UK planning to reintroduce insects

Jeremy Hance
January 17, 2010

When one thinks of reintroducing wildlife, one usually thinks of big charismatic mammals, such as wolves or beaver, or desperate birds like the Californian condor. But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Scotland is going one step further to save the UK's unique ecology with plans to reintroduce four species of dwindling insects.

While RSPB's focus is on birds, the organization works with all kinds of British wildlife. "No conservation organization worth its salt concentrates on just one species and ignores all others," explains Lloyd Austin, RSPB Scotland's head of conservation policy, in a press release. "2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and that chimes perfectly with our efforts to protect whole ecosystems on our reserves from the smallest bug to the tallest tree,"

Plans are in place to reintroduce the dark bordered beauty moth, which is only known from only three locations in the UK, all of them unprotected. Living up to its name, the moth is a lovely species: tawny yellow with brown on its wing's edges. RSPB is working with Butterfly Conservation to establish a breeding program for eventual rerelease.

RSPB is also working with Scottish Natural Heritage to reintroduce the pine hoverfly in 2011. The fly only breeds in rotting hollow tree stumps, which are largely missing in the UK due to forestry practices.

In addition, the RSPB is working on projects to release field crickets into the Surrey and Sussex heathlands, and return the short haired bumblebees to Kent.

"Conservation is about much more than simply stopping damaging activities to protect what is there. We have a duty to take positive action to restore species that have been lost. We have the ability to enhance and improve our existing habitats and countryside, and we are actively engaged in trying to achieve that," Austin said.

The RSPB has successfully reintroduced birds in the past, but insect reintroductions are proving to be an entirely different animal.

"Releasing invertebrates brings all kinds of new challenges as they can be very sensitive to even the slightest changes in habitat. We will need to keep a close eye on how they are faring and make sure we continue to provide the right conditions for them," said Dr. Robert Sheldon, Head of Reserves Ecology at RSPB Scotland.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 17, 2010).

UK planning to reintroduce insects.