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Soldier beetle faces battle for survival

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 21, 2014

By Emily Beament

Of the 114 soldier beetle and allied species in the UK, five (four  per cent) are now considered extinct in Britain PICTURE: Paul Hargreaves

Of the 114 soldier beetle and allied species in the UK, five (four per cent) are now considered extinct in Britain PICTURE: Paul Hargreaves

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One in six soldier beetle species in the UK is endangered enough to join a "red list" of species at risk of extinction, new research warns.

There are concerns over 15 per cent of the distinctive beetles and their allied species, named after their often bright colours reminiscent of the bright red jackets which used to be worn by British soldiers, the study found.

The common red soldier beetle is also known as the Bloodsucker for its striking red appearance, but it is harmless to humans. It has a narrow, rectangular body with longish antennae. There are about 40 species of soldier beetle in the UK, displaying various colour combinations of black, red and orange. It can be found on farmland, woodland, grassland and heathland, and to an extent, in town gardens.

Of the 114 soldier beetle and allied species in the UK, five (four per cent) are now considered extinct in Britain and eight (seven per cent) are critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction.

Among those considered under threat of extinction is the jewel beetle, whose larvae tunnel inside rushes and which is thought to have suffered from changes in agricultural practices.

Also at risk is the Cosnard's net-winged beetle, which requires ancient oaks and beeches in parklands and wood pasture. And five species (four per cent) are classed as near threatened, which means they do not meet all the criteria for being classed as at risk of extinction but are still of some concern, the review by Natural England and invertebrate charity Buglife found.

The study is part of a scheme to assess wildlife in the UK according to global standards set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, to give an up-to-date assessment of the threat status of families of species

Natural England's senior entomologist Jon Webb said: "Knowing the conservation status of a species is critical to its conservation. This Red List is invaluable as an up-to-date indication of which of these beetles is under threat of extinction in Britain. It is the beginning of an on-going process which will enable us to target resources at species in greatest need."

Steven Falk, entomologist at Buglife, said: "The recent State of Nature report showed that at least two out of three species of British wildlife are declining, and we know that many species of invertebrate have already become extinct in Britain such as the short-haired bumblebee.

"These reports will put a strong spotlight on those species that will become extinct over the next few decades unless we take positive action."

The Wildlife Trusts recognise the importance of healthy habitats to support all kinds of species, so manage many nature reserves for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. But these precious sites are under threat from development, intensive agricultural practices and climate change.

You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife happenings, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and be helping local wildlife along the way.

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