The Northern February red stonefly (Brachyptera putata) is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species and included on the Scottish Biodiversity List.
Northern February red (Brachyptera putata) adult male © David Pryce
This stonefly tends to be found in the upper reaches of larger rivers crossing open heath and upland pastures. It requires unpolluted, highly oxygenated waters with good exposure to winter sunlight, which is important both for adult emergence and to support the algae on which the larvae feed.
The Highlands have always been the stronghold for this rare species, but it used to be present in the Rivers Usk (Wales) and Wye (England). Surveys undertaken by Action for Invertebrates and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) since 2001 have failed to detect any Northern February red stoneflies in England or Wales. However, they were found in many rivers in Scotland where they had not been previously recorded.
|Northern February red (Brachyptera putata) adult female © David Pryce|
This species is threatened by sheep and cattle farming, which can cause insecticide pollution, eutrophication (where increased nutrients result in plant blooms, reducing oxygen levels) and disturbance by livestock crossing rivers. Afforestation also poses a threat, as it can block the essential winter sun.
Fortunately, many of the existing populations occur in upland rivers which are managed for spawning salmon, which have similar habitat requirements. The Riverfly Partnership are also carrying out surveys and research to provide a better understanding of the lifecycle to inform conservation efforts.
|Northern February red (Brachyptera putata) larva © David Pryce|
Continued promotion of appropriate management of river catchments in Scotland is required to protect the remaining population, while it is hoped that future surveys will rediscover this wonderful riverfly in England and Wales.
To find out more about riverflies and the work of the Riverfly Partnership, click here.