Express & Star

Meet Bob – the critter that shows spring is on the way

A special visitor has returned early to a beauty spot in the West Midlands.

Bob – the black oil beetle – is back at Highgate Common

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust nicknames the little critter Bob – short for black oil beetle

It is a scarce invertebrate that relies on solitary bees for survival and has in recent years emerged in warmer months on Highgate Common, between Enville and Kinver.

Volunteers with the Trust always look out for Bob as a sign that spring is on its way.

The first sighting of 2024 came on Tuesday of last week, when eagle-eyed Reserves Officer Gary Pascoe spotted it near some newly created sandy scrapes.

It is the second year it has been found in January so it is possible their emergence is consistently earlier due to our warmer winter weather.

Oil beetles have one of the most extraordinary life cycles of any British insect as they are nest parasites of solitary mining bees. Larva develops in the bee burrow until it emerges as an oil beetle ready to mate and start the whole cycle again.

The insects have been identified as priorities for conservation action through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, meaning urgent work needs to be done to conserve them and their habitats.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust keeps an update on creatures found at Highgate Common through its X page.

It also asks members of the public to message it with their own sightings, via @StaffsEcology

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