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The Somerset part of Exmoor has been reasonably well worked but seems to hold few nationally rare species. The riparian rove beetle Quedius riparius [RDBK] (Staphylinidae) was added to the British List from the banks of a river at Porlock, where it continues to exist in small numbers. One of the last sites for Apion laevigatum [RDBI] (Apionidae) in the British Isles was at Minehead, where it was found in 1948. The species is associated with chamomiles Anthemis and mayweeds Matricaria and Tripleurospermum on disturbed soils, and should be looked for in August and September.
The Somerset coast from the mouth of the River Parrett at Burnham-on-Sea, north to Sand Bay, is a most productive area for the coleopterist. Amara strenua [RDB3] (Carabidae) has been found once at Pawlett Hams, but the species seems to be generally very elusive and perhaps should be sought on flood meadows. Further north at Berrow, Pogonus luridipennis [RDB3] was recorded on three occasions from 1897 to 1945, and Harpalus melancholicus [RDB1] in 1944 (both Carabidae), and these species could still be present. The tiny histerid Halacritus punctum [RDBK] (Histeridae) has been found in litter on the coast below Brean Down. On the island of Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel, the rare lathridiid Melanophthalma distinguenda (Lathridiidae) has been found, although it seems to be an extremely elusive species.
Many rare species are associated with the Somerset Levels, the most productive area being the peat production zone from Catcott to Westhay. The Levels are nationally famous for their water beetles, but the terrestrial fauna is equally worthy of attention. Formerly quite widespread, Haliplus variegatus [RDB3] (Haliplidae) is now apparently very rare and perhaps already extinct in the county with no records claimed since the 1940s. The Lesser Silver Water Beetle Hydrochara caraboides [RDB1] (Hydrophilidae) is fortunately still found locally in weed-filled drainage ditches on the Somerset Levels, especially at Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor. It seems to prefer shaded locations, even where there is a luxuriant growth of duckweed Lemna spp. in mid-summer. Its much larger relative, the Great Silver Water Beetle Hydrophilus piceus [RDB3] (Hydrophilidae), is regularly found in ditches and ponds, or is occasionally attracted to lights, at many localities in central and northern Somerset. The Somerset Levels generally is also a national stronghold for Cantharis fusca [RDB3] (Cantharidae), which should be sought on flowers in May and June. Some nationally rare chrysomelids are found on the more low-lying levels. Foremost among these is Oulema erichsoni [RDB1] (Chrysomelidae), found nowhere else in the British Isles, which is found by sweeping grasses, especially Glyceria, in waterlogged sites at Catcott Heath and in the Shapwick-Meare area, in July.The rare aquatic weevil Bagous nodulosus [RDB1] (Curculionidae) has been found sparingly in ditches at West Moor and near Kingsbury Episcopi (ST 42). This species is associated with Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus and adults should be looked for by carefully examining the host-plant in May and June. In Britain this species is believed now to be confined to Somerset. The weevil Hylobius transversovittatus [RDB1] (Curculionidae) occurs on the Somerset peat moors, also here at its only known site in the British Isles. With luck, diligent searching in May at the roots of Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria growing on fairly dry peat in the Shapwick / Meare area, may turn up this species. The last known site in the British Isles for another weevil, Lixus paraplecticus [RDB1] (Curculionidae), was on Catcott Heath, but it has not been seen even there since 1958 and is possibly now extinct in Britain. Also at Catcott, Panagaeus cruxmajor [RDB1] (Carabidae) was found in 1935 and 1951 but not since. The host-plant is Greater Water-parsnip Sium latifolium. The only known site for the Hairy Click Beetle Synaptus filiformis [RDB1] (Elateridae) in the British Isles is along the tidal stretch of the River Parrett, between Burrow Bridge and Oath Lock. From late May to early June this species can be found sparingly by sweeping the dense stands of Reed-grass Phalaris arundinacea, especially on the south side (i.e. in South Somerset) where river silt has formed extensive banks. N.B. Take great care walking on the steep silt banks as the mud is liable to slide without warning and the river is very swift. Hydrothassa hannoveriana [RDB3] (Chrysomelidae) was taken at Midelney (ST 42) in 1977, and may still occur in the area. This species appears to have declined drastically. The tortoise beetle Cassida nebulosa [RDB I] has been found at Merrick's organic farm near Langport, by sweeping Fat Hen Chenopodium album in August.
At Cleaves Wood, near Wellow, the rare melandryid Osphya bipunctata [RDB3] (Melandryidae) occurs sparingly on hawthorn Crataegus blossom in the early summer.
The rare autumn-active oil beetle Meloe rugosus [RDB3] (Meloidae) has been found very rarely near old walls in the outskirts of Bath and Bruton.
The rare longhorn Gracilia minuta [RDB2] (Cerambycidae) has been found on dead bramble Rubus stems at Green Down Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve near Charlton Mackrell.
The rare ciid Cis coluber [RDB3] (Ciidae) was found at Berkley Wood near the border with Wiltshire, but several recent searches have failed to refind it.
County recorder: 64 Kings Castle Road, Wells, Somerset BA5 3LT.
DUFF, A. 1993. Beetles of Somerset. Taunton: Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society.