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New project launched to save Scotland’s rarest insects

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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 have all been identified by experts (1) 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 parks 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.”

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