Elateridae of the British Isles

Similar species

The Superfamily Elateroidea consists of seven Families (including the Elateridae). The other six vary in their resemblence to the Elateridae. 

Eucnemidae – the False Click Beetles.

There are six British species of Eucnemid (Duff, 2008). They are known as the False Click Beetles to distinguish them from the ‘True’ Click Beetles of the family Elateridae and despite the name, many do in fact have the ability to flick themselves into the air.

The six British species are very elusive creatures of woodlands and are seldom come across casually. Like many Elaterid species, the larvae of Eucnemids are wood boring, favouring a range of tree species including Pedunculate Oak (Quercus rober), Beech (Fagus sylvatica) and pines.

They range in size up to 10mm and all British species can be identified by external features. The commonest species in Britain is Melasis buprestoides, extending in range up to Yorkshire.  One species, Epiphanis cornutus was most likely introduced from North America and is currently expanding it’s British range.

Family EUCNEMIDAE Eschscholtz, 1829


Subfamily MELASINAE Fleming, 1821

Tribe MELASINI Fleming, 1821

MELASIS Olivier, 1790

buprestoides (Linnaeus, 1761)


Tribe EPIPHANINI Muona, 1993

HYLIS des Gozis, 1886

HYPOCAELUS sensu Guerin-Meneville, 1843 non Dejean, 1833

HYPOCOELUS auctt. (misspelling)

carniceps (Reitter, 1902)

olexai (Palm, 1955)

procerulus sense auctt. non (Mannerheim, 1823)

EPIPHANIS Eschscholtz, 1829

cornatus Eschscholtz, 1829


Tribe DIRHAGINI Reitter, 1911

MICRORHAGUS Dejean, 1833

DIRHAGUS Latreille, 1834

pygmaeus (Fabricius, 1793)


Subfamily EUCNEMINAE Eschscholtz, 1829

EUCNEMIS Ahrens, 1812

capucina, Ahrens, 1812



The Throscidae are represented in Britain and indeed throughout most of Europe by five species. They are closely related to the Elateridae and share the ability to flick themselves into the air. This feature however, is less well developed in the Throscids and is rarely seen. When disturbed a more usual form of defense is to tuck their antennae and legs into grooves on their undersides, remaining motionless.

The five British species are quite similar in appearence and do not exceed 3.5mm in length. Colours range from light to dark brown. They are elongated or oval in shape and have clubbed antennae (a feature absent from the true click beetles).

They can readily be identified using external features, most commonly using differences in the head, but also size, shape of the pronotum and puncturation on the pronotum and elytra. They are sexually dimorphic, further aiding identification.

Habitats range from woodlands and grasslands to saltmarshes and sweeping will often produce specimens in the right habitats. They are attracted to light. The most common British species is Trixagus dermestoides and is the only species to be found throughout Britain.

Family THROSCIDAE Laporte, 1840 



TRIXAGUS sensu auctt. partim non Kugelann, 1794

brevicollis (de Bonvouloir, 1859)

TRIXAGUS Kugelann, 1794

THROSCUS Latreille, 1796

carinifrons (de Bonvouloir, 1859)

seriatus Blair, 1942

dermestoides (Linnaeus, 1767)

gracilis Wollaston, 1854

elateroides sensu auctt. Brit. non (Heer, 1841)

obtusus (Curtis, 1827)



The Drilidae are represented in Britain by a single species. Confusion with Elateridae is possible but unlikely, due to the insects very ‘hairy’ appearance,  parellel sided and rounded elytra, more akin to the Tenebrionid beetle, Lagria hirta (Linnaeus, 1758).

Family DRILIDAE Blanchard, 1845 


DRILUS Olivier, 1790

flavescens (Fourcroy, 1785)



The Lycidae are represented in Britain by four species in three genera. Known as Net-winged Beetles, the elytra of all British species show a strong ridged grid-like pattern and are brightly coloured red or yellow.


Family LYCIDAE Laporte, 1836


Subfamily EROTINAE LeConte, 1881

DICTYOPTERA Latreille, 1829

EROS Newman, 1838

aurora (Herbst, 1784)

PYROPTERUS Mulsant, 1838

nigroruber (De Geer, 1774)

affinis (Paykull, 1779)

PLATYCIS Thomson, C.G., 1859

cosnardi (Chevrolat, 1829)

minutus (Fabricius, 1787)



Represented in Britain by three species, they are commonly known as the Glow-worms. All three species show bioluminescence to varying degrees and can be identified by the shape and positioning of the light organs.

Family Lampyridae Latreille, 1817


LAMPYRIS Muller, O.F., 1764

noctiluca (Linnaeus, 1758)

LAMPROHIZA Motschulsky, 1853

splendidula (Linnaeus, 1767)

PHOSPHAENUS Laporte, 1833

hemipterus (Goeze, 1777)


Cantharidae – the Soldier Beetles.


Eschscholtz, 1829