Gorgeous Ground Beetles

March 29th, 2011 | by | 5 Comments
Published in An Inordinate Fondness, Backyard Garden, Beetles, Blogging Events, Introduced Species, Invertebrates
Tags: , , , , , ,

One of the joys about having a backyard garden is the opportunity to discover something new. It might be a strange looking slug, an odd looking sow bug, or in this case, a gorgeous beetle.

European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis)

The European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis), a gorgeous introduced ground beetle that can be found in many North American gardens.

This week I was prepping our raised beds and in the process of moving some soil in the wheelbarrow noticed a rather large (about half the length of my thumb) dark beetle. I thought at first it might be darkling beetle but the body shape and colouration wasn’t quite right so I took a second look.

European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis)

A closer look at the European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis) showing the beautiful coloration of this beetle.

Fortunately, I’ve got a copy of Insects of the Pacific Northwest (read my review of this book here) and with a little research I was quickly able to identify this distinctive insect.

European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis)

Note the iridescent blues and purple around the edges of the body of this European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis) and the three lines of dimples in the wing coverings.

This beetle is an introduced European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis), commonly found in gardens on both coasts of North America. The field marks make it both beautiful and relatively easy to identify – look for the purple and blue tinting around the edge of the beetle’s body as the most obvious feature. From different angles, the hardened wing coverings and pronotum can appear to be a metallic brownish-green or purple – the head is usually dull in comparison. There are three rows of dimples in each wing covering.

The natural history of this, and other introduced beetles from Europe, makes for interesting reading. A paper by H. Goulet suggests that many non-native species arrived in the ballast of ships. Barrels full of earth (and a variety of insects) from Europe were carried across to North America where they were emptied. Newly arrived beetles became established and have gradually spread towards the interior of the continent. Today, the European Ground Beetle can be found in every Canadian province except Manitoba. In Canada, they are more common in eastern Canada and coastal British Columbia.

European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis)

The European Ground Beetle (Carabus nemoralis) is an effective predator of several introduced garden pests – check out those mandibles!

Since finding this first beetle I’ve started to see them in other places in the garden – beneath last year’s leaves and plant debris, showing up in the soil as I dig the beds over, and under anything that can provide shelter during the day. They don’t seem to move too fast initially and then start digging in and trying to get underneath anything that is handy. I’m definitely glad to see them since they eat all sorts of soft invertebrates, introduced European slugs (how convenient) and other garden pests – they’re beneficial!

As you get your own gardens and flower beds ready for the coming gardening season keep an eye open for these simply gorgeous beetles!

Read more about the European Ground Beetle.

If you’re interested in reading more about beetles check out more beetle related posts at the upcoming An Inordinate Fondness beetle carnival, hosted in mid-May over at Dave Hubble’s Ecology Spot.

An Inordinate Fondness


  1. Mike B. says:

    March 30th, 2011 at 8:54 pm (#)

    Haven’t seen these yet in the garden. I wonder if they are there?

  2. Dave Ingram says:

    March 30th, 2011 at 9:02 pm (#)

    I’d take a look around under last winter’s vegetation/leaves. I found a couple in soil when I moved it to our garden beds and another one under some of last year’s Lady’s Mantle leaves. They’re big and distinctive and range as far south as California so you should have them in your neck of the woods.

  3. Amila says:

    March 31st, 2011 at 11:30 am (#)

    Great macros of the beetle! Thanks for interesting post!

  4. Island Nature :: Backyard Beetle says:

    April 24th, 2011 at 12:27 am (#)

    […] were still there. What I discovered was a large Ground Beetle that was superficially similar to the European Ground Beetles that I found at our place earlier in the month. Strong lines on the wing covers of this beetle are […]

  5. Getting grubby with grubs | tangent ramblings says:

    March 21st, 2014 at 5:33 pm (#)

    […] hope was the grubs were European Ground Beetles (Carabus nemoralis) – an beneficial and pretty beetle I often see in the garden. But they […]

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