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[All pictures of garden wildlife on this page are thumbnails. Click on any thumbnail for a large format to be displayed.]

Longhorn Beetles (Cerambycidae)

There are many members in the Longhorn Beetle family, approximately 15,000 species all over the world. In Western Europe alone some 100 species have been spotted. Longhorn Beetles usually have very long horns with just a few exceptions. They have a slender body and many of them are nicely coloured. A few Longhorn species are considered harmful because their larvae eat dead wood and live inside wooden constructions of buildings. And because you can't see them (they make tiny holes in wood like the woodworm does) and because they can live as larvae for some 5 to 7 years, it may be too late for the wooden support of your house construction when you spot the adults. The majority of species however are not harmful as they live in stems of plants or reeds.The species to the left below for instance spends its larval stage in stems of thistles. Some beetles, just like flies, pretend to be dangerous by imitating the looks of wasps or other agressive insects. This camouflage helps them to avoid predators. The Wasp Beetle below plays this mimicing trick. It looks like a dangerous wasp but if you carefully look you will notice that is has no wings and it can not sting either.

A continental Longhorn-species (Agapanthia villosoviridescens) to the left and a Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis) to the right.

With the majority of beetle species the male and the female are almost identical. In a few exceptions, however, there are striking differences between the two genders. This is the case with Corymbia rubra, a species quite common on flowers in the gardens. The male is slender, brownish and has a black neck shield. It seldomly reaches a length of over 15 mm. The female is bigger and more plump, reaching some 20 mm in length regularly. Her body is reddish, including the neck shield. Actually they do look like two completely different species! This particular species is very rare in the UK because the plants the larvae feed on are not indigenous in Britain. It is still often referred to by either of its former scientific names Leptura rubra or Stictoleptura rubra.

Corymbia rubra Stictoleptura rubra

To the left the male and to the right the female of Corymbia rubra.

The Longhorn below to the left is smaller, reaching a length of about 16 mm. The sexes have identical looks and sizes. The body pattern is yellow showing black markings. These markings vary extremely: from entire yellow to entirely black. It is a very local species and sometimes it may occurs in large numbers. It is such a frequent visitor of flowers in the gardens that in Denmark it is called the Flower Longhorn! The larvae live in old tree stumps. For a long time it was known as Strangalia maculata until is was placed in the Leptura genus. Stenurella melanura, to the right below, used to be in the genus Strangalia as well. In this case male and female differ from one another. The male has yellow brown shields with black markings at the sides and near the end. The shields of the female are reddish brown and have black edges as well, but they are smaller than the males's. Both sexes like to sit on flowers in the sunshine. The larvae live in rotting, often somewhat moist stems and thick branches laying on the ground.

Stenurella melanura

Leptura maculata, to the left, is a local species. If present though, it might be appearing abundantly. Stenurella melanura, to the right, is a much rarer species.

The beetle below is a Longhorn as well. I couldn't identify it by its English name, so it is possible this animal doesn't live on the British Isles and in Ireland. In my garden it is a common species and it can be easily identified by the shape of the shields, the colour and especially the thickened thighs: black on the front and middle legs, red on the rear legs.

This is a small, but striking Longhorn beetle: Stenopterus rufus.

The polymorphic Tanbark Borer or the Violet Tanbark Beetle (Phymatodes testaceus) below is very similar to the soldier beetle Cantharis livida. The features to pay attention to distinguish between these two totally different species are longer antennae and jagged legs with Phymatodes testaceus.

photo of polymorphic Tanbark Borer or the Violet Tanbark Beetle (Phymatodes testaceus) photo of polymorphic Tanbark Borer or the Violet Tanbark Beetle (Phymatodes testaceus)

This is the polymorphic Tanbark Borer or the Violet Tanbark Beetle (Phymatodes testaceus).

One of probably the most remarkable Longhorns is the species depicted below. Not only does it have bulky thighs, the shields are very small as well. Each shield has just one white stripe. The abdomen is much longer than the shields are. The wings are of usual length and cover the naked body. It does look like the Rove Beetles a lot, but these have very short antennae. Molorchus minor has the usual longhorn antennae. At first glance the animal also looks like a parasitic wasp but it lacks the typical wasp waist. It also resembles an earwig, but it lacks the pincers and unlike earwigs, which fold their wings under their little shields. The wings of this beetle are always visible. It is a conifer species and not very common.

This curiously shaped longhorn is called Molorchus minor.

Many Longhorn Beetles are quite big and can thus easily be spotted. There are also quite a few very small species though. Take the beautiful Plumb Beetle below. It is named after its host plant where the larvae are found in twigs of plumb trees. It likes other trees and shrubs as well, including roses. Due to its small size (3-6 mm) this insect is probably often overlooked. Usually it takes the larvae 1 year to develop into an adult beetle but in some cases they need two years to develop. Th striking feature of this species is its hair. The thorax shield and the tips of the elytra are kind of black, but under the specific light circumstances they may turn into a wonderful, metallic blue. This species is very common all over Europe and has even reached Northern America. The scientific name Tetrops praeusta is still often used for this species, but it is wrong as Tetrops is a mascular word.

A very small Longhorn Beetle: the Plumb Beetle (Tetrops praeustus). In direct sunlight on the black parts might reveal a beautiful metallic blue colour.

Below we would like to introduce a very small longhorn beetle. It is a dark, not very colourful species which reaches a length of 3 to 7 mm only. It distinguishes itself from other similar dark species by its ringed antennae. The larvae just live for one year under the bark of moulding and rotting wood. They are found in trees, such as willow and oak and in shrubs, such as blackberries and ivy and even in cultivars such as berberis. The adults are often seen on flowers and frequently encountered on Hawthorn, Dog-rose and Bramble. This is a common species in Europe, including all of the British Isles, Russia, Turkey and Western Asia.

This small, dark and rather plain-looking long horn beetle is called Grammoptera ruficornis.


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