Meet the real monsters of Loch Ness

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

Image source, Trees for Life
Image caption, The pseudo-scorpion known as a knotty shining claw has been found in the Highland forest

Surveys of a large forest near Loch Ness have recorded rare insect species, including a midge not previously found in the UK - that does not bite.

The work at Findhorn-based Trees for Life's Dundreggan Conservation Estate also found a pseudo-scorpion called knotty shining claw.

The charity said it was the first time the creature had been recorded in Scotland north of the River Tay.

Two rare kinds of gnats were also detected in the forest in Glenmoriston.

Image source, Trees for Life
Image caption, Other finds include parasitic wasp Diphyus salicatorius

The name Dundreggan is derived from Gaelic's Dul Drea-gain - the Dragon's Haugh.

Finds made in the latest surveys of the area, which were carried out last year, included:

  • Non-biting midge Chironomus vallenduuki - a first record of it in the UK and found by entomologist Peter Chandler
  • Gnat Sciophila varia - only known from four other UK sites
  • Gnat Mycomya nigricornis - only known in the UK from a handful of Scottish sites and had not been seen since 1990
  • Two rarely found parasitic wasps Homotropus pallipes and Diphyus salicatorius
  • Micro-moth the small barred longhorn Adela croesella - only documented at three other locations in Scotland, and never before this far north. It was found by volunteer Richard Davidson
  • Pseudo-scorpion Lamprochernes nodosus, also known as the knotty shining claw - first record in Scotland north of the Tay

The non-biting Chironomus vallenduuki does not pose the same irritation to animals, and human visitors to Dundreggan, as the vastly more common Scottish biting midge does.

Image source, Trees for Life
Image caption, Entomologist Peter Chandler at Dundreggan

Previous surveys have uncovered other hard to find invertebrates, and rarely seen behaviour by insects.

The previous discoveries have included species new to the UK such as a sawfly known as Nematus pravus and an aphid named Cinara smolandiae.

A strawberry spider, Araneus alsine, found at Dundreggan in 2010 had only been recorded seven times prior to being found in the Highland forest.

Two years later, a biting midge was also observed feeding on a larger cranefly. This behaviour had not previously been recorded in Europe, according Trees for Life.

Image source, Alan Watson Featherstone
Image caption, The rarely recorded strawberry spider Araneus alsine

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life's founder, said: "Dundreggan is a special part of the Caledonian Forest that keeps on revealing beautiful, interesting and rare species.

"The surprisingly rich wealth of life in this corner of the Highlands highlights the importance of concerted conservation action to protect and restore Scotland's wild places."

Image source, Trees for Life
Image caption, Aphid Cinara smolandiae has been among previous discoveries at Dundreggan


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