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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
UK beetle species 'under threat'
Stag beetle
Habitat decline threatens many species of beetle
Many species of beetles in the UK are in danger of dying out, a conservation charity has warned.

Buglife, which campaigns to protect endangered insects, says 250 of the UK's 4,000 species of beetle have not been seen since the 1970s.

The charity says it is vital for other animals that the variety of beetle-life is maintained, and "imperative" that action is taken now to protect them.

It warns that habitat decline means many species may already be extinct.

Conservationists say beetles play a unique and vital role in the planet's ecosystems, including burying the corpses of dead animals and pollinating flowers.

But some species have not been observed for years in the UK. For example, the Sussex diving beetle was common in the Lewes Levels in the 1970s but was last spotted in 2002.

Buglife director Matt Shadlow told BBC News the problems facing beetles had been indicated by research into other invertebrates, such as butterflies and moths, for which better data existed.

"The data on butterflies and moths suggests that 70% of the species that occur in the UK are currently in decline," he said.

"And in fact even with the butterflies, recent butterfly conservation data shows that in the last 10 years alone, we've lost a third of all our butterflies from the countryside.

"Other invertebrates seem to be suffering very badly; so it's not surprising that when we look at the beetles, we find that there're problems there as well."

He said it was "imperative" immediate action was taken to preserve the astonishing variety of British beetles before it was too late.

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