Long-horned beetle (Macrodontia cervicornis)

GenusMacrodontia (1)
SizeAverage male length: 13 to 14 cm (2)
Average female length: 10 to 11 cm (2)
Maximum length: 16.5 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The largest and most widespread of the longhorn beetles, this gigantic species is instantly recognisable for its striking patterning and enlarged jaws (3). The jaws reach the greatest length in the males (2), and are inwardly curved with a serrated inner edge (3). The head and body colouration is brown and black, with irregular, ornate black markings on the wing cases (elytra). Despite its great size, this species is capable of flight, raising the wing cases and directing them forwards to allow room for the wings to beat (4). The larvae of Macrodontia cervicornis are extremely large, reaching up to 21 centimetres in length and, unusually for beetle larvae, are coloured brown rather than white (3).

Macrodontia cervicornis is found in the Amazon Basin, occurring in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, eastern Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (5).

Macrodontia cervicornis inhabits tropical forest (2) (5).

Little is currently known about the biology of Macrodontia cervicornis. It is active at night, and, like other longhorn beetles, probably feeds on plant material, such as sap, leaves, blossoms, fruit, bark and fungi (3) (6). Most of this species’ life is spent in the larval stage, which can last for up to 10 years, while its adult phase is likely to last no more than a few months during which time dispersal and reproduction take place. The female lays eggs under the bark of dead or dying softwood trees, and once hatched, the larvae burrow into the rotting wood, creating extensive galleries over a metre long and ten centimetres wide (3) (6) (7).

Due to the lengthy larval period of this species, it is highly vulnerable to the effects of the indiscriminate forest clearance that is occurring throughout its range. Deforestation not only drastically reduces the number of individuals surviving to reproductive age, but also removes sites in which to lay eggs (7). Macrodontia cervicornis is also in great demand for insect collections, and specimens are frequently recorded in the international insect trade (3) (8).

It has been recommended that international trade in Macrodontia cervicornis should be restricted under the EU-Wildlife Trade Regulation, and also possibly under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (8). In addition to the threat of trade, the designation of more extensive protected areas is necessary to reduce habitat loss and ensure the survival of this remarkable species (2).

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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
  2. Salazar, J. (2001) Sobre algunas localidades colombianas para conocer y estudiar a Macrodontia cervicornis (L.), M. Dejeani (Gori) y Titaneus giganteus (L.) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae). Boletín Científico–Centro de Museo –Museo de Historia Natural, 0: 155 - 171.
  3. Hogue, C.L. (1993) Latin American insects and entomology. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  4. Pettigrew, J.B. (1908) Design in nature. Volume 3. Longman, Green, and Co., London.
  5. Monné, M.A. and Bezark, L.G. (2008) Checklist of the Cerambycidae, or longhorned beetles (Coleoptera) of the Western Hemisphere. Unknown Publisher, Unknown location. Available at:
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. Salazar, J. (1995) Insectos del llano. Cristina Uribe Ediciones, Bogotá, Colombia.
  8. Schütz, P. and Melisch, R. (2000) TRAFFIC completes a study on butterfly trade in Europe. TRAFFIC Dispatches, 14: 3 - 14.