Beetles make comeback at Seaton

The long ‘extinct’ 13-spot ladybird is found raising its young on Axe Estuary wetlands

A SPECIES of flying beetle – thought to have been extinct in the UK for 60 years - has been found bringing up its young in Seaton.

Excited experts today confirmed discovery of the first breeding colony of 13-spot ladybirds in mainland Britain, for more than half a century.

East Devon Countryside Ranger James Chubb said it was a ”once in a lifetime” find.

“It’s not often an extinct species turns up breeding on your nature reserve,” he said.

“I had only the tiniest of roles to play in this discovery, but I am chuffed to pieces to be within the gravitational pull of this little piece of biodiversity history.

“The real honour falls at the feet of entomologist and ladybird expert Richard Comont. He kindly came along to the recent BioBlitz, held on the Axe Estuary Wetlands, and, boy, is he ever glad he did?

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“The species in question has been officially extinct in the UK for the last 60 years and this will be the first confirmed breeding of this beetle ever in mainland Britain.

“It’s one thing to identify this beetle - it’s long and elliptical rather than round like most of our common ladybirds - however to recognise a larva as something potentially significant is another thing altogether.

“During his minute scrutiny of the wetlands in July, Richard discovered a larva which he thought might be from this long-gone beetle. He took it back to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to raise it on to adulthood for confirmation. And then I got the tweet I had been waiting for - the emerging adult was indeed a thirteen-spot ladybird!”

Mr Chubb said the 13-spot ladybird is a wetland specialist, so it was fitting that the new discovery was made on the newest wetland in the country.

He added: “Until now all post-1952 records have been continental immigrants which occasionally arrived – local naturalist Catherine Willerton’s last year was one of just 11 sightings since 1980 .

“Now we have found this individual I am sure there will be much work to determine the size and distribution of the first breeding thirteen-spot ladybird colony in the UK in 60 years.”