Hermit Beetle, the Ambassador

FSC / Marius Čepulis
Close-up of oak bark
FSC / Marius Čepulis
January 22, 2022
Category : Stories

Encircled by a forest, stands the Sacred Daubų Oak. Sunrays pierce through its canopy and play in a clearing below. “This oak is over 300 years old, 28 metres tall and protected by the State as natural heritage,” says Alvydas Gintaras.

He and his colleagues Adelė Banelienė, Daiva Letukaitė and Dalia Bastytė-Cseh are researchers from the Lithuanian Fund for Nature (abbreviated as ‘LGF’ in Lithuanian). They restore ancient trees and protect many species that depend on them. One of the species, the hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita), is found here in the Neris Regional Park. 

FSC certified since 2004, the park offers 10,000 hectares of unique landscapes and a harbour for endangered species, such as the hermit beetle. Included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and considered a priority species in the EU, this beetle is tricky to please. It only lives in sunny hollows of old, deciduous trees, similar to the Sacred Daubų Oak. Such microhabitats are key to many endangered, yet lesser researched species. “They are simply too specialized to adapt to other conditions,” explains Alvydas.

Old oak in front of team of ecologists
FSC / Marius Čepulis

“Wherever we find hermit beetles, we know that countless other species are likely to be living there as well,” says Dalia, ecologist at LGF. “That is why the hermit beetle is known as an umbrella species.” Dalia is the project manager of the 'Ecological network for Osmoderma eremita and other species dependent on veteran trees'. “We chose the hermit beetle to be our project ambassador. Protecting it means protecting other species as well,” she explains. 

Partnering with Daugavpils University (Latvia) and the Lithuanian Zoological Garden, Dalia’s team is working to re-establish hermit beetle populations in their historical habitats. “We preserve veteran trees for the sake of these species, as well as for the sake of people. Many locals are drawn to old oaks. To tell you the truth, I enjoy our work especially because we help old trees to live longer,” says Dalia.

Close-up of hermit beetle on oak tree
FSC / Marius Čepulis

During the last five years, Dalia’s team has inventoried and assessed ancient trees in selected areas across the country, 308 trees in the Neris Regional Park alone. Many trees have already been taken care of; their habitats improved. The Sacred Daubų Oak is one of them. Its trunk has been fortified, wounds treated, and the area around it brightened to accommodate the needs of the hermit beetle. “We clear the thickets near veteran trees to allow more sunlight for hermit beetles,” explains Alvydas.

Ecologists in a forest
FSC / Marius Čepulis

The team has also placed a couple of specialized nesting boxes for the beetle in the nearby Verkiai Regional Park. Unique in their structure, the nesting boxes accommodate many species at once and have been successfully populated by the hermit beetle. “The larvae are grown by our partner, the Lithuanian Zoological Garden,” adds Dalia.

Will this be enough to save the species? “Our project covers a comparatively small area between Kaunas and Vilnius. In this territory, the population of the hermit beetle is increasing. But what will happen in the rest of the country is yet another question.” 

Tall wooden nesting box of hermit beetle
FSC / Marius Čepulis

Like other FSC-certified forests in Lithuania, the Neris Regional Park will remain a haven for the hermit beetle. Here, in accordance with principles of environmental and conservation values, old hollow trees and their microhabitats are protected. And it has further improved since 1 January 2021, when the new FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard of Lithuania came into force. In accordance with it, reserved sample areas, such as endangered species’ habitats, will double to at least 10 per cent of each FSC-certified forest management area. This means more forest is protected and safe for all the species that depend on it, including the hermit beetle. 

Forest at dawn against pink skies
FSC / Marius Čepulis