'Jewel of York': How a rare and eye-catching species of beetle is set to find solace in the city

Known as the ‘jewel of York’ a rare and iridescent green coloured species of insect is set for a 'brighter future' thanks to the support from the local community, Ruth Dacey reports.

Close to the River Foss work is well underway by a university in Yorkshire to help build a safe haven for the endangered tansy beetle, with the hope that numbers will increase - paving a bright future for the beloved bug.

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The protected species was once widespread in the UK but a reduction in suitable wetland habitats and food plants, and increased flooding, means the species is severely restricted and in decline.

Known as the ‘jewel of York’ the rare and iridescent green coloured tansy beetle is an endangered species only found along the River Ouse in York and in The Fens. Photo credit: North Yorkshire County Council

Now pockets of habitat along the River Ouse, in York, make up just one of two of the last remaining places where these bright green, jewel-like beetles survive in the wild, alongside The Fens in East Anglia.

Four years ago York St John University first started planting the distinct tansy plants - the lifeblood of the beetle - which grow to around hip height with a distinct yellow flower - in a dedicated wildlife area of its Sports Park campus on Haxby Road.

Now a 15-strong caring team of volunteers including students and staff from the university and dedicated locals from the community will add to the 260 tansy plants, cultivated so far by the institute’s grounds team.

The team, led by Sarah Williams, an Energy and Environmental Projects Officer, at York St John University, said the vital work could not happen “at a better time”, due to the tansy beetle population being in sharp decline. Due to increased severe flooding in the city in recent years numbers have fallen as the land dwelling beetle is unable to fly to safety.

Pictured from left, Sarah Williams, an Energy and Environmental Projects Officer, at York St John University, alongside volunteer Charles Clarkson. The pair take part in 'vital' tansy plant planting - part of a habitat building project at the university to help preserve the endangered tansy beetle...29th June 2021..Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia

Ms Williams, 39, told The Yorkshire Post: “They are really beautiful with their shiny green colour. But they are a bit vulnerable.

“There is a push in the York area and along the Ouse to enhance the habitat for the tansy beetles to try and preserve the species.”

Taking part in the planting of 200 plants yesterday, alongside the volunteers, was the new Lord Mayor of York, Reverend Councillor Chris Cullwick alongside local ward councillors, Councillor Carol Runciman and Councillor Keith Orrell.

Reverend Cullwick said: “It has been a delight to take part in the tansy planting...I applaud the many ways in which the university is promoting sustainability and biodiversity.

Pictured from the left are Yumino Simpson, Lord Mayor of York the RT Hon Christopher Cullwick and Charles Clarkson who took part in the planting yesterday of roughly 200 tansy plants...29th June 2021...Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia

“The hope is the tansy beetle will also thrive on the banks of the Foss.”

The aim is to release a number of the tansy beetle into the habitat next year, with the project part of the university’s wider sustainability and biodiversity strategy. For the future owl boxes, wildflower planting, the construction of a number of ponds and adding to the number of hedgehog piles to increase the number of the small mammal on site, is planned.

“It’s a continuing effort to enhance the space for wildlife to flourish,” said Ms Williams.

Tansy Beetle celebrated in York

Pictured, a volunteer plants a tansey plant, to help the habitat of the Tansey Beetle near St John University Sports Centre, Haxby Road, York....29th June 2021.. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia

The tansy beetle has been showcased in the vibrant street art scene in the city of York.

The giant mural entitled ‘The Jewel of York’ - which depicts the endangered creature, and covers nearly an entire wall on the side of a house - can be found on Queen Street, in the city.

The huge artwork, by acclaimed street artist ATM, was completed two years ago. It took five days to hand paint, using eight different brushes and more than 100 shades of colour.

The artist specialises in hand painting endangered species. And the tansy beetle mural was funded by a local environmental charity, with the help of local crowdfunding.

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