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Brachyptera putata female (c) Gus Jones ©

Northern February red

Fast facts

  • Latin name: Brachyptera putata
  • Notable feature: Males have short-wings making them poor at flying
  • Rarity in UK: Rare / Common
  • Where in the UK: Mainly north-east Scotland and the Highlands
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  The Northern February red (Brachytera putata) is a stonefly. These insects have nymphs (young) that live in the water of rivers and have flying adults. The Northern February red is special because it is found only in Britain and no where else in the world making it an endemic species. 

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Where does it live?

It was first found in the River Clyde, but now it mainly occurs in northern Scotland, particularly the north-east and the Highlands. Outside of Scotland, it has only been found in two other rivers, the Usk in Wales and the Wye near Hereford.

A perfect home

The Northern February red likes rivers with good water quality and lots of winter sunshine especially rivers that are in open heaths or upland pastures.

Flying adults

The adults can be seen emerging on riverbanks in sunshine, from February to April. They are often encountered as the bask in the sun on fenceposts alongside the river. The males have short-wings making them poor at flying.  However, females are much better at flying and can move back upstream to find a mate.

Cold water is best

Nymphs are found among stones in rivers. Winter sunlight encourages the growth of different types of algae which is food for the larvae. They also need the high oxygen levels which are found in cold waters. This helps them to remain active and so the best time for them is during the winter months.

Why does this stonefly need help?

The Northern February red is a priority conservation species in the UK because it is both endemic and declining. The decline of this rare beast is due a number of different human induced factors including acidification, chemical pollution and high levels of nutrients in the water.

What is Buglife doing to help?

The last surveys for the Northern February red were undertaken in 2010. Buglife is currently running a citizen science survey to help find out what the current distribution of this species is. We will then work with landowners to make sure that the correct conditions for the Northern February red are present to help this species recover.

Roger Key

Upland dingle waterfall © Roger Key

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