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News article created on 10 July 2015

Glow worm decline

Wildlife lovers in South West England are being asked to record sightings of glow worms across the region to help track colonies of the unusual insect.

We are appealing for eagle-eyed spotters to report sightings as part of this year’s Great Nature Watch, in order to get a better idea of where the species can be found and ensure that they’re protected in coming years. Reports have identified the following potential hotspots, but experts hope there may be more colonies in the area:

  • Creech St Michael in Somerset, on the banks of the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal
  • The towpaths along the Kennet & Avon Canal, especially around Seend, and next to the historic Dundas Aqueduct
  • Sharpness in Gloucestershire, and on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal

Despite their common name, glow worms are actually beetles, and can be spotted throughout the summer months as the flightless females climb tall blades of grass at night and light up to attract a winged male to mate with. Once they’ve found a partner, the females stop glowing and return to the ground to lay their eggs. Increases in light pollution and habitat loss are both feared to have contributed to a decline in glow worm numbers in recent years.

Magical insects

Laura Mullholland, ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Glow worms are magical insects, and we’re really keen to find out exactly where they are and how they’re doing.  Because the females don’t have wings, colonies tend to stay around the same areas, so it’s important we make sure those spots are protected for them.

“There really isn’t anything quite like seeing those pinpricks of light- you never forget it. People often think of glow worms as being a romantic sight, but they’re more like the lonely hearts of the insect world - the ladies glowing away at the top of their stalks, waiting for their prince to come. Losing them from the UK countryside would be devastating, but with help we can make sure that they’re still glowing for the generations to come.”

Great Nature Watch

Glow worm sightings can be reported through the Great Nature Watch app, downloadable from the App Store and Google Play Store. Alternatively visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/great-nature-watch