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A non-native endemic!

I love seeing a beetle in the field and not having a clue what it is, other than the certainty that it is something I’ve never seen before! Graeme Lyons found this amazing weevil at Parham Park, West Sussex on Friday …

The Fern Weevil Syagrius intrudens playing dead

After a suitable amount of colourful language, I suggested Graeme googled for an image of Syagrius intrudens – and it’s a match, subsequently confirmed under the microscope. With another few minutes’ work with the sweep-net targeting bracken, we had recorded four individuals. But we were left wondering how it could be that Syagrius intrudens has no conservation status when none of the 18 assembled pan-species listers had ever seen it before?!

Syagrius intrudens is definitely a rare species, previously known from six sites: Co. Dublin (Dublin Botanical Gardens), West Cornwall (Tregithy Woods area), East Sussex (Leonard’s Lee), East Kent (Hothfield Common), Glamorgan (Bridgend) and Guernsey (Fermain Bay). As a flightless species, it must be getting around with the help of gardeners moving fern plants around.

Syagrius is an Australian genus with 8 species known from the coastal plain between Sydney and Brisbane. As a non-native species in Britain it is ruled out from inclusion in the Red Data list but Syagrius intrudens has never been recorded away from Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands, and Parham Park becomes the seventh known site for the species in the world! As Theodoor Heijermann and Mike Morris have already written, we should surely be giving this fabulous weevil some conservation status in Britain. It may never be discovered in its native range, and could even be extinct in Australia?


3 Comments

  1. As chance has it this is one The Species Recovery Trust is currently looking into; as you point out it’s spectacularly rare, endemic and totally without protection! There is a flip-side that it may be a commercial plant pest, so I’m currently talking to botanical gardens people about this, but if they confirm this isn’t the case we can hopefully move forwards with this. In which case having a confirmed 7th site is awesome news, and definitely one we’d like to talk to you about!

  2. markgtelfer says:

    John Walters has reminded me that Syagrius intrudens occurs at Paignton Zoo, South Devon, and that it has also been recorded at Yarner Wood in South Devon.

  3. markgtelfer says:

    Philip Marshall of Todmorden has been in touch with a useful reference to this species in The British Fern Gazette of 1912, entitled “A serious Fern Pest” which describes how a weevil and grubs have destroyed the ferns in a collection. The locality is not disclosed.
    https://archive.org/stream/britishferngazet02brit#page/14/mode/2up

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