Flying under the radar
Rare 'Phantom' Hoverfly found on Bucks Estate
A HOVERFLY species so rare it was named the ‘Phantom’ has been spotted near Ivinghoe Beacon on the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate.
It is believed to be the first recorded sighting of the red-listed hoverfly species in the Chilterns and the announcement of the sighting coincides with National Insect Week.
It was discovered by National Trust entomologist Peter Brash and satisfied a lifelong ambition for the insect expert.
He said: “I first saw a picture of the Phantom Hoverfly 23 years ago and immediately wanted to see it.
“Nobody knows much about this enigmatic hoverfly.
“Some say it only survives for around 10 days as an adult, whilst others say that it stays in the tree canopy and only descends to the ground to breed.”
Ashridge estate is managed for conservation and to create a diverse range of habitats. The rangers at Ashridge have created the perfect conditions for the Phantom Hoverfly. The hoverfly lives on chalk grassland, favouring shaded areas near scrub.
Much of the chalk downland habitat at Ashridge is managed with the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in mind, which relies on plants like the cowslip for its food. The Duke of Burgundy is one of the most rapidly declining butterflies in the UK.
Lawrence Trowbridge, the National Trust’s lead ranger at the estate, said: “The great scale of the estate enables us to create the right kinds of habitats for a range of species across a whole landscape.
“Chalk grassland is like our very own tropical rain forest, it’s a grassland jungle and literally teeming with life.
“Knowing what species we have is key and surveys carried out by experts like Pete enable us to consider how our conservation work can benefit these rare creatures.
“The Phantom Hoverfly is a new one for me. I’ve been a ranger here for 25 years and I’ve never seen it.”