European Rhinoceros Beetle found in Durham after 'hitchhiking' from Holland in potted plant

George the European Rhinoceros Beetle was found in a plant bought at a supermarket. Credit: Kay Willis

A European Rhinoceros Beetle has been nicknamed George and is settling into his new home at the zoo after stowing away in a plant imported from Holland.

Kay Willis, from Chester-le-Street, in County Durham, found the beetle, which is not native to the UK, in the root ball of a fruit tree bought at a supermarket.

It survived being wrapped in plastic, the journey from Holland, and being soaked in water, and was nicknamed George by Ms Willis – in tribute to her favourite Beatle.

After contacting invertebrate conservation charity Buglife for information about the creature, she discovered it was a European Rhinoceros Beetle.

The beetle has since been taken to Northumberland Zoo, where it is not on display but may feature in daily minibeast talks.

Usually found near the Mediterranean Sea, the European Rhinoceros Beetle is not thought to be a threat to UK species.

George is now a resident at Northumberland Zoo, where visitors can request to see him. Credit: Kay Willis

Buglife said its appearance highlighted a weakness in biosecurity measures and warned of the risks of "horticultural hitchhikers".

David Smith, from the charity, said: “While it is fascinating to observe unfamiliar species of insects in the UK, it is extremely concerning that species as large as the European Rhinoceros Beetle can make their way here undetected in products.

"The horticultural hitchhiking pathway for non-native species must be closed to prevent further harm to, and loss of UK nature.”

Northumberland Zoo said it was rare to see a Rhinoceros Beetle in the UK, but added it was worrying that the non-native species had arrived in the way it had.

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