February brings hope after the floods

Monday 22nd February 2016

Buglife’s Conservation Director, Craig Macadam made a welcome discovery whilst walking along the River Don at Dyce (close to Aberdeen) the other weekend – adults of the very rare Northern February red  (Brachyptera putata), a type of stonefly.
As 2015 drew to a close, it seemed that we were skipping winter and going straight to spring. We had the warmest December since 1910 – and the wettest since records began. Aberdeen was no exception with large floods on the River Don, Storm Frank causing significant damage. Against this backdrop it was assumed that the local population of this stonefly, which is only found in northern Scotland, was likely lost.

Craig commented: “It's great that this species is still present here. I've only ever found two nymphs at this location before and it was thought that compaction of the gravels and siltation from the largely agricultural catchment had caused the local extinction of this species.  Both fully winged females and short winged males were present on a wooden post and rail fence along the riverside.”

Andrew Farr, a keen recorder from the Riverfly Recording Schemes was so eager to see this species that he booked a flight to Aberdeen from the south of England and spent a rewarding day looking for it.  He found a further 7 females and 1 male with all specimens found on the same fence despite searching trees, the bank and surrounding habitats.  Andrew explained: “I had to make the trip to see this species as it is a true wonder of nature that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world.”

Previously more widespread in the UK, the Northern February red (Brachyptera putata) is vulnerable to acidification, chemical pollution and high nutrient levels and is now only found in the north of Scotland, and no where else in the world. Survey work and research is being carried out to provide a better understanding of its life cycle. For more information, see the Northern February red species dossier and management sheet, available to download