Invertebrates Technical Factsheets from FWAG

Invertebrates of Calcareous Grassland


Calcareous grassland is a rich habitat found on thin, well-drained, nutrient poor soils over limestone. The best sites will support up to 40 plant species/m2 which in turn support a host of specialist invertebrates.

Fauna: e.g. glow-worm

The glow-worm is a beetle although only the males have typical beetle wing cases and the wingless females could be mistaken for an insect larva. The females glow brightly to attract a mate - the eggs, larvae and males glow weakly.  

Glow-worm (image shows male) (Lampyris noctiluca)

Consequently, males can often be found around outside lights. Adults and larvae are predators of snails in long grass, usually on limestone. Widespread in Britain and sometimes abundant where it occurs, but it has declined over a long period.


Calcareous grassland is a National BAP priority habitat. Many of the invertebrate species of calcareous grassland perform vital tasks such as recycling dead material, predation of pest species (such as aphids) and pollination. They also have an important place in the food chain, supporting local populations of small mammals, birds, etc.

Beneficial management

  • Maintain grazing with both sheep and cattle and avoid using artificial fertiliser or herbicide applications.
  • Aim for a mosaic of grass heights and structures and tolerate some scrub and light poaching in a few areas.
  • The ability to fence stock in or out is helpful in reducing or increasing grazing pressure. Remove stock or reduce grazing density while plants like orchids are flowering.
  • Some animal wormers can persist in dung, reducing invertebrate populations. Use these products sensitively, particularly in mid-late summer when bats are feeding their young.
  • Take care to ensure no spray drift affects these areas, particularly herbicides and insecticides. Consider establishing extended field margins to buffer the pasture from adjacent arable field operations.

Photo gallery 

Click <here> to view photographs of some important invertebrates of calcareous soil.

Further information

For further information including possible grant aid contact your local FWAG Adviser and visit the FWAG website at

Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in the information sheet. However, FWAG cannot accept liability for any errors or omission.
Photographs Roger Key, English Nature
Author: Roger Key, English Nature
39.1 Jan 2004

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