New bugs discovered on remote Atlantic island

Wednesday 3rd February 2016

A number of invertebrates new to the tiny UK overseas territory of St Helena have been discovered by Liza Fowler, the Bugs on the Brink Educational Officer. Invertebrate expert Dr Roger Key examined photographs taken by Liza and confirmed her finds, whilst working on a new invertebrate guide for the island also part of Buglife’s ‘Bugs on the Brink’ project.

Ten invertebrate species have been discovered as new to the island including two new insect families:- a new family of barkflies, the scaly bark-flies, and one of true bugs, the scentless plant bugs; as well as a number of other invertebrate species that haven’t been seen for many years.  Best of all was the rediscovery of Basilewsky’s cranefly, and Lelup’s centipede endemic species from the High Peaks, neither seen for 45 years and thought possibly to have been globally extinct. 

Liza commented. “Capturing the Basilewsky’s cranefly was a real stroke of luck, one flew into the car at High Peak and landed on me.”

These discoveries have helped the project to further understand the amazing variety of invertebrates that are living on St Helena and enabled their conservation. Bugs on the Brink is a partnership project between Buglife, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology – UK, St Helena Government and St Helena National Trust, funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

Liza added. “Unfortunately most of the new bugs are not such good news to the island as they are invaders from other places and may turn out to be detrimental to the indigenous bugs, flora or crops, but it is good that we now know about them.  For example a new wasp may kill the caterpillars of endemic moths, the scentless plant bug is a crop pest and a new snail was eating my cabbages”. 

Vicky Kindemba, Buglife’s conservation delivery manager commented. “What Liza has achieved is really amazing. Her keen eye has really expanded our knowledge of St Helena’s spectacular bugs. It shows that one person with a camera can discover new species and make a real difference to nature conservation work”
St Helena is one of the UK’s Overseas Territories. Sitting between Africa and South America in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and has a unique biological heritage. Often called the ‘Galapagos of the South Atlantic’ the island’s flora and fauna has evolved in extreme isolation, resulting in more than 460 invertebrate species that are not found anywhere else on Earth. St Helena has over 30% of the endemic species in the UK and all of the OTs combined.

Full list of new or rediscovered species found by Liza


Scaly bark fly Echmepteryx madagascariensis looks more like a tiny moth
Chalcid parasitic wasp possibly Antrocephalus sp – photo with expert in South Africa parasitizes moth caterpillars – may be a pest or a blessing
new Orb-weaver spider Cyclosa sp poss conica spider with a knobbly bottom
new Lynx spider Oxyopes sp – photo with specialist in (the Azores) pretty spider with spiky legs
poss new Corylophid beetle photo not good enough to identify wrong colour-scheme to be one of the known ones– the size of a pinhead
new scavenger beetle  poss Carcinops – specimen on island awaiting identification
picture wing fly Family is Ulidiidae in the genus Physiphora, the ‘stripe-eyed flies’ probably Physiphora clausa, a cosmopliitan species that has made it all over the world, including lots of oceanic islands, A beast of disgusting habits, despite being so pretty, it breeds in liquid manure and other decaying organic matter but is not any kind of pest or disease carrier and its larvae, unusually for fly maggots, can jump. As an adult it has complex courtship displays.

possible/likely new pests
new unknown snail  specimens on way to expert in Cardiff a big garden snail
Bronze leaf beetle  Diachus auratus pretty, but  a pest of trees from North America
Hyaline grass bug    Liorhyssus hyalinus pretty, but a minor pest of grasses and cereals
new unknown weevil   photo currently to expert in Australia a complete mystery


Basilewski’s cranefly  Dicranomyia basilewskyana a delicate daddy long-legs that lives in mossy trickles
Lelup’s    Lamyctes lelupi endemic predator, mainly displaced by alien European species

Jackal fly    Desmometopa m-nigrum (with spider Argiope trifasciata)  steals the food of spider while they are feeding

Metalmark moth    Tebenna micalis     pretty little moth – caterpillars on daisies – staging a comeback

Grain weevil   Sitophilus oryzae or zeamais

Bean weevil     Acanthoscelides obtectus  (not actually a weevil)