Heather Beetle Research
The Heather Trust is leading the way on research into heather beetle in Britain
Heather beetle is a key topic for the Heather Trust and we are actively engaged in monitoring outbreaks and providing advice to those impacted, as well as in trying to push forward research on the topic.
The Peak District
Heather Beetle Project
In December 2012, the Heather Trust identified two moors in the Peak District as sites for a scientific study into heather recovery after a beetle outbreak.
Combs Moss near Chapel en le Frith is traditionally a very wet moor with poor access but a history of good grouse productivity. Successive waves of beetle damage over several years threatened to make the moor unviable, culminating with a major outbreak in 2012 which killed much of the regenerating heather which had been treated after initial damage.
By comparison, Crag Estate is a very different moor, despite lying just a few miles south west of Combs above the Goyt reservoir. Dry and easily accessible from the main road between Buxton and Macclesfield, Crag also suffered serious but less sustained damage during 2012.
Within the restrictions caused by extreme weather, plots of beetle damage on both estates were cut and burnt and some plots were left untreated. Monitoring took place over the subsequent five years to assess the recovery of heather and other moorland vegetation post-treatment. The final conclusions of the study published in 2019 show that heather recovered equally well in all of the plots, which suggests that in many cases intervention is not necessary to enable heather to recover from beetle attack.
The Peak District Heather Beetle Project was funded by The Heather Trust, Natural England and the HDH Wills Charitable Trust.
The Langholm Moor
Heather Beetle Project
The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project suffered devastating damage from heather beetles during 2009 and 2010, just as the project was beginning to make progress.
Over 1,000 Ha of heather was lost from the Southern end of the moor, spanning a huge area either side of the road between Langholm and Newcastleton.
Fortunately, ease of access allowed for much of the damage to be reached with machinery, and a combination of burning, cutting and subsequent spraying to control invasive grasses has set much of this south end on the road to recovery.
Much of the damage could not be burnt, so the response hinged upon tractor mounted hammer flails which mulched up the large tussocks of moss and dead heather and created a fantastic seedbed for new heather plants. Langholm is lucky to have such amazing biodiversity amongst its plant life, and many of these restored areas showed resurging populations of sundew, bog rosemary and cranberry within a few months, along with a strong heather sward.
The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project was funded by a partnership of SNH, GWCT, Buccleugh Estates and the RSPB, but separate work was commissioned by the Heather Trust to monitor the heather's recovery on three different sites at the south end of the moor where the beetle damage was most devastating.
As of Autumn 2019 we are considering further work which may be focused on investigating whether large-scale infestations are on the increase and what might be causing this. More to come on this.