ONE of the UK’s most highly-threatened and unusual beetles is under threat from plans to build 28 new homes in Warminster.

Environmental activists claim the proposals to build luxury homes at Damask Way will erode the habitat of the Rugged Oil Beetle.

The beetle is found in only a few sites across Wiltshire, one being the controversial Damask Way development in Warminster.

Iain Perkins, of Sustainable Warminster, says it is among the most rarest, most threatened and most imminently in need of conservation.

The beetle, said to resemble a walking black olive, secretes a toxic oil from its legs to deter predators and has an extraordinary life cycle.

Mr Perkins said: "It is notoriously difficult to spot as it is restricted to just a handful of sites in southern England and Wales and only comes out at night in late autumn and winter.

"This little beetle is so important that it features as part of the UK’s Back from the Brink project, made possible thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery, that aims to save 20 species from extinction and benefit over 200 more through 19 projects that span England.

Sustainable Warminster and conservation bodies such as Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation and Buglife are calling on Wiltshire Council to extend the Smallbrook Meadows Nature Reserve wildlife site to help protect the beetle from extinction in Warminster.

Mr Perkins said they are encouraging people to look out for two other larger species, the Black Oil Beetle and the Violet Oil Beetle, during April and let Sustainable Warminster know where they are to be found.

The group is also urging people to sign a petition against the Damask Way development to help save Warminster's biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.

Already, more than 2,120 people have signed the petition to stop the development, which campaigners claim will harm local wildlife.

To sign, go to