Record stick insect colony found in Cornwall

Image caption,
The hard-to-spot stick insects were first found in the garden about six years ago

The largest recorded colony of stick insects in the UK has been found in a back garden in Cornwall, according to the conservation charity Buglife.

One hundred and forty of the insects were counted at the property near St Austell during a stick insect survey in September.

The charity's Conservation Officer, Andrew Whitehouse, said the find was "quite spectacular".

Colonies of just two or three stick insects are more usual, he said.

Mr Whitehouse said: "It's quite incredible.

"There's probably three or four times the number counted actually in the garden.

"It far exceeds anything we've had before."

Mandy Rance-Matthews, in whose back garden the stick insects were found, said she and her husband first spotted them about six years ago:

She said: "They've increased over the years... it's become an obsession with our friends to count them when they come round.

"We're proud, chuffed, delighted. We feel we're guardians of the stick insects."

Mrs Rance-Matthews said she did not "have a clue" why the stick insects were so fond of her garden, but said her house was in a sheltered valley and she and her husband were careful not to cut the leylandii hedge where they congregated.

Stick insects are not native to the UK and are only found in the South West of England because of the region's milder climate.

'Bitter winters'

There had been fears last year's cold winter could have dramatically reduced the stick insect population as the eggs, which are laid in autumn and hatch in spring, cannot survive frost.

Malcolm Lee, who is based in Cornwall and helped with the stick-insect survey, said: "Despite the last two bitter winters, we still received an impressive number of records which indicates that stick insects are still going strong in Cornwall."

Stick insects originally come from New Zealand and were carried into the UK on imported plants.

The first recorded stick insect found in the UK was in 1909 in Paignton, Devon.

Species found in the South West include the prickly stick insect, the smooth stick insect and the unarmed stick insect, Mr Lee said.

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