The Jewel of York – a new interpretation

Thursday 15th December 2016

Buglife have today unveiled a new Tansy beetle interpretation board near Clifton Bridge in York, as part of the Tansy Beetle Champions project.

The interpretation board has been installed near Clifton Bridge on the Bootham side of the river, a location chosen due to the presence of Tansy beetles close by. This part of the river has also benefited from further planting of Tansy by the 1st Clifton Sea Scouts Cubs and Beavers earlier this year.

Species Champion Rachel Maskell MP commented “As a Tansy Beetle Champion, I am delighted to support the installation of this interpretation board, which I am sure will do a great job in raising awareness of the endangered Tansy beetle. I was really privileged to visit Rawcliffe Meadows in the summer to spot this beautiful beetle, and would like to thank Buglife, the 1st Clifton Sea Scouts Cubs and Beavers and everybody involved in the work to conserve this important and rare habitat, just outside of our city centre.”

The board was designed by local York business LazenbyBrown and installed by York contractors Sleightholmes Landscapes.

The Tansy Beetle Champions project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Ernest Cook Trust, and has worked to both raise the profile of the Tansy beetle and to support a range of activities to improve the habitat on the riverbanks for the beetle.

Tansy beetles (Chrysolina graminis) are a specialist herbivore mainly eating Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and complete their entire life cycle on and around the plant, beside riverbanks or in wetlands. Adult Tansy beetles are active around the tops of Tansy plants from April until June where they feed, mate, and lay eggs. They will be most obvious on warm, sunny days, and the female Tansy beetle is generally larger –bodied than the male. The eggs hatch between May and July into Larvae, which feed hungrily on Tansy leaves. The larvae eventually burrow underground at the base of the tansy plants the pupae hatch in mid-July and can be seen on Tansy plants until September. They burrow underground and spend the winter there until emerging as adults in April.

The Tansy beetle was once widespread in Britain, but it is currently endangered. As the beetles are dependent on Tansy as their sole food source, if a clump disappears the beetles have to walk to a new clump as they are not known to fly. Although Tansy is widespread, unfortunately pressures such as land-use changes and the increase of invasive species such as Himalayan balsam have resulted in a decline in Tansy plants over the past few decades. This has had knock-on effects on Tansy Beetle numbers as beetle populations have become increasingly isolated and can now only be found along a 30km stretch of the banks of the River Ouse, around York and at Woodwalton Fen.