Sunday, 25 November 2012

Cricket season …

Lord's Piece, 15 April 2012

The Field Cricket (Gryllus campestris) is a large, glossy black cricket (in its adult form) with a distinctively large head, particularly in the male. The nymphs exhibit a beautiful golden pubescence. It is one of the rarest insects in the British Isles and is confined to a small area of the South Downs in West Sussex and Hampshire. Its habitat has been destroyed over much of its former range and it now exists in only one native site but has been introduced to a series of other suitable locations. It is now the subject of a Species Recovery Programme, having reached an estimated population low of just fifty pairs in 1991, all in one small area of West Sussex, the second known colony having gone extinct two years previously.

It can be difficult to see G. campestris without potentially damaging its habitat and this is not permitted because it is a protected species in the UK. Access to the release sites is very restricted because the populations are still extremely fragile and vulnerable to disturbance. However, their beautiful song can be heard from a distance of more than 100m on warm days during May and early June. If they are present, you will quickly know about them. A search of entomological literature suggests that G. campestris has long enjoyed a reputation far outweighing its proven presence in England. This is largely due to the writings of Gilbert White who described part of its life history, as well as that of the secret art of tickling them from their burrows (nymphs and adults will rapidly retreat down their burrows when disturbed but may be induced to come out again by the gentle insertion of a blade of grass).

Today, along with my son, I joined good friend and fellow entomologist Mike Edwards, who has been leading the Gryllus recovery programme for over 20 years. Our task, to find, photograph and capture final instar nymphs for relocation at a nearby partner site.

Please note: Our activities were being carried out in line with current best practice and legislation. It is illegal to disturb or interfere with Field Crickets in any way unless doing so under the conditions of a licence issued by English Nature.

I hope they enjoy their new home ...

I'll be back when the adults are singing ...

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