Cerambyx cerdo. Photo: Kath PryceLlanelli Naturalists Newsletter - September 2007 - No 73
Ian Morgan

The term `wildwood` was devised by Oliver Rackham to describe the primeval woodland of the British Isles that covered much of the lowlands some 5000 to 7000 years ago, before mankind had a significant impact on it. This woodland had a rich and diverse fauna including such spectacular mammals as Wolves, Wild Boars, Wild Cattle, and deer. The woodland structure, with its innumerable niches and abundance of massive trees and deadwood habitat, also supported many invertebrates that are now very rare or extinct in Britain, they being confined to a few pristine woodland remnants in Central Europe and elsewhere.

In the latter category, would fall the magnificent Cerambyx cerdo, a longhorn beetle that I would drool and fantasise about when I was actively recording beetles in the late 1980s: never once did I think that I would ever see one, even if I spent a great deal of time and effort in one of its European refugia.  It is extinct in Britain, but has been found in a semi-fossil state in bog oaks, buried in peat in the East Anglian fens.

You can imagine my absolute surprise therefore, when Richard Davie, the Foothold Agency`s Green Network officer in Llanelli brought me, at the very end of June 2006, a `large beetle` and it turned out to be Cerambyx!  This incredible creature – which attains a length of some 5cm - turned up in a supply of oak in their furniture repair workshop in Trostre Road, the wood being obtained from a supplier from Carmarthen. Whilst the (very unlikely) possibility exists of the beetle being of native stock, the reality is that is almost certainly an import from somewhere in Europe such as Hungary, which itself raises concerns regarding the destruction of venerable oaks in those eastern European countries that have recently joined the European Union.  The press, both local and national, went frantic about this beetle (and I went into hiding at Gelli Aur!), with a great deal of ensuing coverage.  A second individual was also later found at the Foothold workshop.  Paradoxically, I was also pleased, later in the season, to find another longhorn (at Gelli Aur): the diminutive Pogonochoerus hispidulus, which measured in at less than 1cm!  Hardly a sparring partner for the giant Cerambyx!

Thanks to Richard Davie for bringing this wonderful beast to show me and to Richard and Kath Pryce for taking the photo of it on my hand!