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Rare beetles discovered in Scotland for first time in decades

Last modified: 20 December 2014

Abernethy nature reserve

Image: Andy Hay

Two rare beetles have been discovered in Scotland for the first time in decades at RSPB Scotland’s Abernethy nature reserve near Aviemore in the Highlands and near Aberdeen at RSPB Scotland’s Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve.

The beetle found at Abernethy was a water scavenger beetle called Cryptopleurum subtile, which was collected and identified during a survey of woody debris along the River Nethy.

This appears to be the most northern ever record of this species in Scotland, and is only the second record for the country, with the first being from a cut grass pile in Melrose in 1969.

The second beetle, found at Loch of Strathbeg, was a whirligig called Gyrinus paykulli which occurs mainly in lochs and spends a lot of time in reeds and other plants on the edges of the water.

Gyrinus paykulli have two pairs of eyes because they live on the surface of the water; one pair facing up and one down. They also gather in groups called flotillas which perform a special 'dance' when disturbed, whizzing around at high speed.

Again, this appears to be the most northern record of this particular beetle in Scotland with previous discoveries being made in Fife and Perthshire, with the most recent noted in 1999.

Both beetles were unearthed by Genevieve Dalley, Trainee Ecologist at RSPB Scotland. She said: “These beetles may not have been noticed very often in Scotland before as they are part of an under-recorded group of animals and, superficially, look very similar to other species. However, when you get a closer look and start learning about their lifestyle they are unique and brilliant creatures.

“These discoveries really show the importance of habitats which are sometimes undervalued, such as woody dams in rivers. There are less than 20 records of Cryptopleurum subtile in the UK and it is a species very little at all is known about, so information like this is crucial to building a picture of their needs on reserves and pinpointing important habitats to safeguard.” 

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.