

Agriotes obscurus – Dusky Wireworm Beetle.

Agriotes sputator – Common Click Beetle.

Ampedus cardinalis – Cardinal Click Beetle.

Ampedus rufipennis – Red-horned Cardinal Click Beetle.

Melanotus punctolineatus – Sandwich Click Beetle.