2019 proved to be a fantastic year for one of the UK’s rarest beetles, the elusive Wormwood moonshiner (Amara fusca). The beetle was found at two new sites with dedicated volunteers taking part in the Back from the Brink Shifting Sands project, which sees nature conservation partners working together to safeguard the future of rare Breckland wildlife.
The Moonshiner is named for its habit of emerging at night to feast on the ripening seed heads of Field wormwood (Artemisia campestris), a fellow rare speciality of the Brecks. The beetle hadn’t been seen in the UK since 2011, until a new population was discovered in 2018 on green space within a Mildenhall housing estate. It was recorded at three Breckland sites in 2019. Volunteers returned to College Heath Road in Mildenhall this autumn and found an incredible 72 beetles, the second highest count for the species on record.
Volunteers were even more excited to find two new sites for the Wormwood moonshiner in the following weeks, with a single beetle found at Forestry England’s Mildenhall Warren, on a large mature Field wormwood plant. A month later, two beetles were found on Brandon’s London Road Industrial Estate, on Field wormwood plants which had made their home in the car park of an industrial unit. This followed the designation of the industrial estate as a County Wildlife Site & Roadside Nature Reserve, thanks to the collaboration of Shifting Sands partners.