Rare insects found at St Ives nature reserve

Tall fescue planthopper.

Tall fescue planthopper. - Credit: Archant

Rare species of insects have been discovered at a nature reserve near St Ives.

Research by Dr Alvin Helden, of Anglia Ruskin University, found five species of Auchenorrhyncha – leafhoppers and planthoppers – which have specific conservation interest at part of Hanson’s quarry site in Needingworth.

The Ouse Fen, which has been transformed into an RSPB nature reserve after gravel extraction, is one of three homes in the country to Psammotettix striatus, a very rare leafhopper.

The Ribautodelphax imitans, a tall fescue planthopper, which has only been found at a handful of location in the UK, also calls Needingworth its home.

Dr Helden’s research into the Ouse Fen reserve won Hanson UK’s Quarry Life Awards last week.

He said: “The discovery of several very rare species of leafhoppers and planthoppers shows that the site has an incredible biodiversity, and not just for the wetland species for which it was primarily created.

“Setting aside ungrazed areas has clearly been effective in encouraging insect populations. Obviously these benefits will have to be balanced against lost grazing areas, which would result in a reduction in income from renting out grazing rights.

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“However, given the results of this study, we recommend that some areas continue to be fenced off and are allowed to remain ungrazed.”