We’ve recently had a shake-up here at the UK end of deBugged. The fun-time social media and marketing folks have moved to a new office complex near Camberley whilst I remain secured in my darkened laboratory. They have a new ‘innovation wall’ and ‘quiet room': I have a beige wall and a fly culturing room. Fortunately I’m not the bitter type.
The move of the socially acceptable members of the new Marketing and Innovation team to Camberley nudged my brain into thinking about the Camberley Beetle, imported pests, and the dangers of common names. ‘Camberley Beetle’ is an old common name for an insect known these days more often by the moniker: House Longhorn Beetle. The Americans in the audience might be scratching their heads because to them it’s ‘Old House Borer’. The French contingent may still be in the dark, but it’s ‘Capricorne des Maisons’ to which I an referring. The Australians are looking at me strangely now because they know the insect as ‘European House Borer’, whilst to Germans it is ‘Hausbockkäfer’.
It’s fortunate we can all agree on Hylotrupes bajulus. (Capital ‘H’, small ‘b’, in italics). H. bajulus is a reasonly common importation pest into the UK. They hitch a ride in pallets and crates from mainland Europe and at one point in the early twentieth century came in such numbers to an area south west of London that they became established. They are the largest wood-boring pest of building timber in the UK and can eat timber to the extent that structural damage occurs. With larvae up to 2.5cm (1″) in length this is in a different league to the 2-3mm long furniture beetle larvae that have adjusted the value of Alicia’s coffee table.
Adult H. bajulus need an ambient temperature approaching 30 degrees celcius in order to fly and find a mate so it is perhaps no surprise that the southeast of England and the southeasten American states came to support imported colonies of these insects. The amount of building in the early twentieth century in the UK and the progressive use of imported and lower quality timber in the construction industry led to a number of problems including a rise in wood-boring weevil incidence in the UK imported from New Zealand. Camberley beetle has a particular fondness for pine sapwood which has led to timber used in the construction of houses in around Camberley being studiously treated and routinely inspected if it is suspected of having a high sapwood content making it higher risk of attack (sapwood is the outer part of the trunk that has more nutrients than the inner heartwood. It is often lighter in colour).
As with all pest problems good hygiene and risk management are key to controlling the problem and incidences of Camberley beetle damage declined as timbers treatments and conscientious monitoring improved. They are still, technically, a notifiable pest and small outbreaks from imported timber items still occur occasionally. A study investigating the threat to UK timbers from this beetle with rising temperature found that their potential range would increase in the next 60 years, which might mean that I can get a taste of what it’s like in Camberley from here, if I wait long enough.