Field cricket conservation
Habitat loss and alteration of grasslands has led to the drastic decline of the field cricket, to the point that during the late 1980s this species was reduced to a single surviving colony in Sussex of less than 100 individuals.
The field cricket is now listed as ‘endangered’ on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and has been given full legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
ZSL joined forces with English Nature and other partners in the early 1990s to help save the field cricket from extinction in Britain.
A captive breeding programme was established for the field cricket at ZSL London Zoo. Attention was given to obtaining founder populations from the wild (without damaging existing populations), and also maintaining captive over-wintering stocks to speed up breeding output. The long-term aim of the project is to have ten viable wild populations by 2010.
The outcome of these efforts has been three new wild colonies of field crickets, with the largest (and first) release population growing to some four times the original parent colony. In all, over 14 000 individuals have been released in West Sussex and Hampshire since 1991.
Habitat at existing field cricket sites is being managed to suit the needs of the crickets, and habitat restoration and recreation is taking place to link up the existing sites.
Individual field crickets won’t move very far during their lifetime, so it is important to have a network of sites with suitable field cricket habitat in close proximity to each other.
The British field cricket is an impressive insect with a black body and wings that resemble intricate wrought iron work. The wing is dark black-brown, with a yellow base and black raised veins. A modified area of veins on the male's wings, known as the 'harp', enables him to produce the 'song' that he uses to attract a female. Field Crickets are vegetarian and live in warm, short and tussocky grasslands with lots of bare ground.