How do I identify beetles?
The first step in identifying beetles is to make sure that your insect is a beetle! The following webpage provides an excellent summary of the main features of beetles: https://www.coleoptera.org.uk/what-are-beetles
Larger and slow-moving beetles can be photographed in the field and then 'picture-matched' with a good insect field guide. ColSoc recommends either of the two excellent insect guides by Paul D. Brock:
Britain's Insects: A Field Guide to the Insects of Great Britain and Ireland. WILDGuides, 2021. ISBN: 9780691179278
A Comprehensive Guide to Insects of Britain and Ireland. 2nd edn. NatureBureau, 2019. ISBN: 9781874357902
There are several websites with extensive picture galleries of beetles, although these are less informative than the Brock field guides as there is no information on range, phenology and habitat. Our resources section, websites page [https://www.colsoc.org/resources-websites] will point you to some beetle photo galleries.
If you are still unable to match your beetle with a species in one of these field guides, then you can try posting your images to a beetle-focussed social media channel. Our website banner has links to our social media presence at top right on every page.
It is also important to remember that both field guides and photo galleries may not have a comprehensive coverage of the species in a genus. Smaller beetles, in particular, are invariably underrepresented. To be absolutely sure, it may be necessary to look up your provisional beetle name in the latest Checklist [https://www.colsoc.org/checklist] to see if you have considered all of the possible species.
For smaller and/or hard-to-identify beetles it may be necessary to take a voucher specimen or two. For information on how to collect beetles and maintain a collection of voucher specimens, see Cooter & Barclay (2006).
The following books by Andrew G. Duff cover every beetle in Britain and Ireland, but are very technical and intended for experienced coleopterists and naturalists wishing to make a transition from a casual to a more serious interest in beetles:
Beetles of Britain and Ireland. Volume 1: Sphaeriusidae to Silphidae. A.G. Duff (Publishing), 2012. ISBN: 0780957334700
Beetles of Britain and Ireland. Volume 2: Staphylinidae. A.G. Duff (Publishing), in prep. ISBN: 078095733417
Beetles of Britain and Ireland. Volume 3: Geotrupidae to Scraptiidae. A.G. Duff (Publishing), 2020. ISBN: 9780957334724
Beetles of Britain and Ireland. Volume 4: Cerambycidae to Curculionidae. A.G. Duff (Publishing), 2016. ISBN: 9780957334731
COOTER, J. & BARCLAY, M.V.L. 2006. A Coleopterist’s Handbook. 4th edition. Amateur Entomologists’ Society.