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Issue 483, 5 June 2002

Beetle breeding breakthrough

A six-year project to prevent a rare beetle from extinction has had a major success with its first generation of adults born in the wild. Researchers from the school of biology have been working with English Nature and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to learn more about the behaviour of the hazel pot beetle and identify the exact habitat which it needs to survive.

The beetle is unusual in that it covers its eggs with droppings to protect them, and feeds its larvae with leaves. Once common all over England, only three natural colonies of the black and orange beetle remain.

The researchers have found that the hazel pot beetle, despite its name, needs areas populated with young birch saplings in hot, sunny and sheltered conditions, with very little grass but plenty of moss and bare ground with hollows full of leaf litter.

Captive bred beetles introduced two years ago to former sand and gravel workings in Lincolnshire's Whisby Nature Park (see Reporter 460) have produced the first generation of adults born in the wild.

PhD student Nicky Hewson said: "Part of the problem is that the sort of habitat they like doesn’t look very pretty and nature reserves have tended not to create it intentionally."

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust will now manage the site at Whisby to keep the habitat right for beetles in the future. The University is planning further introductions in other parts of the country in collaboration with English Nature.

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