Fly­ing un­der the radar

Rare 'Phan­tom' Hover­fly found on Bucks Es­tate

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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