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Rare visitor flies into reserve ahead of Father Christmas

Last modified: 18 December 2014

Calosoma inquisitor

Inquisitor beetle has never been seen on the Ynys-hir reserve before

Image: Dr Roger S. Key


The inquisitor beetle, one of Britain’s rarest beetles, has beaten Father Christmas to the festive present drop this year after being discovered for the first time at Cwm Llyfant, part of the RSPB’s Ynys-hir reserve in mid Wales. 

Days before Rudolf is due to fly in pulling Santa’s sleigh, the inquisitor beetle swooped into the ancient woodland on the Welsh reserve making for an early Christmas treat for all staff and visitors present.

Consultant Ecologist, Dave Boyce, and NRW Invertebrate Ecologist Adrian Fowles made the discovery, although neither had to dig around under logs or rotting leaves to unearth the rare find. As Dave Boyce explains: “We were discussing management specifically for these special insects, when out of the sky an inquisitor beetle, one of Britain’s rarest beetles, flew into a clearing and landed right next to us.” 

Wales is thought to be the last remaining stronghold in the UK for this tiny creature, with a particularly vibrant population at RSPB Carngafallt reserve in the Elan Valley, another site with lots of ancient oak trees. The inquisitor beetle was once widespread in England and Wales but its population has halved in the last 25 years. It’s now only found in small, isolated pockets of woodland in England, and a handful of sites in mid and north Wales. 

Dave Anning, Ynys-hir Reserve Manager, said: “This is a wonderful first for the reserve. We knew the woodland here was important for lots of wildlife, and to have this discovery prove that is wonderful news. 

“It was a real Christmas treat when the discovery was made, and I hope that it is the first of many inquisitor beetles to fly in and make their home here at the reserve.”
The ideal habitat for the inquisitor beetle is ancient oak woodland, and with more than 40% of the UK’s total upland oak forest found in Wales, it’s easy to see why Ynys-hir is a valuable and special home for this creature.

The cause of the decline of the inquisitor beetle is not fully understood but it is thought it may relate to a lack of appropriate management of woodland, including a lack of grazing opportunities. 
Adrian Fowles added: “Finding this beetle suggests there is a breeding population within the valley, which is encouraging news.

“Discoveries like this when we are monitoring help us further our knowledge about the significance of Welsh Oakland. They also highlight the importance of the conservation efforts to manage and protect these key areas of our environment and help prevent the loss of biodiversity.”

Through the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, you can help tackle the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside space – whether it’s a dead wood pile for mini beats and other insects, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species. 

To find out more about Giving Nature a Home and to receive a free guide packed full of simple, fun activities to help wildlife where you live, visit: rspb.org.uk/homes  

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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