Conservationists abuzz with new insect sightings in Lancashire and Merseyside

LWT conservationists are thrilled to have spotted a host of insects new to the region throughout 2018.

LWT conservationists are thrilled to have spotted a host of insects new to the region throughout 2018.

Tantalising evidence of Passaloecus eremita, a species of solitary wasp, was discovered in West Lancashire in October. The owner of Scutchers Acres (a site we are working on in Lathom), noticed some holes in a standing piece of dead wood. The holes were surrounded by dots of hardened resin that are characteristic of this wasp, which buries into dead pine trees and seals the nest-hole with resin, leaving behind these Stone Henge-style deposits.

Passaloecus eremita was historically confined to the South East, so we’ll be monitoring this area closely, especially as Plan Bee Project Officer, Ben Hargreaves, also reported sightings of Stauronematus platycerus. This uncommon and possibly rare sawfly is associated with willows and poplars.

Over at Hightown, in Merseyside, there were records of the silvery leafcutter bee (Megachile leachella), which was previously restricted to coastal areas no further north than Harlech in Wales.

Three new bee species were also recorded at Brockholes Nature Reserve:

  • Gwynne’s mining bee (Andrena bicolor)
  • Common yellow-face bee (Hylaeus communis)
  • Wilke’s mining bee (Andrena wilkella)

And that isn’t all – seven new hoverflies were spotted by eagle-eyed visitors over the summer months.

A silvery leafcutter bee climbing up a sandy bank

Silvery leafcutter bee by Chris Lawrence

It isn’t just our own sites that have thrown up notable new insect sightings: Yealand Hall Allotment near Silverdale seem to be home to a nationally scarce mason bee species. The wall mason bee (Osmia parietina) thrives in areas of limestone grassland where one of its core pollen sources, common bird's-foot trefoil, grows. This is an encouraging sign that the Allotment has been brilliantly managed to support a range of important flora, which in turn encourages pollinators like the wall mason bee to thrive.

As it happens, the wall mason bee was recorded by The Tanyptera Trust and Liverpool Museum during a search for a completely different insect: a striking hoverfly nicknamed ‘The Phantom’. Doros profuges is an enigmatic and elusive hoverfly that looks more like a solitary wasp or sawfly, it’s slender black body and bright yellow bands thought to help deter predators by mimicking these other insects.

From pest control and pollination to providing food for other wildlife, these species are incredibly important for our region. We can’t wait to see how they fare throughout 2019, and what other new discoveries we may find through our surveys and site management.