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As a token of appreciation for his outstanding contribution to conservation BSCG on Wednesday 19 June presented a framed photo of the Aspen Hoverfly, one of the most celebrated rare hoverflies in the UK, to Alan Stubbs. The occasion was the opening of the Alan Stubbs library at the English headquarters of Buglife in Peterborough.
Alan Stubs, who is on the board of Trustees of Buglife the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, wrote ‘British Hoverflies’ an illustrated identification guide. This landmark guide first published by the British entomological Society in 1983, and republished in an expanded form in 2002, has successfully encouraged people across the UK to take a detailed interest in hoverflies. These attractive and astonishingly agile creatures are in their life styles one of the most diverse and fascinating groups of insects. They are rightly considered valuable indicators of environmental health and it is now appreciated they play important ecological roles including for example in pollination of plants once thought to be entirely wind pollinated.
The photo taken earlier this month by BSCG member Tim Ransom while searching for hoverflies in Badenoch and Strathspey with Buglife entomologist Steven Falk , illustrator of the landmark 1983 British hoverfly book, is of an aspen hoverfly initially spotted visiting flowers of bird cherry at Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve. Few naturalists have been privileged to see this rare insect in the wild where it is even more rarely subject of such a detailed close up portrait.
As Alan Stubs explained after the presentation this sizeable orange hoverfly (Hammerchmidita feruginea) is a flagship species for a number of other endangered species that like it depend on decaying wood in a few areas where relatively sizeable stands of aspen survive in Badenoch and Strathspey.
The aspen hoverfly With the pine hoverfly Blera fallax both features within the top list of 26 species identified by the CNPA in the Cairngroms Nature Action Plan as requiring focussed conservation attention between 2013 and 2018.
Alan Stubs who played a key role in establishing Buglife has also written a book on British Soldier Flies and is currently engaged in a work on British craneflies.

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See also BSCG’s leaflet on Groundhoppers of Badenoch & Strathspey written by Tim Ransom.

 
This book  on grasshoppers and their allies, that are in the insect order of Orthoptera, is packed with information. It has a feast of illustrations and includes a CD and written commentary that provides a fascinating insight into the behaviour of many British species.
 
A chapter on ecology and conservation of the British species includes what I found to be an absorbing account of pioneering studies of the ecology of this group. It also reviews more recent studies providing insight into the very low abundance and species richness in modern intensively farmed landscapes where biodiversity has been lost and opportunities need to be taken to restore it.
 
As well as numerous photos of grasshoppers, crickets and groundhoppers the pictures extend to representations of grasshoppers like the Gresham grasshopper at the Royal Exchange in London. There are photos of a range of other invertebrates. For example a stick insect, cockroaches, a mantid, a wasp spider, a solitary wasp and the striking caterpillar of the sycamore moth find a place too. There  are even portraits of birds - an Asian paradise flycatcher and a satin bowerbird.  These, with photos of the naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, are  included in a chapter on mating systems and sexual selection.
 
The species accounts follow a similar format to that found in Bumblebees also in the New Naturalist series and by Ted Benton, published in 2006. Both these well illustrated volumes have sections that can be dipped into for reference. There is an easily located identification  key (pages 216 -238) that acknowledges that groundhoppers can be difficult to distinguish  with certainty and confident identification should be  based on several characters.  This is illustrated with line drawings that are also numerous in a chapter on structure and function, describing such features as senses and acoustic apparatus.
 
The distribution maps of British species are a useful feature. The map for the slender groundhopper omits the first Strathspey record (recorded by BSCG from a site threatened with development at Boat of Garten) although this was reported in British Wildlife before the book’s publication date.
 
The account of the common groundhopper, citing a 1988 general work, mentions strong populations in ancient pine and birch woods. Benton comments that this species has quite exacting habitat requirements and is vulnerable to such things as habitat loss from ‘development’. The fully- winged (or ‘macropterous’)  form of the common groundhopper has been recorded by BSCG since 2009 on threatened sites in Strathspey.  No illustration of this long-winged form is provided.  Reviewing the status of this uncommon form, Benton  mentions that it  was listed from two Scottish sites by Kevan (1952) and referred to by Haes and Harding in the 1997 Atlas of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Allied insects of Britain and Ireland.
 
The book ends with many useful references covering an impressive range of topics, including for example the place of grasshoppers and crickets in Amerindian culture. I found Grasshoppers and Crickets an engaging  and authoritative account of a fascinating group of insects that deserve  increased attention in ScotlaSee also BSCG’s leaflet on Groundhoppers of Badenoch & Strathspey written by Tim Ransom.

Grasshoppers and Crickets by Ted Benton was published in 2012 in the Collins New Naturalist Series (paperback £30). 

This book  on grasshoppers and their allies, that are in the insect order of Orthoptera, is packed with information. It has a feast of illustrations and includes a CD and written commentary that provides a fascinating insight into the behaviour of many British species.  

A chapter on ecology and conservation of the British species includes what I found to be an absorbing account of pioneering studies of the ecology of this group. It also reviews more recent studies providing insight into the very low abundance and species richness in modern intensively farmed landscapes where biodiversity has been lost and opportunities need to be taken to restore it. 

