Cairngorms breakthrough for critically endangered insect

Critically endangered pine hoverflies have been shown to breed successfully in new populations around the Cairngorms National Park thanks to rare invertebrate conservation efforts in the Cairngorms Partnership.

RIC surveys have found larvae in previously unoccupied tree stumps, meaning that at least some of the pine hoverflies released by RIC partner the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) at three sites in October 2021 and March 2022, completed a full breeding cycle, signaling a significant advance for the species in Britain.

Dr Helen Taylor, Conservation Program Manager at RZSS, said: “This is an important milestone for the conservation of the pine hoverfly in Britain.

Geneviève Tompkins discovers a little gem in the Cairngorms. Photo: Josie Slade

“We were delighted when the RIC found adult pine hoverflies in the wild over the summer, but the discovery of these larvae means we can now be sure that some of these adults have found themselves and found enough food. to allow them to mate, lay eggs and produce a new generation at sites where this species has been extinct for decades.

“These larvae mean we are seeing new populations emerging as a direct result of our wildlife conservation charity’s hoverfly breeding program and the incredible habitat creation work our partners in the RIC and Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) have committed.”

Genevieve Tompkins, Project Officer at RIC, said: “As one of Britain’s most endangered native species, pine hoverflies are vital to forest ecosystems, acting as both pollinators and recyclers of waste.

“One of our goals is to get more pine hoverflies in more places – to restore the species and return the important functions they provide to native pine forests. To see these new populations begin to establish and to reproduce represents a very exciting progress towards that goal.”

Matthew Hawkins, Head of Conservation at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to see a key part of the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan being so successful – the RIC project is a example of how a scientific approach and working in partnership can change the fate of an important species like the pine hoverfly.With a quarter of the UK’s rare and endangered species found in Cairngorms National Park, projects like this are essential to securing the future of our unique wildlife.

Pine Hoverfly is one of the rarest species in the UK.
Pine Hoverfly is one of the rarest species in the UK.

Dr Taylor continued: “While this is an exciting step forward, our work and the work of the RIC partnership does not stop there. We will continue the RZSS breeding program for flies at Highland Wildlife Park, learning from any interesting observations we have been able to make during these surveys.

“In the coming months, we will also be carrying out additional staggered releases in partnership with RIC and FLS, as we try to ensure that these new populations of wild pine hoverflies are stable beyond this season’s success and thrive. long-term.

The Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project is a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, RZSS, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and NatureScot. The RIC project is currently funded by the RSPB and the Cairngorms National Park Authority, with part of the habitat work funded by NatureScot’s Nature Restoration Fund.

Funding for the RZSS breeding program from Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, Marvelous Europe Inc., NatureScot, The National Geographic Society, as well as support from the Scottish Government’s Zoos and Aquariums Fund and lottery players postcodes, has been essential in ensuring that this vital project can continue.

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