Biodiversity Journal I – Long-horned Beetles

The exact number of insect species globally is unknown however rough estimates say that more than 90% (!) of all animal life forms on Earth are insects. Detailed research has probably never been done in the vicinity of Shipka but there is no doubt that the total number of insect species would go into hundreds (if not thousands). Let’s discover at least a few little drops from this huge ocean of natural richness! From your garden through the deep forests to the peaks of Stara Planina, this journal aims to show that fascinating stories are written by nature everywhere around us. It is just a matter of paying attention!

Long-horned beetles are a group of insect named after their typically long antennae. Currently, 255 species are known to Bulgarian fauna[1]. Many of them can be found in the vicinity of Shipka! Like Semanotus russicus which inhabits warm slopes above Yasenovo village and develops in juniper shrubs, attacking either weakened or healthy living branches or trunks (see pictures).

Interesting fact: This species has been reported only once from Bulgaria (Ivaylovgrad, Eastern Rodopes[2]), which shows the natural quality of the Shipka vicinity! It is its second known locality in Bulgaria.

The second species belongs among true gems of European fauna. Rare almost all over Europe, Ropalopus ungaricus represents a remarkable inhabitant of forests around Shipka. It prefers solitarily living maple trees weakened by previous generations where it attacks stronger branches or trunks (see pictures). A stable population can be seen around the Shipka Pass!

Interesting fact: Taxonomic position of European Ropalopus ungaricus populations remains unclear. Last research considers the Bulgarian population to be a subspecies Ropalopus ungaricus insubricus.

Your garden most probably hosts a similar and more common species called Ropalopus clavipes. These black gems can develop in dry dead branches of your apple or pear trees. Larvae create a typical “mirror” gallery under the bark which makes this species easy to find (see pictures). But no worries, they will never attack healthy branches, thus cannot cause any harm to your garden.

Interesting fact: Ropalopus clavipes can develop in plenty of trees. From fruit trees to oak or beech, it is definitely not a picky species.

The last species belongs among common but difficult to spot species. Phytoecia pustulata inhabits warm meadows and pastures where it attacks living stems of different plants. Larvae create a tunnel in the stems toward the roots where they pupate. Adults overwinter in the root (see pictures). In Shipka, this species develops in yarrow plants (Achillea in Latin).

Interesting fact: Does Achillea plant sound like Achilles, the hero from Greek mythology? Of course! The legend says he treated his wounds with this plant.

 

Will you look more carefully what’s around you during your walks in nature? There is a story hidden in every detail! 🙂

[1] Gashtarov V., Georgiev G., Migliaccio E. (2007). An annotated list of Bulgarian Cerambycids with special view on the rarest species and endemics (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae). Union des Entomologistes Belges (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259531306_An_annotated_list_of_Bulgarian_
Cerambycids_with_special_view_on_the_rarest_species_and_endemics_Coleoptera_Cerambycidae).

[2] ibidem

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