10:10am Tuesday 20th November 2012
By Karen Bate
DORSET and Hampshire residents are being encouraged to get outside and help hunt for a rare beetle.
Both county’s are national hotspots for the rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugosus) but surveyors do not know how many there are.
In particular, the south coast and the areas bordering Wiltshire and Hampshire have been identified as potential hotspots for the beetles after they were recorded at three sites during the National Oil Beetle Hunt.
A survey carried out last year found that the beetles, which live in under-threat sandy habitats, are in decline.
Unlike other species which emerge in spring, they emerge in autumn.
National conservation trust Buglife, which is leading the survey, said the beetles have often been missed by surveyors in the past.
Project officer Anne Halpin said: "Rugged oil beetles have often been missed by surveyors because of their unusual habits, and, although we've had some new records we don't really know how widespread they are.
“Members of the public can make a big difference just by looking out for this beautiful beetle."
Rugged oil beetles can be found on flower-rich grasslands, often on south-facing slopes, which warm up quickly in the sun. They are thought to be in decline due to the loss of flower-rich meadows and wild bee populations, which they depend upon to complete their lifecycle.
More information including an identification guide and management sheet can be found at buglife.org.uk. Sightings, including photographs can also be uploaded via the website.
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