Unexpected noble chafer discovery in ancient hawthorn

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Surveying for signs

The Noble Chafer, Gnorimus nobilis (Linnaeus, 1758) is a striking metallic green beetle usually associated with old orchard trees.

Noble Chafer

It is rare and classified as vulnerable in the UK, which means it is at risk of extinction here. Its UK stronghold lies in the traditional orchards of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and it is dependent on old, decaying wood within living trees such as cherry, plum apple, and occasionally oak.

During a recent survey of the orchards at the National Trust’s Croft Castle in Herefordshire, Caroline Uff and a small group of volunteers went searching for signs of the beetle larvae as part of the PTES Traditional Orchards Survey.  There were no obvious signs despite suitable habitat. However, at the suggestion of the volunteers, the search was extended to a stand of ancient hawthorn pollards on the estate.

Surveying a hawthorn tree

An unexpected find

An accumulation of the characteristic frass was found in a particularly fine old hawthorn pollard with a girth of over 2m and a hollowing trunk with rot holes!

Noble chafer frass

The frass was confirmed to be that of the Noble Chafer by Ian Thompson, a specialist in orchard insects. The Noble Chafer had been recorded once before at Croft in 1998 in an ancient oak tree.

It is encouraging to know that this rare and threatened beetle is still present on the estate. The fact that it is breeding in hawthorn is of particular interest.  It’s thought that this may be the first time such an association has been recorded and bears testament to the careful management and recognition that these ancient trees have been given over the years.

Our Conservation Officer, Laura Bower, says “This is a fantastic addition to our knowledge about noble chafers. It also means we can widen our search when searching for this elusive beetle later on this year. Watch this space for news of an exciting new survey that you can take part in!”.

Learn more about the noble chafer and its habitat:

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