Scotland’s bugs are good for your health!

Thursday 23rd June 2016

Buglife have recently launched two new campaigns to get the Scottish public outside and looking for insects. By involving the public in these campaigns, Buglife hope to help encourage people to spend more time outside and appreciating what Scotland’s nature has on offer as well as helping nature conservation efforts. Spending time outside is immensely beneficial to your physical and mental health, participating in projects such as  Nest Quest and the Longhorn Survey is a fun way to do this and to help conserve Scotland’s beauty.

Buglife, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, will be running a series of events across Scotland to encourage people to head outside and look for Wood ants and Longhorn beetles this summer. They are also encouraging the public to head out on their own or with their families to spend time outside and help conservation by collecting records whilst they are out and about. By spending more time outside, people can strongly improve their health and wellbeing. By joining in with projects such as Nest Quest and the Longhorn beetle survey, participants will not only improve their own physical and mental wellbeing, but they will learn something along the way and help protect Scottish nature. Scottish Natural Heritage is encouraging the people of Scotland to go outside a bit more, “Being active outdoors and having contact with nature brings many health benefits, but in an ever busier world, it’s hard to find the time to exercise.  This is why projects like Nest Quest are great.  Why not get involved in a little citizen science, and by joining in on the Nest Quest not only will you provide useful local information on wood ants, you’ll be having a healthy dose of the outdoors – good for your body and mind.”(Bridget Finton, SNH)

There is an ever growing volume of evidence from medical professionals and scientists that shows spending time in nature is beneficial for people. Dr. Maria Flinn, an Edinburgh based GP has this to say, “Playing outside and spending time outside has many health benefits for children and adults alike in several different ways. It provides us with valuable vitamin D, for free, through sunshine which has multiple health benefits including prevention of bone disease, diabetes and heart disease; being outside promotes movement and exercise, very good for our health overall particularly in reducing obesity but also by helping our cardiovascular and respiratory systems; there is evidence to show that spending time outside and in green spaces increase the attention span of children; spending time outside and in green spaces reduces stress levels and the exercise through exploring increases endorphin production which helps with mood and happiness.”

Buglife Conservation Officers will be using the data collected from Nest Quest and the Longhorn Survey to put onto a map that can be found on the webpage. The goal of the surveys  is to encourage people to spend time with nature and to raise awareness about our incredible Scottish invertebrates.

Wood ants are an integral part of our woodlands. They have incredible nests designed and built to harvest warmth from the sun; they farm aphids for their honey dew and spray acid at predators. They perform jobs that sustain the woodland such as distributing nutrients – like a blood stream flowing through the forest, help to spread seeds and provide a food source to other iconic animals such as the capercaillie. Unfortunately, wood ants are facing increasing threats as Scotland’s natural beauty comes second to industrial development and destructive human behaviours. As urban development expands our Native Scottish woodlands are disappearing further. This is being observed in Aberdeenshire where people are concerned about the potential loss of Scottish woodland – that has taken millennia to develop– in favour of a golf course. We have only 1-2% of our native ancient woodland left in Scotland. Our woodlands provide many services for us including flood mitigation and carbon sequestration. Wood ants are an insect vital to ancient woodland and the services it provides.

Longhorn beetles are a  group of beetles who belong to the Family Cerembycidae. There are around 20,000 species around the world, 60+ known species in the UK, 28 of which have been observed in Scotland (not all of these species are known to be successfully established in Scotland, however). Their name arises from their characteristically long antennae which they use to seek out suitable nesting sites and mates. There are many colourful species, some with warning colouration to ward off predators.

Longhorn beetles are an immensely important member of woodland ecosystems. They eat decaying wood and return the nutrients to the living ecosystem. Alongside their important role in recycling,  they also pollinate woodland flowers and act as an essential food source for many other animals. Buglife’s friends from the Longhorn Recording Scheme are holding a Longhorn beetle week from the 1st of July. To find out more, you can follow them on twitter via @NLonghornRS.

British ancient native woodland has been reduced down to 2% of its original mass over the last 200 years. This has had an impact on many woodland fauna and may be partially responsible for the disappearance of around 5 species of Longhorn beetle since the 1800s. Currently around 20% of Cerambycidae are considered as nationally threatened (Red data book list) in the UK whilst 41% are considered nationally scarce. In Scotland, records of the diversity of Longhorns are incomplete and unclear.

Because of our rapidly changing landscape due to human behaviour, climate change and land-use changes it is important to keep a close watch on how these events are impacting our woodland invertebrates. By collecting records and understanding populations changes or the arrival of new species, we can ensure the conservation of our native Longhorn beetles and the conservation of their important role in the woodland.