British insects: the families of Coleoptera


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Ochthebius Leach

Adults. Beetles aquatic; walking in water or free-swimming by conventional ambulatory motion of the legs, not diving strongly; moving in the water by alternate, walking leg movements; probably replenishing air for respiration beneath the elytra indirectly from that acquired and held in a ventral plastron (? - being ventrally hairy); perhaps incorporating bubbles of oxygen directly into the plastron (?). Beetles 1–2.8 mm long; body length/maximum body width 1.6–2.57. Beetles elongate; not necked; conspicuously waisted. Upper surfaces of body not bristly; with neither scales nor scale-like setae.

Eyes two; not strongly protuberant; without bristles. Mandibles with a well developed mola. The maxillae with distinct galea and lacinia apically to the palp. The maxillary palps conspicuously elongated, sometimes longer than the antennae. The maxillary palps conspicuously elongated, sometimes longer than the antennae. The apical segment of the maxillary palps cylindrical to fusiform. The apical segment of the labial palps not expanded apically. Antennae very short, or short, or about half the insect's head to tail length; not strongly asymmetric; 9 segmented. Antennal scape not swollen. Antennae clubbed. Antennal clubs 5 segmented (the club hairy); preceded by a cupule. Antennal insertions hidden from above.

Prothorax without notopleural sutures. Pronotal length/maximum pronotal width 0.42–1.05. The pronotum narrowing towards the rear; with large pits (sometimes four with a median groove, sometimes a transvese depression). Metaventrite without a transverse groove. Mid-and hind-legs not as in Gyrinidae (q.v.). The fore-leg coxal cavities narrowly separated. Hind coxae not extended laterally to meet the elytra; not shaped posteriorly to receive the femur. The hind coxae not produced behind into flat plates partly concealing the hind femora. Hind coxae without the steep transverse declivity characteristic of Dryopoidea. The inner parts (‘processes’) of the hind coxae not incorporated with the metasternum in a flat, median longitudinal keel. Tarsal segmentation formula 4, 4, 4. None of the tarsi with conspicuously bilobed segments. Some of the tarsi with a tiny basal segment that is hard to detect. The front tarsi with as many segments as the mid-tarsi; 5-segmented; apical segment longer than the rest together, or about as long as the rest together. Mid-leg tarsi 5-segmented; pentamerous, or pseudotetramerous. The claws of the mid-leg tarsi not appendaged. The claws of the mid-leg tarsi simple; without an associated empodium. Hind tarsi with at least as many segments as the mid-tarsi; 5-segmented; not flattened oar-like. Hind tarsi equipped with ‘swimming hairs’. Hind tarsi with the apical segment longer than the second; with the apical segment at least as long as all the rest together. Swimming hairs confined to the tarsi.

Elytral length/maximum width across the elytra 1.18–2. Elytra exposing no more than part of the terminal tergite. Scutellary striole absent. Wings well developed, or absent or much reduced; fringed with long hairs on the hind margin, or not fringed. Exposed abdominal sternites 7; all articulated and movable. Abdominal segment 8 with apparently functional spiracles.

Adults not predacious; phytophagous (on algae). In stagnant water and ponds, heath pools and mud by running water, but especially associated with brackish water.

Larvae. The larvae campodeiform; elongate and more or less parallel-sided; vestiture restricted to fine hairs or setae; only very lightly pigmented. The antennae 3 segmented; 0.15–0.5 x the head width, or more than 0.5 x the width of the head. Stemmata fewer than 6. Frontoclypeal suture between frons and clypeus distinct. The labrum and head capsule separated by a complete suture. Apices of the mandibles bilobed or bidentate. The maxillary palps 3 segmented. The labium with a short ligula between the palps. The labial palps 3 segmented. The mesothoracic legs 5 segmented (including the pretarsus); with 1 movable claw. Visible abdominal segments 10. Tergum 9 of the abdomen entirely dorsal.

The larvae non-aquatic (living in wet places, but easily drowned). The abdomen exhibiting functional abdominal spiracles; having functional spiracles on anterior segments; with the spiracles on the eighth segment borne at the ends of spiracular tubes. The larvae without gills. Abdominal tergum 8 without amature. The larvae not predacious; phytophagous (on algae?).

Larvae subcylindric, active.

Worldwide and British representation. 15 species in Britain. Recorded from Scotland, Northern England, South-west England and Wales, South-eastern England, and Ireland.

Classification. Suborder Polyphaga; Infraorder Staphyliniformia; Superfamily Staphilinoidea; Hydraenidae.

General comments on this taxon. The thorax is strongly transverse and the last joint of the maxillary palps is much smaller than the penultimate one (being sometimes so small as to be hard to detect).

Miscellaneous. • Hydraena britteni and Ochthebius subinteger, with Hydrophilidae and Staphylinidae: Fowler Suppl. 3, 1913. • Fowler Suppl. 3, 1913: original legend..

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Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. British insects: water beetles. Version: 18th September 2012.’.