Ground beetles and rove beetles

Many insects found in gardens are beneficial including predatory insects such as ground and rove beetles

Violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Quick facts

Common name Ground beetles or carabids and rove beetles or staphylinids
Scientific name Numerous species (over 1300)
Where found Mainly on or in the soil
What do they do Mainly predatory beetles that feed on insects and other small invertebrate animals
Most active: March to October

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What are they?


Two  beetle families are largely ground dwelling and predatory and should be considered  gardener’s friends: ground beetles (carabids) and rove beetles (staphylinids). Adults and larvae of most species in these families eat insects, slugs and other invertebrate animals. There are about 350 species of carabid and 1000 species of staphylinid beetles in Britain

Rove beetles have elongate bodies with short wing-cases that leave most of the abdominal segments uncovered. They are 2-30mm (up to 1¼in) long and most are black or brown in colour, but some have red wing-cases and markings. The matt black devil’s coach horse (Ocypus olens) is Britain's largest rove beetle and is often found in gardens under logs or pots. A smaller species, Atheta coriaria, is bred and supplied as a biological control for fungus gnat larvae in glasshouses.

Ground beetles are 2-25mm (up to 1in) long many are black but some are brown, green or blue, often with a metallic sheen. Most feed at ground level, but some will climb plants to feed on aphids and small caterpillars. One common garden species, the violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus), has metallic-purple edges to the wing-cases and thorax. Being one of the bigger carabids, 20-25mm long, it will feed on larger garden pests, such as slugs, leatherjackets and cutworms. Its long legs and powerful jaws which mark it out as an active predator.


Ground beetles and rove beetles typically;

  • Lay eggs in the soil or in accumulations of organic matter
  • Have larvae which are elongate, relatively soft-bodied grubs that have three pairs of legs near the head end
  • Have a head, thorax and usually some of the abdominal segments which are brown or black but the underside is creamy white
  • Have larvae which remain in the soil or leaf litter, where they feed on small invertebrate animals and their eggs
  • As adult beetles, especially of ground beetles, are much more active and may be seen running over the soil surface

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