Thanks to the many people who filled in survey forms, the Heather Trust now has information relating to over 20,000 acres of heather damaged by beetle in 2014, with reports coming from 20 counties, from Cornwall to Wester Ross.
Some of the largest outbreaks were in the North York Moors, where almost half of the recorded damage was found. Smaller outbreaks were nonetheless equally devastating on valuable areas of lowland heath in Norfolk and Dorset.
If nothing else, the wide geographic spread of reports demonstrates the universal nature of the issue, which appears not to be restricted to any region, management technique or age-class of heather.
Although the nature of the questions and the problem itself both preclude precise and definite conclusions, there is some value in identifying persistent trends identified in survey returns.
- For example, of the 17 returns received in 2014 from properties which routinely burn their beetle damage, over 80% report a total recovery within five years, whereas the properties which left their beetle damage unburnt or partially burnt reported patchy recovery or heather loss.
- Based on their previous experience of heather beetle, almost 60% of respondents believe that 2014’s beetle damage was more extensive than it had been in previous years.
- One third of respondents expect to see beetle damage on their ground every year, and almost 95% expect damage at least every ten years.
Interestingly, there has been little correlation between beetle damage and the nature of the ground upon which it is inflicted. Tradition dictates that beetle damage is more prevalent on wet ground, but survey returns in 2014 suggest that damage takes place as often on hard ground as it does on wet.
It’s not too late to let the Heather Trust know if you have seen beetle damage in 2014. The survey from can be downloaded and filled in from the Heather Trust website at www.heathertrust.co.uk