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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Rare beetle returns to British countryside
Hazel pot beetle (English Nature)
The beetle was once common in the English countryside
Conservationists are claiming a victory in reintroducing a rare insect back into the English countryside.

An orange and black beetle has been pulled from the brink of extinction following a project to return it to Lincolnshire.

We didn't really know that we'd got their needs sussed until we found the new generation of adults emerging and mating this week

Nicky Hewson, University of Leeds
Two years after captive beetles were released in woods, the first generation of adults born in the wild has emerged.

"This tells us that, at last, we're getting somewhere in understanding what the beetle needs to complete its life cycle and how we can reverse decades of decline," said Dave Bromwich, of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

"It's the first time that a rare beetle has successfully been re-established as part of a conservation project in Britain," he added.

Mucky habits

The creatures, known as hazel pot beetles (Cryptocephalus coryli), live in "pots" made from dung.

They were released into the countryside as part of a project to help sustain UK biodiversity.

The insect was once quite common across England but is now in decline and restricted to a handful of breeding locations.

Conservationists released more than 200 larvae at a site at Whisby.

The grubs were even tagged with slivers of stainless steel to allow their progress among the plants and debris on the ground to be monitored with a metal detector.

The location proved to be a winner.

"They are real sun worshippers," said Nicky Hewson, a postgraduate student at University of Leeds, who is studying the beetles.

Food sources

She said the adults only lay their eggs in warm areas that get full sunshine.

"We didn't really know that we'd got their needs sussed until we found the new generation of adults emerging and mating this week," she said.

Hazel pot beetles owe their unusual name to the habits of the female.

She lays her eggs in containers she constructs from her own dung.

The beetle, which lives on young birch trees, then throws the pots to the ground.

She also cuts leaves from the bush, which fall around the encased eggs.

Following the success of the first release, the University of Leeds and English Nature are planning further releases in other parts of the country where the beetle has become extinct.

Pot English Nature
The grub continues to build the pot as it grows
See also:

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16 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
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14 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
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21 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
UK trees at risk from Chinese beetle
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