'Unprecedented' rare beetle making the Fens its new home

Tansy beetle spotted at Welney Wetland Centre

The Tansy beetle was previously existent at two other sites in the UK before it was spotted in Welney, and has formed a small population at the village's Wetland Centre. - Credit: Kim Tarsey

An endangered beetle which previously existed at just two sites in the UK is now making one part of the Fens its new home. 

A small population of the Tansy beetle, a protected species in the UK, has been found at the Welney Wetland Centre. 

The beetle, which is endangered due to their restricted distribution, has grown in population since they were first spotted in Welney four years ago. 

Leigh Marshall, centre manager, said: “It was thought to be restricted to just two sites in the UK, Woodwalton Fen and the River Ouse in York. 

“This was until Steve Lane and Andy Brown first found a few individuals on our wetlands in 2017. 

“Having surveyed the site and monitored them since then, we are trying to encourage a more stable population by tweaking the habitat, creating rides through scrub to open the cover up.” 

Tansy beetle spotted in Welney

The Tansy beetle was previously existent at two other sites in the UK before it was spotted in Welney, and has formed a small population at the village's Wetland Centre. - Credit: Andy Brown

The decline in the number of Tansy beetles has been threatened by events such as summer flooding, the mowing of river banks and their food plant. 

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Ecologist Steve Lane said the discovery of the 10mm-long Tansy beetle in Welney is “unprecedented” and puts the Wetland Centre firmly on the map. 

“This puts The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Welney specifically, at the forefront of invertebrate conservation in the UK,” he said.  

“We now need to ensure that its future is secure at the site through considered research, management and monitoring of the population and its habitat.” 

Tansy beetle trail in Welney

The trail used for Tansy beetles, where they are forming a small population at Welney Wetland Centre. - Credit: Emma Brand

The Welney Wetland Centre has received a grant from the Anglian Water Flourishing Environment Fund through the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation to help maintain the Tansy beetle population. 

But despite not being able to help some weather events, it is confident the beetle’s new habitat can be improved. 

A spokesperson for the centre said: “Summer flooding is an ever-present threat on the Ouse Washes, as we see impacting our ground nesting birds in the spring and early summer.   

“Thanks to this grant, we are able to try improving the habitat in this part of the reserve for invertebrates at a critical time for the Tansy beetle.” 

The Tansy beetle was thought to be extinct in East Anglia but was later rediscovered by entomologist Dr Peter Kirby in Woodwalton in 2014. 

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