Soldier Beetles and Allies Recording Scheme


This recording scheme covers all the British members of the superfamily Buprestoidea, and the former superfamily Cantharoidea (now moved to Elateroidea).

  • Buprestoidea - Buprestidae (jewel beetles)
  • Cantharoidea - Cantharidae (soldier beetles), Lampyridae (fireflies), Lycidae (net-winged beetles) & Drilidae

Records for all members of the above families are encouraged via the iRecord website or mobile app. Alternatively, records can be sent in a spreadsheet format (use the contact links below for details).

The scheme is run by Keith Alexander with the assistance of Stephanie Skipp. Both are willing to answer queries or recieve specimens for identification. (Keith's postal adress is 59 Sweetbrier Lane, Heavitree, Exeter, EX1 3AQ)

There is a Provisional Atlas Of The Cantharoidea And Buprestoidea (Coleoptera) Of Britain And Ireland, written by Keith N.A. Alexander (2003), Biological Records Centre, Huntingdon.


Buprestidae - Jewel Beetles

18 British Species

  • Antennae:  11 segmented, quite short, variably serrate
  • Head: Big eyes
  • Pronotum: Often quite quadrate with the posterior margin more or less following the shape of the top of the elytra, commonly metallic and shiny     
  • Wing cases:  Usually elongate and parallel sided, tapering to a point at the end (elytra are broader in the genus Trachys), commonly metallic and shiny
  • Tarsi: 5-5-5

Larvae: Many are wood boring and usually attack ailing, weakened trees. Most species have an annual life-cycle.

Useful resources:


Cantharidae - Soldier Beetles

41 British Species

The Cantharidae are elongate, parallel sided beetles. They are characterised by their soft wing cases that usually lack any noticeable surface structure. The larger UK species (Subfamilies: Cantharinae & Silinae) are often starkly coloured with blacks, reds and yellows. These colours reminded naturalists of the past of red-jacketed soldiers and this is how this beetle family acquired its English common name.  

Many of these larger species have distinctive markings that allow them to be identified in the field or from a photo (see Mark Gurney’s illustrated guide below). However, some species are very difficult to identify from colour alone and, in any case, colour has potential to be variable and cause confusion. For this reason, it is still important to collect specimens and check their structural characters (such as those described in Mike Fitton’s thesis key linked below).

Smaller Cantharidae (subfamily: Malthininae) can be somewhat less brightly coloured. They have shortened, dark coloured wing cases, often with a yellow spot at the tip. These can be more difficult to identify than the larger species, for example, examination of the end of the male abdomen is commonly required to identify specimens of the genus Malthodes. Stephanie Skipp is currently working on new guides to the British Malthininae, so look out for those in the near future.

Larvae: Soft bodied, with a velvety surface and some conspicuous setae. They have sclerotized heads with large mandibles for predating on small insects. They are found on the ground or in dead-wood.

Useful resources:


Lampyridae - Fireflies

3 potentially British species although only one (Lampyris noctiluca L.) is likely to be found – the description below fits this species.


  • Antennae: 11 segmented, filiform
  • Head: Very large eyes
  • Pronotum: Yellow and brown, semi-circular, largely covering head
  • Wing cases:  Brown
  • Tarsi: 5-5-5


  • Larviform (wingless), highly bioluminescent


  • Black with yellow corners to each segment - they feed on snails

Where to find them: Chalk downland in the South East of England



4 British Species – All quite rare

  • Antennae: Thick and black, almost serrate (One species, Platycis minutus (F.), has yellow antennal tips)
  • Pronotum: Black or red (bicoloured in very rare Erotides cosnardi (Chevrolat)) with distinctive patterns of ridges
  • Wing cases:  Bright red with distinctive longitudinal ridges and smaller cross-veins in-between
  • Legs: Black
  • Tarsi: 5-5-5

Where to find them: Associated with rotting wood (specifically that infested with white-rot fungi) in ancient woodlands.



1 British Species Drilus flavescens (Fourcroy)

Males and females are highly dimorphic.


  • Antennae: 11 segmented and disctinctively pectinate
  • Pronotum: Black with thick brown hairs
  • Wing cases:  Light brown and extensively hairy
  • Legs: Brown
  • Tarsi: 5-5-5


  • Larviform (wingless), much larger than males, brown with black markings


  • Orangey brown with numerous lateral, spiny processes - can be seen feeding on snails and they also overwinter in their shells.

Where to find them: Chalk downland in the South East of England


New guide to soldier beetles

Mark Gurney (who wrote the guide to beetle families on this website) has produced a brilliant new guide to the soldier beetles (genera Cantharis, Rhagonycha, Podabrus, Silis, and Ancistronycha).