A rare 12-cm prionid long-horned beetle has been found in the forest of Raigad. The discovery was made by naturalist and insect researcher Dr V Shubhalaxmi Reddy, the founder and managing trustee of iNaturewatch Foundation. She found the insect at a farmhouse in Jambrung village in Karjat. The last time she had seen the insect was a long time ago as a specimen at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in Mumbai.
Dr Reddy said the beetle is big enough to fit a human hand. A native to India and Sri Lanka, it’s largely seen only in the evergreen forests of western ghats, but it’s not common to see it in Karjat.
Dr Reddy said, “The first thing most of us do is look at the sky when it rains. But the slightest of rainfall is sufficient to awaken a whole new world beneath our feet. A variety of insects come out during the monsoon, and this is the time when we see rare insects.”
Scientifically called Acanthophorus serraticornis, this particular insect is the largest among long-horned beetles. It’s usually seen when it rains and gets attracted to light. “Its presence in Karjat shows a good balance in nature exists here,” said Dr Reddy, adding that its previous sighting was recorded in Pune.
The male prinoid long-horned beetle is larger than the female with large jaws which are used to fight off the rival male. Adults feed on decaying wood, while the larvae are wood borers, drilling into trunks of red silk cotton, mango, mulberry, and sal trees. They are considered pests in monoculture plantations, but in the wild they are a rare sight.
Dr Reddy said it is easy to brand an insect as a pest because there is a conflict of interest; however, the blame lies on us for serving a buffet to these insects by planting food plants in large numbers in one place.
“This insect has forced me to take out time from my routine work to do some research on it,” she says.