Project launched to save Scot­land’s rarest in­sects

The Oban Times - - OUTDOORS -

A NEW project is be­ing launched in the heart of the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park to save six of Scot­land’s rarest in­ver­te­brates.

The shin­ing guest ant, dark bor­dered beauty moth, small scabi­ous min­ing bee, north­ern sil­ver- stiletto fly, pine hov­er­fly and Ken­tish glory moth have all been iden­ti­fied by ex­perts as need­ing ur­gent con­ser­va­tion ac­tion, with many of them hav­ing their last strongholds within the na­tional park

RSPB Scot­land, the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park Au­thor­ity (CNPA), Buglife, But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion and Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage (SNH) will work in part­ner­ship on the Rare In­ver­te­brates in the Cairn­gorms project over the next three years to im­prove the con­ser­va­tion for­tunes of these six in­sect species.

Funded by the Euro­pean Agri­cul­tural Fund for Ru­ral Devel­op­ment, the ini­tia­tive will in­volve re­cruit­ing vol­un­teers to help with sur­vey­ing work that will es­tab­lish the size and dis­tri­bu­tion of the species’ pop­u­la­tions, as well as im­ple­ment­ing prac­ti­cal man­age­ment on the ground to help them thrive.

While the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park is known for giv­ing wildlife such as ca­per­cail­lie, wild­cat and red squir­rel a home, some of the smaller, lesser known species can be even more fas­ci­nat­ing. For ex­am­ple, shin­ing wood ants do not cre­ate their own nests, they sim­ply move in to those of reg­u­lar wood ants. The ‘squat­ters’ can be eas­ily iden­ti­fied by their ex­tremely shiny coat of ar­mour.

Small scabi­ous min­ing bees, mean­while, can only be found in Scot­land in the Cairn­gorms and feed ex­clu­sively on a plant known as devil’s-bit scabi­ous – so called be­cause the roots come to an abrupt end as if the devil had bit­ten them off.

Then there is the Ken­tish glory: de­spite its name, the only area of the UK this moth can be found is the north- east of Scot­land. The team has had to be par­tic­u­larly in­ven­tive in pre­par­ing to sur­vey this species as its fast flight makes it dif­fi­cult to iden­tify.

They will be tri­alling a novel pheromone tech­nique, which in­volves coat­ing rub­ber stop­pers with the scent of fe­male moths and hang­ing them from trees – hope­fully this will lure in the males to be counted while they’re all gath­ered around the ‘fake fe­male’.

Gabrielle Flinn, projects of­fi­cer for the Rare In­ver­te­brates in the Cairn­gorms project, said: ‘The Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park is well known for its iconic species such as the ca­per­cail­lie and wild­cat, but it’s also the last refuge for some of Scot­land’s rarest in­sects.

‘For the next three years the project will be work­ing to con­serve some of these rare species spread across the park’s key habi­tats, from aspen wood­land to flower-rich grass­lands.

‘ We’ll be re­ly­ing on peo­ple in and around the park to lend a hand, so if you’re pas­sion­ate about the smaller things in life, we’d love to hear from you.’

A shin­ing guest ant be­side a wood ant.

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