Ground beetles are members of the Carabidae family, which contains around 350 species in Britain. Most ground beetles are voracious predators. As the name suggests, many ground beetles spend their time on the ground and few can fly. The fusion of their wing cases (elytra) acts as protecting armour. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and often specialise in eating slugs and snails, as well as eating a range of carrion. Depending on the ground beetle species, they will also attack aphids and other pest insects. By encouraging them into your garden you can start on the road to a natural method of pest control. Many ground beetles are nocturnal and need some form of shade during the day. Provide them with shelter such as a log pile, leaf litter or just some large stones. Ground beetles can be found throughout the year, although they hibernate during the coldest winter months, sometimes in garden sheds.
When threatened, ground beetles can discharge a noxious, highly irritant fluid (harmless to humans) from the tip of their abdomen. Females also use this as their own can of 'pepper spray' to deter over-amorous males.
Many ground beetles eat by vomiting on their prey and waiting for their digestive enzymes to make their food more fluid and easier to eat.
While most carabid beetles only live for a year or two, species adapted to live in low nutrient environments such as caves can live for up to six years.