Fruity appeal

Saturday 21st November 2015

Victoria plums (c) Harry GreenVictoria plums (c) Harry Green

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is launching a fruity appeal to find out how many old orchard trees there are in Worcester.

The appeal is part of the Wild Worcester project, which celebrates the City’s wildlife and natural heritage. Worcester is an important place for several of the county’s key wildlife species including the rare noble chafer beetle that relies on old fruit trees and orchards.

Jane Sedegely-Strachan, Wild Worcester Project Officer, explained “Like the rest of our county, Worcester has a really long and important association with orchards. Seven international varieties of apples and two of pears came from Worcester nurseries, for example.

“There are still around 20 orchards within the city boundaries but there used to be many more.

“Small numbers or individual old trees remain in gardens and local green spaces to this day. We know of some but I’d love to find out if there are more.”

Rich in wildlife

Noble chafer (c) Harry GreenOrchards support a wide range of wildlife from mistletoe and lichens, bats to birds and beetles to butterflies. Old orchard trees are particularly important for a number of beetles that rely on decaying wood.

The most beautiful of these is the nationally rare noble chafer beetle. Their larvae feed on decayed wood debris whereas the adults can be seen on flowers heads, particularly umbels such as hogweed and elder, from late June to early August.

Jane explained “Noble chafer beetles are quite unusual in that, while they’ll clearly do better in a good-sized orchard, we’ve been amazed in the past to find them in gardens that are relatively isolated from other fruit trees.

Noble chafer frass (c) Jenni Schenke“They particularly like mature cherry, plum and apple trees; ones that are between 50 and 80 years old.

“It’s not always obvious if noble chafers are in a garden – despite their size (about the same as a thumbnail) and iridescent colours, they’re quite elusive. But autumn and winter are perfect for finding out if they’re there...with a little care and a long-handled spoon we can check for the frass – or poo – of their larvae!”

The larvae can live in a fruit tree for two to three years before pupating and then emerging as an adult beetle.

Jane added “It’s not just about finding noble chafer beetles – we’d starting to build a map of wildlife and habitats in Worcester so it would be great to be able to add new locations of mature fruit trees to this.”

Wild Worcester

The Wild Worcester project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is a twelve month project to celebrate Worcester’s special places and wildlife as well as helping residents to enhance their gardens and green spaces for wildlife.

The project will work with individuals, community groups and schools across Worcester to help people recognise key species, understand more about their survival and discover more about their place in the city’s history and culture.

If anyone in Worcester would like to add their fruit tree to Worcester’s Wild Map, would like to know whether their fruit tree has noble chafer beetles or would like to get involved with the project, they should email Jane on call her on 01905 754919.

Tagged with: Wild Worcester