Notable feature: Large bush-cricket with large powerful hind legs
Conservation Status: Not Evaluated
Where in the UK: Six sites in Southern England - four in Sussex, one in Kent and one in Wiltshire
Wart-biter Bush-cricket (Decticus verrucivorus)
The Wart-biter is a large bush-cricket, adult’s measure between 31 and 37mm and the ovipositor (egg-laying organ) of the females can measure up to 21mm. It has large, dark eyes and is typically dark green, often with dark brown or black blotches on the body and wings. Its large and powerful hind legs give this species a frog-like appearance.
Like all bush-crickets, the Wart-biter Bush-cricket ‘sings’ or stridulates by rubbing its wings together (grasshoppers sing by rubbing their long legs against their wings). Its fairly loud and distinctive song consists of a series of rapidly repeated clicks in short bursts and often lasts for several minutes.
Even though they have wings, Wart-biter’s normally move about by walking. They rarely fly as they are too heavy and their wings are not large enough; most can only fly very short distances, at best 3-4 meters.
The Wart-biter is omnivorous, feeding on a range of herbs and insects, including other grasshoppers.
Wart-biter bush-crickets are elusive creatures and males only sing during hot, sunny and still weather.
Size: 31-37mm in length
Life span: Annual life cycle; adults only live a few months
Diet: Both nymphs and adults are omnivorous, and therefore require a sward that supports plenty of small to medium-sized invertebrates, including grasshoppers
Reproduction: Eggs are laid singly in bare soil close to clumps of grass, which then remain dormant for two years and sometimes longer. The eggs hatch in mid spring, and several nymphal stages are passed through before the adult stage is reached at the beginning of July
When to see: Most likely to see them on warm sunny and still days in July and August. But they are very hard to see so listen out for the stridulating (singing) males instead
Population Trend: The Wart-biter is considered one of Britain’s most endangered insects, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the NERC Act 2006. It is also listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book. Most but not all current populations are considered stable (one site is on the brink of disappearing), but it is a rare species confined to just a six sites in England (two of which resulted from reintroductions). Historically would have been more widespread but still extremely localised.
Threats: Loss of high quality habitat, in particular chalk grassland, as a result of agricultural intensification, urbanisation and scrub encroachment. A habitat mosaic of short and tall tussocky grassland is required for the Wart-biter
Fun Fact: The Wart-biter was once used as a method for removing warts – it was put on an area adjacent to the wart and would slowly attempt to chew off the wart. Apparently it didn’t work very well, but was still used!
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Wart-biter Bush-cricket through the Changing Chalkprojects, including the Wart-biter Bush-cricket species recovery programme, but we need your help!
Find out more about the crickets and grasshoppers of Britain and get involved with recording these fascinating creatures with the Orthoptera Recording Scheme. Join a recording scheme and log your finds – download the iRecord app and get recording!
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