Beetle outbreak could damage our precious heather: Our letter to The Guardian

If we are to improve the fate of our heather (Climate emergency to blame for heather crisis – National Trust, September 5), much more needs to be learnt about heather beetle outbreaks, which appear to be increasing in severity.

The general advice is that burning or cutting of affected heather, following an outbreak, will assist restoration of damaged moorland. Evidence suggests that the reason the UK has largely retained its heather moorland is due to the presence of management for driven grouse shooting.

Grouse moor management has, arguably, also improved the resilience of dwarf-shrub heathers in the face of disease and pest species such as heather beetle. The retention of both economic and environmental incentives for moorland management need to be maintained to build resilience and mitigate climate change. 

Ross MacLeod
Head of policy at GWCT (Scotland)

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Heather Beetle

at 18:26 on 12/09/2019 by nickmuir

We have a very severe outbreak of Heather a Beetle, which has wiped out over a 1000 acres of heather. The best that the Green MSP members can do is to attempt to have me prosecuted for attempting to burn the affected areas ( in season ) to speed up the regeneration of new young heather. Burning affected heather usually speeds up the regeneration process considerably, and is thus highly desirable for the ecology of our heather hills. Those of us who manage heather hills have known this for many decades. Yet another sad case of the ignorant attempting to prevent the knowledgeable from indulging in best practice. Plus ca change! - ( Nothing changes! )

Heather Beetle

at 12:17 on 10/09/2019 by Phillip GP Walker

In my experience the important thing is to preferable burn -particularly old heather -which has been infested by beetle and shows no sign of any green shoots in the late spring / summer following the attack. You may find sporadic signs of new growth over a large area of some young and medium length heather and I would suggest such plants should be allowed to grow and the area around them ‘patched’. Preferably burnt. Sadly if the NT , the RSPB and others rely on nature taking its course there is a significant likelihood of losing the heather and the ground reverting to grasses. . These organisations ought to to be looking at beetle affected areas now and attempting to use this ground to create strategic fire breaks which can then be managed when growth commences by cutting. However I stress again in the first instance I believe the burning of the affected areas will stimulate the natural seed banks and promote prompt re growth. Such thinking will assist others tackling wild fires , minimising damage to the deeper peat, helping beetle areas recover quicker and in the long term ensuring the future of heather on areas managed by the NT . Sadly they appear to believe non management is the better course and nature’s way. We all need to look at the bigger picture and assist our precious heather when we can. We also need to accept that climate change is probably a factor in the preverlence of beetle and indeed wild fires. We need intervention and management of both !.

Heather beetle

at 11:56 on 10/09/2019 by John Riley

Does anything eat heather beetle? Are they always present on the moors and at times increase in numbers. I ask as am getting interested in the common grazing I have a share in on the island of Uist. I intend to commence a burning program this winter/ spring My regards John Riley

Heather beetle

at 12:50 on 06/09/2019 by Anne Cottam

Excellent letter re how moorland management keeps beetle at bay. Well done!

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