Worcestershire Record No. 5 Nov 1998 p. 14
In Worcestershire Record number 2 April 1997 pages 8-9 we published a national request for information about mole crickets, a fast disappearing species. There was mention of recent records near Pershore and very recent records near Malvern.
I though it would be interesting to check the Worcs BRC to see if any old records had been entered and on so doing I was very pleased to find a record (the only one) for 1902 with reference to the Transactions of the Worcestershire Naturalists Club 22nd May 1902. I dug out the old Transactions and found a report of a field meeting to "Stanford Park, Tenbury, Broadheath, and Hanley Dingle" It says ".....the members started from the Victoria Institute, Worcester, at 10.15; the President having previously exhibited to members some nice examples of Gryllotalpa vulgaris (the Mole Cricket) which he had that morning received from The Worthys', Kings Worthy, near WINCHESTER. It was, as they all knew, a destructive Orthopteron to the roots of plants, and well deserved its name from the heaps it caused and the configuration of the insect's forelegs. The carriages then conveyed members through Hallow, Holt.........."
Unfortunately, this record had been mis-entered as a true Worcestershire record at Stanford! Perhaps a temporary lapse of concentration by a bored person on a Man Power Services team?
In trying to trace the Pershore records John Meiklejohn spoke to national recorders and obtained the information that the observations had been made by one Dr RW Paine. It so happened that I knew Dick Paine, lately of Worcester Royal Infirmary, who had retired a good few years ago to the sunny climes of Devon, and I had his address because he had written to me when I retired not so long ago! I wrote to him He replied:
"Alas, I have not kept my notes or correspondence re Mole Crickets - so will have to rely on recollection. My first encounter was a dusk on a warm summer evening in 1975 at 85 High Street, Pershore (where we lived at the time) when a loud persistent stridulation was audible in the house. I went into the garden to seek the source of the sound which was difficult to localise, but eventually located a large insect on the external wall of the kitchen where I examined it closely over 20 minutes or so. Subsequent study of insect reference books led to its identification. I heard the same stridulation on subsequent warm evenings in 1975.
In 1976 we build a new house at Wyre Piddle on the site of an old farmyard at Avonbank Farm, adjacent to the river. The identical stridulation was regularly heard from 1976 to the mid-1980s, but not thereafter, usually starting at dusk and continuing until quite dark, but I did not see the insects. I wonder whether its disappearance was due to the change of management of the large meadow across the river at Wyre - from semi-permanent grass, followed by turf-stripping, and subsequent cereal monoculture. Brown hares and barn owls were regularly seen when it was under grass, but not subsequently..
Also! I did not photograph the Pershore insect nor tape record the Wyre insects. I was not really aware of its significance until after the publication of my short note in The Countryman when Dr Haes wrote to me from retirement in Cornwall - he felt there might be a small relict population in the Avon Valley - only then did I realise its significance and rarity"
Despite a couple of forays round Pershore in 1998 by John Meiklejohn, and Gary & Nicki Farmer no recent records of mole crickets have been forthcoming.
I have not been able to locate any information about the supposed Malvern records.. If anyone has information we should like to know.
Marshall & Haes (1988) say that Mole Crickets were widespread in Britain before extensive land drainage in 17th & 18th C destroyed much suitable habitat. These insects spend several years burrowing in wet soil. Males produce their distinctive nocturnal stridulation at burrow entrances on warm nights in early spring and summer. It is normally a wetland insect confined to water meadows and wet heathlands.
Is there some corner of Worcestershire where Mole Crickets still occur - perhaps in a hidden patch of wet meadow along the rivers or in Longdon Marsh? They are now extremely rare and endangered insects . Can you find any?
|MARSHALL JA & HAES ECM 1988 Grasshoppers and allied insects in Great Britain and Ireland. Harley Books|
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