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

Read later


During Beta testing articles may only be saved for seven days.

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.


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. 

We hope you enjoyed this article…

... or that it helped you learn something new. Now we're wondering if you can help us.  

Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.  

British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over. 

But if we don't look after nature, nature can't look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.

Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife. 

For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. People tell us they 'still get shivers walking through the front door', and thank us for inspiring the next generation of scientists.

To reverse the damage we've done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.  

We are a charity and we rely on your support. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists' work in understanding and protecting the natural world.  

From as little as £2, you can help us to find new ways to protect nature. Thank you.