Well, they’re not called the ‘jewels of York’ for nothing. This week, after many years’ fruitless searching (wrong time of year; wrong plant; wrong stretch of the ings), I finally saw one of our rarest beetles, the exquisite Tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis). In droves. And they were well worth the wait. Take a look:
Can you see the sparkling of other Tansy beetles in the background? It’s said that the Victorians were so taken by the iridescence of these beetles’ wing cases that they used them as sequins! (Though Tansy beetle expert Dr Geoff Oxford tells me this is a myth …)
The Tansy beetle is now very rare in Britain. One of the few places it’s found is on a short stretch of the river Ouse in and around York, where I live. And one of the best times to see it is now, August, just after the pupae have emerged.
I thoroughly recommend a walk along the river Ouse hunting for Tansy beetles. I saw these ones on Fulford Ings. Look for them on Tansy plants (see photo below) – their favoured food.
When you come across a cluster of iridescent Tansy beetles, glistening in the sunshine … well, there’s very little to beat that gorgeous sight!
You can hear the poem I was inspired to write about the Tansy beetles as part of my award-winning, multimedia Buzzing! show. These beetles also feature in the poem I was commissioned to write for the BBC World Service about York’s wonderful wildlife .
A big Thank You to Verna Campbell, Chair of Fulford Parish Council, for letting me know exactly when and where to go to find them.
Happy beetle hunting!