York: University's 'critical' work to protect endangered tansy beetles

Sixty rare green beetles have been moved into a new home at a Yorkshire university in a bid to preserve them.

Tansy beetles were thought to only live by York’s River Ouse until they were found in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Forty of the creatures were put in an “ark” habitat at York St John University in 2022, but high summer temperatures depleted their numbers.

Simon Davis, from the university said the secondary release of beetles was to “bolster their numbers in York”.

The sparkling beetles were prioritised for conservation due to vulnerability to flooding and declining numbers.

They take their name from their main food source of tansy, a perennial herb, on which which they depend for survival.

The site at York St John has been specially developed with “hundreds of tansy plants cultivated to sustain the rare beetles”, a spokesperson for the university said.

Simon Davis, gardens and sports ground manager at the university, said there was no established colony of beetles on the River Foss in York, so the intention of this site was as “an ark site” above flood levels in case of a “catastrophic summer flood” wiping out the established population on the city’s River Ouse.

A university spokesperson said the first breeding pairs of beetles were introduced last summer, but had “failed to thrive due to scorching temperatures”.

They said efforts to establish the site had been increased, with 30 pairs of the endangered species added to it.

Dr Geoff Oxford, from the Tansy Beetle Action Group, said “The beetle is known as the Jewel of York because for a long time it was believed to only be living here.

“We know it’s been in York for hundreds of years as Victorian beetle enthusiasts used to make special trips to Clifton Ings to source them for their collections.”

Julia Dyman, energy officer at York St John University, said: “We’re really proud to be involved in helping to strengthen tansy beetle populations in the area.

“Not only because they are a part of York’s rich history, but because as a university we believe it’s our duty to serve as environmental stewards in and beyond our community.”

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