Scarce Maid of Kent beetle spotted at RSPB reserve

Image caption, The Maid of Kent beetle was described as a "pretty smart-looking insect"

A scarce beetle - once thought extinct in the UK - has been found under cow pats at a nature reserve in Kent.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said two beetles were found during a recent survey of the site at Elmley.

Warden Gordon Allison said it was a "pretty smart-looking insect".

He said: "Most people would imagine beetles to be dull looking things, but the Maid of Kent is like a cross between a bumble bee and a beetle."

The beetle also has the ability to land in fresh cow pats, burrow through them and emerge "clean as a whistle" on the other side, he added.

'Elusive and rarely-seen'

The RSPB said the beetle had not been seen in north Kent since the 1950s, had not been reliably recorded anywhere in Britain since 1966, and was given endangered status in 1987

There was even speculation it may have become extinct in Britain.

Since 1997, it had been recorded at two Kent RSPB reserves - Elmley Marshes and Rye Street - but remained "an elusive and rarely-seen creature".

The Maid of Kent preys on adult and larval beetles and flies.

Elmley's grazing livestock provided a "healthy supply of dung", Mr Allison said.

People carrying out the survey looked for the beetle by spreading out fluid manure with a trowel, he added.

As well as the two sightings beneath cow pats, three flying beetles were spotted but it was not known whether that was three separate beetles or one seen three times.

The Elmley site, as "coastal grazing marsh", is mainly managed for its birds. It is a habitat for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.

It is thought the Maid of Kent declined in the 20th Century because its normal habitat - rough pasture grazed by cattle and horses - was lost following changes in agriculture.

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