Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Heath tiger beetle

Nominated by: Surrey Wildlife Trust

Conservation status: Nationally Scarce; UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species; Species of Principle Importance. The species group is currently being reviewed under IUCN criteria; the provisional status assigned to C.sylvatica for the UK is ‘Endangered’ due to recent and historic decline and severe habitat fragmentation in the core range

Why do you love it? Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) love this species because it is a flagship species for the creation of bare sandy ground patches on our heathlands; a habitat used by an inordinate number of extremely restricted species that are generally overlooked due to their small size and/or complexity of their life-cycles. Under this banner stand rank upon rank of highly specialised heathland denizens; such as ants, bees, wasps, spiders, ground bugs and other beetles. It is often forgotten that heather does not make the heathland; it is the underlying geology, soil conditions and structure that define the associated assemblages of plants, fungi and invertebrates.

The heath tiger beetle’s entire life cycle is dependent upon these bare ground and early-successional patch habitats. The larva dwells in a subterranean burrow in dry, bare, sandy patches; opportunistically predating upon unsuspecting invertebrates traversing the surface above. The boldly marked adult is a surface dweller that lives up to its ferocious moniker of ‘tiger’; with striped wing cases and astonishing predatory prowess. The Heath tiger beetle’s large eyes, long legs and powerful jaws make it all the better to see you with, chase you with and eat you with (if you’re an insect!).

Heath tiger beetles are red in tooth and claw; hardy inhabitants of a harsh heathland habitat; and declining rapidly as their habitat becomes more and more fragmented by the way we use the land. That is why Surrey Wildlife Trust loves this species and wants to give it a helping hand. If we can help this one – we help many more besides.

What are the threats to the heath tiger beetle? Many populations are small, isolated by considerable distances and separated by land which is highly unsuitable for dispersal (urban areas, major roads, conifer plantations, secondary woodland). Even within heathland sites, a maximum dispersal distance of only under 200 metres is recorded. Furthermore, the chronology of extinctions of C. sylvatica from former localities is clearly correlated with urban expansions and major road construction.

What are you doing to save it? SWT and a group of concerned local entomologists began working on this species in 2006 with initial site surveys to ascertain presence and absence at historic sites in Surrey, West Sussex and North Hampshire. The findings of these surveys and associated desk studies was worrying; heath tiger beetles were apparently extinct in West Sussex, reduced to a single locality on the Surrey border in North Hampshire and a massive range decline was detected in Surrey with local site extinctions from heathlands at Chobham, Esher, Oxshott, Wisley and Blackheath amongst others. Extinctions were also noted along the Berkshire and Surrey border.

SWT and the entomology group, with NE consents, trialled the translocation of gravid females from healthy populations to two receptor sites in Surrey and Sussex between 2007 and 2009. These initial releases proved to be successful with progeny recorded over the coming years.

Hence, SWT, with various partner organisations, embarked upon a three year habitat creation project (2009-2012) across heathland sites in Surrey and Sussex; this work was funded by SITA Trust. This work created bare ground mosaics, linked existing populations via scrub and tree removal and paved the way for future translocations.

In 2011 SWT invertebrate ecologist Scotty Dodd undertook a capture-mark-release-recapture study of a large meta-population of Heath Tiger Beetles at Thursley Common NNR to ascertain dispersal capabilities. The maximum distance travelled was under 200 metres; confirming that heath tiger beetles were poor dispersers. In the same year DEFRA funded Dodd to document the historic and current status of heath tiger beetles in the UK; this information is currently being used in the IUCN review of the group.

In 2014 and 2015 SWT secured further SITA Trust funding for further habitat works at key sites in Surrey and Sussex. There was also a pot for additional translocations in summer 2015. However, due to poor weather conditions affecting population numbers at the proposed donor sites these translocations never took place and the funding for this aspect of the project was returned.

In 2016 SWT hopes to attract funding for these vital translocations to take place. Top-up translocations will take place at the two previous receptor sites and a further two sites within the historic range will be targeted for translocation at specially prepared areas. Funding is also sought for further survey and monitoring of extant populations and ‘on the brink’ sites in Surrey and hopefully Hampshire.

Find out more about the work of the Surrey Wildlife Trust

Discover more ground beetle species on Arkive