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Rare beetle discovered at Bristol Bioblitz

Xyleborus Monographus – photo by Mark Telfer

An unusual beetle spotted at the 2015 Bristol Bioblitz has been confirmed by experts as a bark beetle only previously recorded four times in England and never before in the South West.

A tiny insect with a long name, Xyleborus monographus (Fabricius) (Curculionidae) is only around 4mm long. It was discovered at the Oldbury Court Estate in Bristol as part of the Festival of Nature’s Bioblitz event, which invites members of the public to help record as much wildlife as possible in 24 hours.

Ray Barnett, Head of Collections & Archives at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, found the insect while leading a guided walk and wildlife recording sweep through the estate. This type of beetle creates tunnels beneath the bark of trees and decaying timber and helps the decomposition of wood.

Ray said: “It is a tiny beetle, but small things make the world go round! The discovery tells us that Oldbury Court is potentially a new location for this kind of habitat and we may need to look more carefully and closely at the site. It all adds to our knowledge of these little ecosystems.”

It’s likely the beetle has only been in England since 2003, when it was first recorded, having travelled here from Europe. Entomological consultant Mark Telfer confirmed the identity of the Bioblitz beetle with fellow expert Darren Mann.

This year’s Bioblitz is taking place in the Hollywood Estate, in the grounds of Bristol’s new wildlife conservation park, Wild Place Project. The event is completely free with activities suitable for all ages, from bat walks and pond-dipping to helping the wildlife survey teams.

Ray said: “We’re really looking forward to going round the Hollywood Estate as it hasn’t been much looked over in terms of wildlife recording – I don’t think anyone has ever surveyed the moth population. The Wild Place animals may add some variety too as you find some very interesting beetles breeding in animal dung.

“Bioblitz shines a spotlight on sites of interest, enabling an intense, quick study which tells us whether more work should be done to establish their importance. It also shows people that even on your own doorstep you can find an incredible amount of wildlife – not just rarities, but it also shows how wildlife populations are changing very rapidly in response to things like climate change.”

Click here to find out more about Bioblitz and sign up to walks, activities and survey teams.