Lunchtime, but not Cowed by Longhorns!

Photo L Baum   Rutpela maculata

Lunchtimes at the Viewpoint always give bonuses, in between looking at ospreys. Sometimes it’s a large slice of home-made cake on your plate, sometimes it’s a large beetle on your water bottle.

It’s quite a big beetle, 20mm long,  and although common in the South of England becomes rarer the closer you get to Scotland so we don’t see them that often. Due to its long antennae and colour its common name is ‘the black and yellow longhorn beetle’. No surprises there. It’s one of a herd of 68 different longhorn species in Britain, many of which are equally beautiful with patterns of orange, green and yellow but sadly, along with most other insects, in decline.

Dodd Wood is an ideal spot for it to live, particularly as the forest has been thinned over the past couple of years. Its larvae feeds on rotting wood, favouring the damp debris  of birch and pine and as an adult it eats nectar and pollen from flower-heads such as hog-weed and cow parsley that spring up as more light hits the forest floor.

Its life cycle can take up to 4 years but for nearly all of that time it is a pale grub and then a pupae. The colourful adult only lasts a couple of months in which it needs to find a mate. This one is probably a female as her ‘horns’ are more stripy than the males’. They are valuable members of the forest eco system, as decomposers when young and pollinators when adult.

However, not all longhorns are so benign, as the world warms the their Chinese cousin the Asian long horn beetle Anoplophora glabripennis  is able to advance North, often brought to Britain in consignments of untreated wood  and, as with many non-native species, this beefy individual has no natural predator. Unlike our natives it does not confine itself to dead wood but lays its eggs in living branches, its larvae creating long galleries, invisible inside the tree, until at last it hatches out from holes larger than 5p pieces. Attacking both timber and fruit trees it is of top concern to the Forestry Commission,  Forest Research Department and is a notifiable insect -this means  if you see one it is vital that you report it, following this link, through Tree Alert

Here’s its picture.

Asian long horn beetle Anoplophora glabripennis

The only way to control the spread is through felling with a buffer zone of 2km The last outbreak in Kent in 2012 saw 2229 trees felled of which 66 contained larvae. Only the quick response prevented 1000’s more trees being felled.

Forest Research is at the forefront, protecting our trees from pests and diseases. Find out more and see what other fantastic and fascinating work Forest Research does. Click on this link .https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/asian-longhorn-beetle/