NATIONAL Trust bosses have said the population of a rare species of insect continues to grow at Kinver Edge thanks to successful habitat management.

Sightings of Black Oil Beetle have increased at the beauty spot where rare, lowland heathland is being managed to support nature and wildlife.

One of the UK’s rarest habitats, comprising scattered trees and low-growing shrubs such as gorse, heather and grasses, heathland at Kinver Edge is being managed by rangers who have been cutting vegetation and grazing livestock to control invasive plants to prevent the landscape being taken over by bracken, scrub or woodland.

National Trust countryside manager Ewan Chapman said: “I’m so pleased to see these beetles are colonising more and more areas on the Edge. Last year, we spotted them for the first time in an area of restored heathland. This spring, they’ve spread throughout the landscape to make their home in areas of bare earth, which our team of rangers and volunteers create as part of their on-going management of this special habitat.

Stourbridge News: Black Oil Beetle at Kinver EdgeBlack Oil Beetle at Kinver Edge (Image: Alex Murison)

“The beetle burrows into the sandy soil, which is a key characteristic of heathland habitats, to create their nest. Whilst the population growth of this insect is a good indicator that our work to restore and manage the heath on Kinver Edge is paying off, there isn’t time to sit back and rest on our laurels. Our work to manage this special habitat, restore areas of former heathland and protect its rare and resident wildlife, continues at pace.”

James Lawrence, project manager of Sandscapes – a National Trust-led project to restore heathland habitats, added: “Heathland, once a widespread and common component of the landscape in the Midlands, is now isolated and fragmented.

“More than 80 per cent of this rare and special habitat has been lost in the last 200 years, through agricultural change, conifer planting, development pressures and neglect.

“Wildlife that rely on this type of habitat, including many insects, reptiles and ground nesting birds, are endangered or under threat of extinction.”

The Trust’s plan to restore Blakeshall Common at Kinver Edge – which is currently a conifer plantation - as an area of traditional lowland heath will support the growth and reestablishment of rare species, including the Black Oil Beetle.