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As well as numerous photos of grasshoppers, crickets and groundhoppers the pictures extend to representations of grasshoppers like the Gresham grasshopper at the Royal Exchange in London. There are photos of a range of other invertebrates. For example a stick insect, cockroaches, a mantid, a wasp spider, a solitary wasp and the striking caterpillar of the sycamore moth find a place too. There  are even portraits of birds - an Asian paradise flycatcher and a satin bowerbird.  These, with photos of the naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, are  included in a chapter on mating systems and sexual selection.   

The species accounts follow a similar format to that found in Bumblebees also in the New Naturalist series and by Ted Benton, published in 2006. Both these well illustrated volumes have sections that can be dipped into for reference. There is an easily located identification  key (pages 216 -238) that acknowledges that groundhoppers can be difficult to distinguish  with certainty and confident identification should be  based on several characters.  This is illustrated with line drawings that are also numerous in a chapter on structure and function, describing such features as senses and acoustic apparatus. 

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Rare long-winged form of the common groundhopper

The distribution maps of British species are a useful feature. The map for the slender groundhopper omits the first Strathspey record (recorded by BSCG from a site threatened with development at Boat of Garten) although this was reported in British Wildlife before the book’s publication date. 

The account of the common groundhopper, citing a 1988 general work, mentions strong populations in ancient pine and birch woods. Benton comments that this species has quite exacting habitat requirements and is vulnerable to such things as habitat loss from ‘development’. The fully- winged (or ‘macropterous’)  form of the common groundhopper has been recorded by BSCG since 2009 on threatened sites in Strathspey.  No illustration of this long-winged form is provided.  Reviewing the status of this uncommon form, Benton  mentions that it  was listed from two Scottish sites by Kevan (1952) and referred to by Haes and Harding in the 1997 Atlas of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Allied insects of Britain and Ireland.  

The book ends with many useful references covering an impressive range of topics, including for example the place of grasshoppers and crickets in Amerindian culture. I found Grasshoppers and Crickets an engaging  and authoritative account of a fascinating group of insects that deserve increased attention in Scotland.

 

Arachnologist Meeting in Perth- SAM 2012
The first meeting of Arachnologists in Scotland for many years is taking place in Perth Museum on August 25th.  SAM 2012 ,  the Scottish Arachnologists’ Meeting,  is free and open to all. It provides a great opportunity for anyone interested in harvestmen, pseudoscorpions and spiders t to learn from others. It is hoped it will encourage more people to get more involved with arachnid survey and ecological studies of these important predators   in Scotland.
From house spiders and garden arachnids  to harvestmen of the Falkland Islands there is a varied programme of talks with an optional field day .
From small mesh weaver to the extraordinary gallows or wood ant spider and a number of  lively jumping spiders Badenoch & Strathspey & the Cairngorms area  harbours a fascinating range of arachnids including some scarce and threatened species that have been overlooked on sites threatened by development.  BSCG has for example documented the wood ant eating or gallows spider  Dipoena torva on three sites proposed for new housing development.
Reflecting improved knowledge BSCG anticipates there will be further  species  of arachnid highlighted  as conservation priorities  in the forthcoming second Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan .
Information on SAM 2012 is being provided on the British Arachnological Society website. BSCG can also supply booking forms  for the meeting.
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CAPTIONS
A male money  spider (Dismodicus)  found recently in Juniper on a threatened site in Strathspey.  The prominent head extension appears to accommodate secretory pits   and may be associated with mating but we know of no detailed study of the function of such  structures in spiders.
Spiders are important predators here a spider on a threatened site in Strathspey with a  leaf hopper. In turn spiders provide food for birds and some birds exploit spider silk when constructing their nests as  recently described on Springwatch  that has been following the fortunes of the nest of a goldcrest through summer gales.
An arachnologist using suction to sample spiders in Scots pine  woodland in Strathspey that is a habitat supporting many kinds of  arachnids.

The first meeting of Arachnologists in Scotland for many years is taking place in Perth Museum on August 25th.  SAM 2012 ,  the Scottish Arachnologists’ Meeting,  is free and open to all. It provides a great opportunity for anyone interested in harvestmen, pseudoscorpions and spiders t to learn from others. It is hoped it will encourage more people to get more involved with arachnid survey and ecological studies of these important predators   in Scotland. 

From house spiders and garden arachnids  to harvestmen of the Falkland Islands there is a varied programme of talks with an optional field day. 

From small mesh weaver to the extraordinary gallows or wood ant spider and a number of  lively jumping spiders Badenoch & Strathspey & the Cairngorms area  harbours a fascinating range of arachnids including some scarce and threatened species that have been overlooked on sites threatened by development.  BSCG has for example documented the wood ant eating or gallows spider  Dipoena torva on three sites proposed for new housing development.

Reflecting improved knowledge BSCG anticipates there will be further  species  of arachnid highlighted  as conservation priorities  in the forthcoming second Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

Information on SAM 2012 is being provided on the British Arachnological Society website. BSCG can also supply booking forms  for the meeting.

