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Hibernation in Snowy Sweden

290Hi, Matt here! I’ve just returned from a skill exchanging trip to snowy Sweden, visiting our colleagues and collaborators at Nordens Ark. One of the really interesting aspects of working with native reptiles and amphibians in Sweden at this time of year is the hibernation process..

During the long dark winter, the temperatures plummet to levels which are too cold for reptiles and amphibians to maintain their normal behaviour. Nordens Ark use this time to perform annual health checks and head counts before placing their animals into a specially designed hibernation facility, where they can be closely looked after during this period of dormancy.

As well as the reptiles and amphibians, some of the rare insects they are working with, both larvae and emerged adults, also go through the controlled hibernation. One such intriguing species is the Capricorn beetle, Cerambyx cerdo, which is critically endangered in Sweden due to its specific breeding biology – it requires ancient oak trees with sufficient amounts of dead wood to lay its eggs in and for the beetle grubs to feed upon. The larvae normally take 5 years to grow big enough to moult and become an adult, which once emerged will then live for only 1-2 months. This means that only pristine ancient woodlands can support this species, an environment which is increasingly rarer in modern Sweden.

Capricorn beetle, Cerambyx cerdo (c) Matthew O’Donnell

Current populations are limited to eight trees with only 20 specimens emerging every year, so for the past 3 years Nordens Ark have been working with beetles collected in Poland (which has a bigger population) to perfect the captive breeding and rearing of these stunning beetles so that the experience can be transferred to keeping Swedish beetles. Through their hard work and determination with the beetles, they have been able to produce a method to breed and rear the beetles to mature adults in only just two years, which will highly increase timescales and numbers for release to the wild from captive breeding.



Capricorn beetle larvae (c) Matthew O’Donnell

Due to the great success in rapidly raising polish larval specimens it means that this year they will hopefully be able to start working with the critically endangered Swedish beetles and producing enough young to release to new regions soon and create new populations to ensure this incredible beetle also has a strong future in Sweden.

Below Jimmy Helgessen tells me about the project, and I would like to sincerely thank him and all at Nordens Ark who made my trip so enjoyable.

Hear and see more about my visit to snowy Sweden by going to my own page and following the link under my video below.


Matt’s Page            Nordens Ark         Capricorn Beetle Conservation Project

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