As February approaches, Buglife is reaching out to members of the public for help in locating a rare and endemic insect as the adults begin to emerge. The Northern February red stonefly 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 is now thought to be extinct. In an ongoing citizen science project, Buglife is asking members of the public to spend some time during their daily exercise searching the fence posts along rivers in their local area.
Other species of stonefly may also be encountered and submitted from across Scotland, with all records helping to build a clearer picture of distribution for what is an under-recorded and often over-looked order of insects. People living nearby large rivers in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire stand the best chance of recording the Northern February red, any sightings from around the River Clyde where the species was once found would be particularly welcomed.
Craig Macadam, Conservation Director with Buglife, said “Stoneflies need clean, cold water which makes them important indicators of good water quality, but climate change means that some species are under threat.”
In recent years as part of this survey volunteers have discovered this elusive species at new sites on both the River Dee and the River Conon, the latter of which it had never previously been recorded on.
The elusive insect is known to enjoy ‘basking’ on fenceposts along the river banks – and spotting them in the act has been identified as a useful survey technique, during the critical period between February and March, and one that everyone can participate in. It is worth photographing any stoneflies for submission, but the key feature to look out for in this distinctive species is the three dark bands across the wings. 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. And remember to stay Covid safe and abide by the rules whilst exercising and searching.