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A male money  spider (Dismodicus)  found recently in Juniper on a threatened site in Strathspey.  The prominent head extension appears to accommodate secretory pits   and may be associated with mating but we know of no detailed study of the function of such  structures in spiders.

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Spiders are important predators here a spider on a threatened site in Strathspey with a  leaf hopper. In turn spiders provide food for birds and some birds exploit spider silk when constructing their nests as  recently described on Springwatch  that has been following the fortunes of the nest of a goldcrest through summer gales.

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An arachnologist using suction to sample spiders in Scots pine  woodland in Strathspey that is a habitat supporting many kinds of  arachnids.

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 Gallows spider with wood ant prey at a  threatened site in Strathspey one of several where BSCG has found this spider that is on the Scottish Biodiversity List.

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The Heather shieldbug Rhacognathus punctatus on lowland heath woodland transition habitat with birch in Strathspey.

This is a local species that BSCG has since 2009 photographed on this threatened An Camas Mor site. In 1994 Stewart Taylor - whose contributions to conservation in the North of Scotland have been recognized by an MBE honour this year - recorded this bug  in a clearing in Anagach wood. Currently Stewart Taylor's record is the only one for this bug available on the NESBReC website or on the National Biodiversity Network for the Cairngorms area.

There are a few hundred kinds of springtails recorded from the UK but we do not even know of an educated guess for the numbers of different kinds currently living in the soil under our feet in Badenoch and Strathspey. As with much of the biodiversity around us there is a lot to learn.
 
Famously in August 2009 BSCG member Tim Ransom found the first member of the species of springtail Bourletiella viridescens for Britain. For those not seeking to aspire to add a new kind of creature to the British list but simply developing an interest in macro-photography, springtails  provide an interesting challenge and are still around in the soil in winter. 
 
This winter a few members are starting work on a preliminary key to the identification of our local springtails. Needless to say  Tim  described by the Scotsman as an “eagle-eyed  expert” is the enthusiast behind this project on these little and  also little appreciated creatures. His experience that includes producing another such local key will be invaluable.
 
Bourletiella viridescens has not been rediscovered on Cairn Gorm this year and unfortunately some specialists, who had hoped to come and look for it and other species on Cairn Gorm,  failed to raise the funding they needed to visit. The iconic local springtail has however been adopted as the logo for a popular and widely distributed newsletter about Invertebrates in Scotland the second edition of which is now available as a pdf from Buglife Scotland.
 
 Now that we have started looking hopefully we can add to understanding about the very little explored biodiversity of springtails we have. We can expect  there to be more kinds in our district waiting to be recorded and who knows what interesting new discoveries? All springtail photos will be gratefully received and If you are interesting in becoming involved in the springtail (Collembola) spotting project don’t hesitate to phone 01479 821 491.

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The now relatively famous  Bourletiella viridescens, blown up to look much larger than 1mm, from an article shortly after the unexpected discovery  published in Sepetember 2009 in the Scotsman newspaper.

This attractive bee species has been recorded quite widely in the Cairngorm National Park but usually it is only single individuals foraging that are observed whereas BSCG found a nesting site with a congregation of up to 15 females within Deshar Wood in May 2009 directly within the area proposed for clear-felling by the developers Davall for a housing development.
According to the records on NBN this is the first time within the Cairngorm National Park that a congregational nesting site has been found for this species. Normally the nest burrows for this species are widely scattered rather than being as a congregation so to find up to 15 females all nesting together in one small area within the woodland is uncommon. According to a hymenopteran expert from the Bees, Wasps and Ant Society (BWARS) the finding of a congregational nesting site for this species is a 'great discovery' as it is uncommon to find one.
The main foodplant for this bee species is blaeberry of which there is an abundance within Deshar Wood and any disturbance caused to this nesting colony will be of a detrimental value for the survival of this species within this woodland and will cause the loss of the only apparently recorded congregational nesting site within the Cairngorm National Park.

This attractive bee species has been recorded quite widely in the Cairngorm National Park but usually it is only single individuals foraging that are observed whereas BSCG found a nesting site with a congregation of up to 15 females within Boat of Garten wood in May 2009 directly within the area proposed for clear-felling by the developers Davall for a housing development. 

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Bee - Andrena lapponica. © 2009 Tim Ransom, BSCG.

According to the records on NBN this is the first time within the Cairngorm National Park that a congregational nesting site has been found for this species. Normally the nest burrows for this species are widely scattered rather than being as a congregation so to find up to 15 females all nesting together in one small area within the woodland is uncommon. According to a hymenopteran expert from the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society (BWARS) the finding of a congregational nesting site for this species is a 'great discovery' as it is uncommon to find one.

The main food plants for the bee are  considered to be species of Vaccinium  of which there is an abundance within Boat of Garten wood and any disturbance caused to this nesting colony will be of a detrimental value for the survival of this species within this woodland and will cause the loss of the only apparently recorded congregational nesting site within the Cairngorm National Park.

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