Sunday 19 October 2014 saw the initial visible phase of a project well over a year in the planning. When volunteers planted fifty large, healthy tansy plants by the cattle grid to the north of Rawcliffe Meadows this was done after exploring the site for good spaces for the plants back in 2012. We then discussed options with Geoff and Roma Oxford, the national experts on the beetles, and commissioned Brunswick Organic Nursery to pot on some tansy plants grown from locally collected seed from their initial 9 cm pots into 20 cm pots. We also gave the areas that had been decided on repeated cutting during 2013 and 2014, along with chopping back any shrubs that might shade out the plants and any future beetles.
The next stage is to plant a similar number of plants by the Blue Beck, which has also been prepared. The bank of Blue Beck had historically been an established site for Tansy Beetles until the Internal Drainage Board dredged it and dumped the silt on top of plants and beetles.
Plants are also ready to go in a little further south from Blue Beck, another old beetle habitat, but that area may need some more preparation work before we do so. Some plants will also go in on the southern bank of the New Meadow, and also on its eastern edge. We’ll also increase plants to the east of the pond.
Why all the planning? Well, there are still a lot of unknowns about the nationally critically endangered Tansy Beetle including its likes and dislikes about food plants. Whilst they like to lay eggs on nettles and other plants as a possible defense from other Tansy Beetles eating them, some plants, such as bindweed, crowd out the late developing tansy and shade it. This is the reason for having repeated cuts before planting to ensure initial control of potentially competing vegetation.
Another piece of work is to get a few plants of gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus) and some water mint (Mentha aquatica) of local provenance from Mires Beck Nursery, along with some of the above tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and attempt to establish them with the existing water mint in the reservoir basin as another Tansy Beetle habitat with two possible additional food plants for the adult beetle.
Whilst much of the clearing and planting has been done by volunteers, the actual purchase, growing and establishment of the plants has been made possible by a grant from Yorkshire Water. Similarly, any fencing off, to protect the plants from being grazed when the beetles are above ground, will be assisted by this grant.
In our experience where tansy is planted out in the wild in first year the roots aren’t that strong. We are now tending to get plants grown on in a suitable 9cm or even 20cm pots to cope with summer dehydration before putting them on site. Most of the main sites are fenced off to prevent them being eaten during aftermath grazing, which has happened when they weren’t protected. We’re also hoping to experiment with some temporary willow hurdles to keep the beasts off until the beetles go underground mid-September –ish (having said that some were still around October 29th 2014 when TCV cleared Pond area ). The protection may also need to be in place during any Spring grazing but the plants don’t tend to be that tall, although the Tansy Beetles can be present from the end of March.