Saturday, 27 November 2010

Rare cricket halt work at Wakefield nature park

By Mark Lavery

An invading army of rare insects has brought a major conservation project at a West Yorkshire nature reserve to a grinding halt.

Volunteers were caught on the hop after spotting what at first appeared to be odd looking grasshoppers at Walton Nature Park near Wakefield.

They caught one of the critters, which was examined by a wildlife expert.

Incredibly, it was confirmed as the first short winged conehead bush cricket to be found in West Yorkshire for more than 80 years.

Now the five-year British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) scheme – to control spread of woodland and manage grassland at the park – has been set back up to a year.

The area cannot be touched until at least next summer after any cricket eggs hatch.

Wakefield Council's biodiversity officer, Paul Andrews, said: "They have not been recorded in Yorkshire for a least 15 years and the last definite sighting in West Yorkshire was in 1929.

"They are quite common on the south east coast, but they are very unusual in this part of the world."

Last year, a rare Southern Oak Bush Cricket was discovered in Denby Dale, Wakefield.

Mr Andrews said: "Because these crickets like relatively warm conditions, it may be evidence of climate warming.

"It's possible we have got a small colony as more than one was found at Walton.

"That's why we have had to stop carrying out the conservation work."

Mr Andrews continued: "It is a very important record in terms of insects and because of the possible implications of climate warming.

"Not a lot of people get excited about bush crickets, or any other insects, but it's a very unusual and exciting find." Trevor Healey, site assistant for BTCV, said: "We're used to seeing a variety of creatures but these certainly didn't look like any grasshopper I'd seen before so I thought we'd better catch one and get someone to try to identify it. I'm glad we did."

Short winged conehead bush crickets are up to 20mm long and are grass green coloured with a dark brown stripe on their backs

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