Rare oil beetles found at Gloucestershire nature reserve

A rugged oil beetle (Photo: Buglife)
Image caption A spokesman for Buglife said finding 11 rugged oil beetles in one go was "impressive"

The sighting of a high number of rare beetles at a Gloucestershire nature reserve is being celebrated by experts.

Eleven rugged oil beetles, which are believed to be in serious decline, were counted at the Elliott nature reserve on Swift's Hill near Stroud.

The Stroud valleys have been a stronghold for the beetle, as have reserves in Somerset and Wiltshire.

A Buglife spokesman said the beetles were usually found in low numbers, so to find 11 in one go was "impressive".

The beetle species was first recorded at the Elliott reserve in 2007 by entomologist Jon Mellings, from Dursley.

He returned to the site last November and recorded seven specimens which he reported to Buglife as part of their autumn rugged oil beetle survey.

Mr Mellings, said: "The beetles were feeding on various herbs and grass stems but were initially difficult to spot even with torchlight."

Subsequently a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) ecologist visited the same spot a month later and recorded 11 beetles.

Kathy Meakin, from the GWT, said oil beetles were parasites of solitary mining bees and added that this particular species was "fascinating".

"It's a very good sign we are getting our habitat management right if we can find rare, specialised parasites," she said.

The rugged oil beetle - meloe rugosus - is one of four types of oil beetle believed to have suffered drastic decline in the UK, with another four oil beetle species now thought to be extinct.

Andrew Whitehouse, from the Buglife conservation charity, said the Stroud valleys were a "national stronghold" for the species.

"Somerset and Wiltshire are also 'hotspots' - we have historical records for a good number of sites," he said.

But he said they had fewer records in the past 10 years so wanted people to let us know if they see any of these brilliant beetles.

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