Northern February Red
Latin name: Brachyptera putata
Notable feature: Males have short-wings making them poor at flying
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Where in the UK: Mainly north-east Scotland and the Highlands
Northern February Red Stonefly
The Northern February Red Stonefly (Brachyptera putata) has its global stronghold in the Scottish Highlands and has only ever been recorded in two rivers outside Scotland – the River Usk in Wales and the River Wye in Hereford, where it was last recorded prior to 1990 and is now thought to be extinct.
The Northern February Red is a small, native, endemic stonefly, the adults of which have long antennae, weak chewing mouthparts, and wings. Brown in colour the female has three dark bands across its wings, as well as dark wing tips, whilst the male is short-winged and either cannot fly well or is unable to fly. Adults have long antennae, a similar length to their bodies, which look like a (very small) string of beads.
These insects have nymphs (young) that live in the water of rivers. Like other stonefly larvae, the Northern February Red nymph has two cerci (tails) projecting from the rear of its abdomen, these are of a similar length to its antennae and typically as long as the main body.
The Northern February Red likes cold water and rivers with good water quality, especially rivers that are in open heaths or upland pastures, and lots of winter sunshine are best.
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.
- Size: Females measure 8-10mm in length, males 7-9mm in length
- Life span: Approximately 1 year
- Diet: 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. Adults are also thought to feed on algae, fungi and lichen found on the surface of trees and fenceposts.
- Reproduction: The adult Northern February Red drums to find a mate; the male will drum its abdomen on the vegetation or trees/fenceposts and the female will reply. Doing this until they find each other; they will then mate. It is thought that the female will lay her eggs directly on to the water after forming them into a small ball at the end of the abdomen. It is currently unknown as to how many she will lay, or whether she lays multiple batches. A similar species lays 4 batches averaging a total of 900 eggs, but ranges between 271 to 1402 eggs.
- When to see: During periods of winter sunshine through February and March the Northern February Red can often be found basking on fence posts that run alongside large rivers, from where the adults will have emerged to mate and disperse after spending their formative months as larvae growing under rocks in fast flowing water.
- Population Trend: The Northern February Red is a priority conservation species in the UK because it is both endemic and declining
- Threats: Loss of suitable habitats, through changes in water management/use and dams, pollution and climate change/changing weather patterns (storms and flooding)
- Fun Fact: The adults drum to find a mate.
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Northern February Red Stonefly through specific projects and campaigns which have highlighted the damage caused to our freshwater invertebrates through the actions of humans, but we need your help!
Join a recording scheme and log your finds – Buglife welcomes records of the Northern February Red Stonefly – join the Hunt for the Northern February Red and send us your sightings and photos!
- Buglife would like the public to help us locate, photograph, and report any sightings of the adults of this endemic insect as they emerge in the spring. Once you have photographed your stoneflies, you can submit them to Buglife either by emailing them to [email protected] or by tweeting them to @BuglifeScotland. In your message it is important that you include in the email subject STONEFLY, and in the email includes your name, the date of the photograph, the name of the river and a specific location (a grid reference if possible).
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