Rare insect found in Cairngorms

Molly Martin

Monday 19 April 2021

Scientists are celebrating the rediscovery of a rare bug not seen in Scotland for over 30 years.

The cow wheat shieldbug was recently spotted in a woodland in Strathspey by a field worker from the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms partnership project. The bug is an attractive little insect, with a black body featuring two distinctive white spots. 

This is only the 8th ever record for the bug in Scotland, with previous records being made between 1866 and 1989. Four of the historic records have come from Strathspey, one from Perthshire (1879), one from Argyll and Bute (1890) and one from Loch Rannoch (1989). 

This rare insect is considered to be Nationally Scarce across the UK, with worrying declines in the south-east of England over recent years.

As the name suggests, this bug relies on cow wheat as a food plant. Like many insects, this is a warmth-loving animal. Although cow wheat is common in many parts of Scotland, the bug needs it to grow in a sheltered, warm micro-climate, usually on sunny rides and glades in woodlands.  

These warm micro-climates rely on traditionally managed woodlands with diverse structures, creating sheltered open areas. It is believed that a decline in such woodlands is one of the reasons why the bug has fared badly over recent decades.  

Genevieve Tompkins, who found the bug, said: “One of the great things about this project is that, while looking for the focus species, our volunteers come across other rare insects too. Insects are hugely under-recorded, but give us vital clues as to the health of our habitats. It is sad that this bug has suffered from a decline in traditional woodland management. However, there is hope, with diverse woodlands once more becoming a key feature of the Cairngorms National Park. It would be brilliant if more people could look out for the bug, submitting their records through the iRecord website.”. 

Tagged with: Country: Scotland