Wild Ken Hill joins project to reintroduce UK's largest grasshopper

Image source, Wild Ken Hill
Image caption,
The insect is a vibrant mix of pink and yellow which thrives in wet fens and peat bogs

More than 120 of the UK's largest and rarest grasshoppers have been released at a sustainable farming scheme which hosted BBC Springwatch.

The introduction of the large marsh grasshoppers is one of a number of projects hoping to boost biodiversity at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk.

They are currently only found in wet habitats in the New Forest and Dorset.

Ecologist Lloyd Park said they were probably at risk of becoming "extinct in the UK" without human intervention.

Image source, Wild Ken Hill
Image caption,
The grasshoppers were marked with a small spot of coloured paint to help monitor their movements after release

The insects formerly thrived in wetlands across Norfolk and the Cambridgeshire fens, but much of that habitat has disappeared over the past century.

They are known as "hoppers" and 122 of them were released at the West Ken Hill Estate, which stretches inland from The Wash near Heacham, on 22nd August.

Mr Pack, who is the farm's conservation leader and ecologist said: "The way we manage wetter areas here at Ken Hill should provide them with everything they need to become an established important part of the site's ecology."

Image source, Wild Ken Hill
Image caption,
The males measure between 12 and 25mm (0.4in to 0.9in), while the females measure between 26 and 39mm (1in to 1.5in) long

Citizen Zoo lead entomologist Stuart Green said checks suggested they were doing well eight days after release.

He said: "Hopefully, by now they will have laid eggs, which will over-winter and hatch into a new generation of large marsh grasshoppers next spring."

If they survive the winter, the invertebrates will help break down and recycle organic matter as well as providing food for other animals as a prey species, boosting the estate's ecosystems.

The release is part of a bigger project called A Hop of Hope, which has released 1,058 large marsh grasshoppers this year.

Image source, Wild Ken Hill
Image caption,
They have been released on a private part of the 4,000-acre (1,619-hectare) family farm

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