Archive of: insects

‘Extinct’ flutter-wing fly last seen 100 years ago found in Angus, Scotland

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‘Extinct’ flutter-wing fly last seen 100 years ago found in Angus, Scotland

A rare flutter-wing fly, Palloptera laetabilis, not seen in the UK for over 100 years has been found at Den of Airlie Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a woodland in Angus.  This is also the first time this fly has ever been found in Scotland.

The rare fly was presumed to be extinct, but was found during site condition monitoring surveys completed by Caledonian Conservation under contract to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in 2015.  The discovery has since been confirmed and published by Steven Falk (the fly expert on the project team) in the most recent issue of Dipterists Digest.

Den of Airlie SSSI is only the fifth site that this species has been recorded at in the UK, and the only one in Scotland.  The other four sites are all located in England, with the last record being from Oxfordshire in 1907.

Chris Cathrine, Director of Caledonian Conservation and project leader for the 2015 invertebrate site condition monitoring project said:  “Finding a species last recorded over a century ago is very exciting.  That this is also the first record for the species in Scotland makes this all the more special.  We found a great number of rare species during our surveys across Scotland.  While Palloptera laetabilis is undoubtedly the most exciting, we hope to publish records from all 25 sites, including the Isle of Rum, in the future.”

The invertebrate records collected by Caledonian Conservation during these surveys (including Den of Airlie SSSI) are available on NBN Atlas at:

Learn more about SNH’s work in Scotland at:

Steven Falk’s paper on Palloptera laetabilis is available on the Caledonian Conservation publications page, or directly here.

Steven Falk was contracted by Caledonian Conservation to complete surveys for this project through his previous role at Buglife – the Invertebrate Conservation Trust.  For more information on Steven Falk’s work and photography, please visit:

For more information about the Dipterists Digest visit:

Photo:  Female Palloptera laetabilis from Den of Airlie Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) © Steven Falk


Museum Collections are Critical for Identifying Invertebrates

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Museum Collections are Critical for Identifying Invertebrates

In September 2016, Director Chris Cathrine carried out invertebrate surveys at Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) Balgavies Loch reserve using Caledonian Conservation’s bugvac (a modified leaf blower that sucks bugs into a net).  Bugvac is excellent at turning up invertebrates such as spiders and beetles hiding deep within vegetation that would be difficult to collect or missed entirely using traditional collection methods.  Recently we identified the species collected, however some of these invertebrates can be very difficult to differentiate from one another, even using the microscopes, identification keys and reference collections we have in the office. 

Luckily the National Museum of Scotland Collection Centre in Edinburgh allows access to their collections for reference and research, giving us the opportunity to compare anatomical features of our samples against curated specimens in the collection.  In Britain there are around 4,000 known beetle species and, just like people, individuals of each species are unique, coming in a natural range of shapes, colours and sizes.  Around a quarter of all beetles are members of the Staphylinidae family (rove beetles), many of which show only very minute physicals differences from one another.  A good reference collection with a number of specimens of the same species collected from different geographical locations can prove very useful in aiding identification.

Despite the difficulty of identifying some species, the information gained can be very useful for making informed decisions about changes to land management.  Since many invertebrate species require very specific microhabitats or host plants, they are often excellent indicators of habitat quality and change.  The conservation status and habitat preferences of the species identified in different parts of Balgavies Loch reserve will help SWT plan how the site can be best managed for a wide range of wildlife in the future.

Check out National Museum of Scotland’s website for more information about their excellent resources.

The SWT Balgavies Loch invertebrate report is also available to read via the Caledonian Conservation Ltd website, here.

Visit SWT's website to learn more about Balgavies Loch and their other reserves.


CIEEM In Practice Articles Available to Download!

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CIEEM In Practice Articles Available to Download!

At Caledonian Conservation we aim to benefit people and wildlife.  To achieve this, we feel it is essential to share our experiences with other professional and academic ecologists to help improve best practice (within legal and commercial restrictions).  This includes presenting articles in the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) In Practice publication, which is distributed to the organisation’s membership.  Director Chris Cathrine has been an author of four articles in this publication, and we are pleased that we are now able to offer these publicly on the Caledonian Conservation Ltd website.  These articles include:

Cathrine, C. 2015. Wood Ant Nest Translocations. In Practice 89, 14-18.

Cathrine, C. and Amphlett, A. 2011. Deadwood: Importance and Management. In Practice 73, 11-15.

Cathrine, C. 2010. Invertebrates and Ecosystem Services: The Oil in the Ecological Machine. In Practice 68, 16-19.

Cathrine, C. and Spray, S. 2009. Bats and onshore wind farms: Site-by-site assessment and post-construction monitoring protocols. In Practice 64, 14-17.

To explore other publications, research posters and conference papers, go to the Caledonian Conservation publications page.

To learn more about the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, visit their website.


Frozen hairy wood ant nest photo on BBC

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Frozen hairy wood ant nest photo on BBC

We’re very pleased that BBC chose to use a Caledonian Conservation photo of a frosty hairy wood ant (Formica lugubris) nest in a gallery illustrating frozen Scotland:

Wood ant nests are masterworks of eco-architecture and sustainable design, taking maximum advantage of renewable energy and local resources. Wood ant nests are built around a tussock of grass, soil or another feature, which provides a source of heat through decay of vegetation as well as a foundation. Constructed so that the south facing side is larger and flatter to capture solar energy and allow workers to bask, before returning to brood chambers where they act as storage heaters. Finally, the thatched roof made from pine needles, heather and grass provides excellent insulation.

There are four species of wood ants (including close relatives) in Scotland: the hairy wood ant, Scottish wood ant (Formica aquilonia), slave-maker ant (Formica sanguinea) and narrow-headed ant (Formica exsecta). These species have different habitat preferences, and perform a range of important ecosystem services.  Caledonian Conservation has wood ant expertise, and you can read about our nest translocation work for developments and Site Condition Monitoring surveys for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on our publications page.  Caledonian Conservation Director Chris Cathrine is also a member of the UK National Wood Ant Steering Group.

To learn more about wood ants in the UK, visit the website of the National Wood Ant Steering Group.

An excellent book on wood ants has also recently been published, and is highly recommended:

Stockan, J.A. and Robinson, E.J.H.  2016.  Wood Ant Ecology and Conservation.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


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