Thursday, June 5, 2008
All beetle needs is love
Linton Zoo director Kim Simmons with Billy the beetle. Cameraman: David Johnson
A GIANT beetle with an inch-long horn is looking for love after sneaking into Britain - in a shipment of bananas.
The elephant beetle - more at home in the rainforests of Costa Rica - is now fully grown at nearly five inches long.
And time is ticking because elephant beetles - an endangered species - live for just four months.
The creature arrived in a container shipment of bananas from Costa Rica to London and was handed to Linton Zoo, Cambs, by pest control officers last week.
They nicknamed him Billy and are busy satisfying his voracious appetite - he munches mangoes and bananas.
Zoo staff cannot tell his precise age but believe him to be full grown because he has a 4cm-long horn and weighs 35g.
Linton Zoo director Kim Simmons said: "Billy needs to mate.
"He is showing all the signs and keeps displaying. He bobs up and down on his branch and taps on the ground.
Home - Billy the beetle at Linton Zoo"He has been making the most of his new home and emits tiny mating calls. It's like he's saying 'here I am, come get me'."
But the hunt for a female elephant beetle has so far drawn a blank.
Kim said: "We haven't been able to find Billy a Betty from zoos. Now we're pinning our hopes on private collectors."
Zoo staff believe it is a miracle he survived the journey.
Kim said: "It's a very lucky and tough insect having survived the journey to Britain and the pesticides designed to prevent unwanted creatures entering the country."
The elephant beetle population has recently been depleted by the destruction of the rainforests, which has reduced their grounds for mating.