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Protecting our local species

PUBLISHED: 13:24 26 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:24 26 April 2015

Lydden Temple Ewell conservation task team

Lydden Temple Ewell conservation task team

Archant

The strange history of the wart-biter bush cricket, once used to chew warts from skin, is helping save the species

Bazuka – producer of verruca and wart treatments – is contributing to major habitat restoration works for the wart-biter bush cricket at Kent Wildlife Trust’s Lydden Temple Ewell nature reserve in the Dover Downlands.

The Species Recovery Trust, in collaboration with Kent Wildlife Trust, is working to create a habitat corridor connecting the current cricket habitat to a large area of uninhabited chalk grassland.

It is hoped that the crickets will gradually colonise this new area, expanding their range and population size. Surveys will 
be carried out in the summer to provide an up-to-date estimate of the current population size and status. This work should help to ensure the future survival of this extremely endangered insect in Kent.

Earlier this year, thanks to funding from the Species Recovery Trust, volunteer work parties carried out major scrub clearance tasks, taking the first steps in improving the habitat for the wart-biter.

The wart-biter bush cricket, whose Latin name is Decticus verrucivorus, is native to Europe but is facing extinction in the UK.

Due to environmental changes such as the destruction of grassland habitat and reduction in the number of prey species, its numbers have dramatically reduced. So much so that they are now only found in five locations across the south of the UK.

Dominic Price, Director of the Species Recovery Trust, said: “The wart-biter bush cricket is dangerously close to becoming an extinct species in the UK, which is why we, along with partners, Kent Wildlife Trust, are working tirelessly to ensure this doesn’t happen. We hope this project will help to protect one of the species’ final strongholds.”

John McAllister, Head of Reserves East for Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “Along with the great green bush cricket, the wart-biter is the UK’s largest species of insect, about the size of an average human thumb, and they are the top insect predator on old chalk grasslands. Where strong colonies 
of wart-biters thrive provides a good indication of a healthy species-rich grassland; diverse in both wild flowers and other insects upon which they feed.”

The 90 hectare site at Lydden Temple Ewell is linked to an extensive network of roadside nature reserves and is one of Europe’s finest surviving chalk grasslands.

Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a National Nature Reserve, it is rich in its diversity of insects - especially butterflies. Look out for Adonis blue, marbled white and brown argus, as well as chalk flowers; notably orchids such as rare burnt-tip.

Find out more

If you would like to get involved in our conservation work in the Dover Downlands area, then please call 01622 662012, email info@kentwildlife.org.uk or visit www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk

● The Species Recovery Trust is committed to halting the loss of some of the rarest species in the UK. Through its targeted recovery work, many species are showing an increase in their population numbers for the first time in decades and now face a more secure future. The Trust’s primary aim is to remove 50 species from the edge of extinction in the UK by 2050 through effective conservation strategies informed by detailed scientific knowledge. For more information, go to: www.speciesrecoverytrust.org.uk

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