Alien discovery sparks international beetle drive

The remains of one of the beetle stowaways, with its distinctive swept-back wings. Picture courtesy of St Helena Government

The remains of one of the beetle stowaways, with its distinctive swept-back wings. Picture courtesy of St Helena Government

Three stowaways have been found hitching a ride to St Helena’s airport, nearly two years before it is even due to open.

Even though they had no papers on them, David Pryce of St Helena National Trust had no trouble identifying them as pachylomera femoralis – giant flattened dung beetles.

Their remains were spotted in the back of a trailer by Basil Read workers who were assembling new plant in upper Rupert’s Valley.

The discovery sparked a bio-security alert, and was promptly reported to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (ANRD).

Giant flattened dung beetles burrow beside fresh dung of various mammals for feeding, as well as rolling away balls of dung to brood their young. They are attracted to a wide range of dung types, carrion and fermenting fruit. Their native distribution is wide, from South Africa up to the Congo.

Basil Read has mapped the trailer’s journey from Port Elizabeth on the coast of South Africa up to Walvis Bay in Namibia, where it was loaded on to the company’s supply vessel.

A press release from St Helena Government said: “The beetles are believed to be attracted to lights and they probably fell into the open trailer while it was parked under security lights at some point.”

Ravi Michael, logistics manager for Basil Read on St Helena said the discovery was investigated swiftly so that any weaknesses in biosecurity could be closed up.

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