Spotlight on... Devil's Coach Horse

Devil’s Coach Horse (Ocypus olens)

in partnership with Wild Oxfordshire

Devil's Coach Horse

Devil’s Coach Horse (Ocypus olens) is a common long black beetle (up to 32mm), sometimes mistaken for an earwig, and one of the largest of the rove beetle family (staphylinids).

You can usually find these beetles around damp areas (decaying natural matter) such as parks, hedgerows, meadows, woods as well as being a common visitor in gardens.

The Devil’s Coach horse is nocturnal beetle, when it feeds on slugs, worms, spiders, woodlice and other invertebrates. During the day it tends to rest under stones, logs or leaf litter. Females lay their eggs in the soil, and these hatch into carnivorous larvae.

You will most probably recognise the Devil’s Coach Horse when it adopts its characteristic defensive pose (similar to a scorpion-stance) where it curls up its abdomen and open its fierce jaws! If it still feels threatened it squirts a foul-smelling fluid from its abdomen. Beware – this beetle can also give a painful bite

Devil’s Coach horse can be seen from April to October and you are most probably see them in early Spring and late Summer where they are more active.

Where are Devil's Coach Horses?

These beetles can be found in a variety of habitats which tend to be damp but not too wet habitats living around decaying matter. It is a familiar face in the wetland meadows and pastures that are part of the Yellow Wagtail Project and if you keep your eyes peeled whilst walking between Clifton Hampden and Little Wittenham, you might be lucky enough to see one.

According to our database, Devil’s Coach Horses can be found throughout Oxfordshire and Berkshire, with quite a few records in the Vale of White Horse. However, our database only includes information which people have provided to us (and we have collected), so a lack of records doesn’t mean that this beetle isn’t present in the area. All it means is that no-one has told TVERC they’ve spotted them… yet!

Have you seen any Devil's Coach Horses?

If you spot any wildlife when you’re out and about, share your records with TVERC via our website By letting TVERC know what you have seen you will help protect and improve your local environment by increasing the quality and quantity of data we hold. Photographs are always helpful too, as we keep an image gallery of species found in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Absence records are also very useful, so also let us know if you’ve been out and haven’t seen anything!

Your records can inform a variety of exciting biodiversity projects and help people make informed decisions about how to develop and manage land sustainably. We are a ‘not for profit’ organisation so rely on valuable help from skilled volunteers to improve our database.

Identification help

Devil’s Coach horse have a long uniform black body with an extended exposed powerful abdomen with shortened wing cases. They are capable of flight but are rarely seen flying. They have a flattened head and sharp pincer mouthparts.

Devil’s Coach Horse are easy to identify when assuming their characteristic scorpion-like stance when threatened or disturbed.

Find out more

Check out the links below for more information on Devil’s Coach Horse and how to identify it!