A great capricorn beetle © Lidewijde at Ducth Wikipedia Via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Out of the woodwork: the great capricorn beetle

The great capricorn beetle has been extinct in Britain for hundreds, if not thousands, of years - but two made an unexpected reappearance in 1976.

The great capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo) is found locally throughout Europe and is one of the continent's largest beetles. It has a body length of around four to five centimetres excluding the antennae (which are much longer in the males).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the beetles as near threatened across Europe. This is because of the decline of the veteran trees where they live out their lives.

The beetles never usually move far from their veteran trees. Females lay their eggs into slits within the bark and as larvae (a stage that takes just over two years) they feed on the wood. The full life cycle of the beetles takes between two to five years, depending on local climatic factors. Pupation lasts a month.

The adult overwinters, then emerges in the spring. The beetles will then feed on sap.

This species is a member of the family Cerambycidae - the longhorn beetles, characterised by their extremely long antennae. There are more than 30,000 species of longhorn beetle currently described in the world, 69 of which are currently found in the UK.

Beetlemania

Having been extinct in Britain possibly for thousands of years, the great capricorn beetle caused a stir when evidence of its presence was found in the Cambridgeshire countryside in 1976.

In the video above, Beulah Garner, Senior Curator of Coleoptera at the Museum, explains the story behind the unexpected rediscovery of these long gone beetles. 

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