Monday, 21 July 2008

Cobblers and Capricorn Beetles

I mentioned last week the cobblers that was talked by some of the customers at the flea market. Not to be outdone, an article in the Daily Mail was brought to my attention this week. (Please Note I do not read the Mail – the article was brought to my attention!!!) The article claimed “A giant beetle unseen in the UK for 300 years and rare anywhere in the world has been discovered living in Llanelli..... Startled workers at a furniture restorer almost smashed the bug to bits with a hammer in their fear before cooler heads prevailed. Others believed the 2.6 inches long bug, with two antennae up to 4 inches long, was a child's plastic toy brought in as a joke.... It is a male and he was found in timber labelled English oakwood, so it makes you question whether this massive beast is alive in England too.... This type of long-horn beetle was supposed to be have been extinct in the UK since 1700....”

The story was about a Capricorn Beetle but since it didn’t bother with the scientific name (and there are a few beetles called Capricorn Beetle) it took me a while to track down which one it was referring to. It seems it was the Giant Capricorn ( Cerambyx cerdo ).

Investigation shows that the beetle possibly disappeared in the early 18th Century but that there is really no evidence it ever was a native here after the Bronze Age – the few records may well have been in imported timber. The one that appeared in Llanelli was also probably from imported timber. The beetle is found throughout France and although rarely seen is widespread in mainland Europe (as in the Capricorne des maisons – Hylotrupes bajulus). The larvae, considered a culinary delicacy in the sub-continent, can cause widespread damage to woodwork. As result those that aren’t cooked are exterminated by injecting the wood (despite an international agreement that it should be protected.)

As for it not having been seen in the UK for 300 years that is cobblers too. Even allowing for ones that are not reported there is usually a discovery of one every couple of years as for example in Warwickshire in 2005. Still, so long as it keeps the newspapers and their readers happy I suppose the truth is fairly irrelvant.

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