This small reddish-brown weevil is one of about 15,000 species of weevils that form the family Curculionidae. The Gilkicker weevil gets its name from Fort Gilkicker at Gosport in Hampshire, where it was first recorded and still survives. The fort was built between 1865 and 1871 as a result of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. The fort is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II Listed Building, and was in use as a coastal defence from the nineteenth century until 1956.
It is thought that adult beetles could be found at almost any time between spring and autumn wherever birdsfoot-trefoil is found growing, in very hot micro-climates, among shingle, bare sand or even along concrete paths. The weevil's larvae actually feed on the developing seeds of the host plant.
A two-kilometre section of the coast of the Solent around Fort Gilkicker is the only part of mainland Britain where this species is found today, and where it was originally discovered in 1872. This also includes the MoD site at Browndown Ranges, which may well be the weevil's main stronghold. It has only been recorded from three other mainland sites, although one of these is now regarded as a suspect record. It is a southern European species, which ranges to central Europe but more is numerous in the south. It also occurs on the Channel Islands.
With this species only occurring in a very restricted stretch of coast, potentially it is threatened by inappropriate management work around the fort and from the trampling of its grassland habitat by visiting members of the public.
The Gilkicker weevil is included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and listed in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. There are still questions as to why this species is so rare. It can hardly be due to the choice of host-plant as bird's-foot trefoil is common.
The fortunes on the mainland of this rare weevil rest on maintaining the management of one small area of the coastline, and the possible re-introduction of the species to other suitable sites. Hampshire Wildlife Trust is coordinating the conservation work on this weevil, and records of any sightings should be forwarded to them.
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