Endangered species once thought to be extinct found in Sussex

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A rare insect – which was once thought to be extinct – has been found in a Worthing garden.

Sussex Wildlife Trust revealed this week that local resident, Steve Ide, spotted a rare mole cricket in his garden.

"They are so elusive they were once thought possibly extinct,” a trust social media post read.

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“On warm nights males 'churr' loudly in the sound chamber in their burrow to seek a mate.”

The sighting was reported via the trust’s WildCall information and advice service and will now be logged with the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

Charlotte Owen, conservation officer for the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “It was found in a garden in central Worthing, and the finder had managed to identify it as a mole cricket thanks to its distinctive appearance.

“Recognising that it was an unusual find, they got in touch to let us know about it and to find out what to do next.

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“The mole cricket is an endangered species in the UK and was considered extinct here until relatively recently when, in 2014, a population was confirmed in the New Forest.”

‘Despite their subterranean existence’, Mole Crickets do have wings and can fly. Photo: Sussex Wildlife Trust‘Despite their subterranean existence’, Mole Crickets do have wings and can fly. Photo: Sussex Wildlife Trust
‘Despite their subterranean existence’, Mole Crickets do have wings and can fly. Photo: Sussex Wildlife Trust

The trust said the insects remain rare ‘as far as we know’ but ‘they are naturally elusive’ and not often seen.

“[This is] because they are nocturnal and, as the name suggests, they live underground,” Charlotte added. “Their powerful, chunky forelegs are specialised for digging, just like a mole’s, and they spend the majority of their lives in underground burrows.

"The best way to detect them is via the churring call of the male mole cricket, which is amplified by a specially-constructed sound chamber.”

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‘Despite their subterranean existence’, Mole Crickets do have wings and can fly. It is usually the females that do so, ‘homing in on the churring call of a potential mate’, Charlotte explained.

The conservation officer continued: “They can cover a significant distance on the wing, so it’s possible the Worthing individual flew in from elsewhere – possibly several miles away – or that there is a small resident population in the local area.

"However, mole crickets can also be imported accidentally with compost and potted plants. This is the most likely explanation for a previous Sussex sighting, reported in March last year in Hurstpierpoint, when a mole cricket was discovered in the pot of a recently-purchased Japonica plant.”

The Worthing mole cricket has been safely released back into the garden where it was found.

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The wildlife trust said it is always keen to receive wildlife sightings – and ‘especially of unusual species like the mole cricket’ – so encouraged anyone that finds one to get in touch via [email protected] or 01273 494777 (weekday mornings).

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