A partnership project in the Cairngorms National Park that seeks to secure habitat protection and improvements for six rare invertebrate species, has discovered shining guest ants in Inshriach Forest for the first time in four years.

Last recorded at the Forestry and Land Scotland managed site in 2016, the rediscovery of the ants – and their appearance at three new sites across the National Park – provides information that will help to create opportunities for them to thrive, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) said.

Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms (RIC) project officer, RSPB Scotland’s Genevieve Tompkins, explained: “Through this project we are learning more about the ecology and distribution of these species across the Cairngorms National Park. By working with local landowners and partners we’re trying to conserve their habitats and even give these species more opportunities to increase their range.

“The shining guest ant is fascinating because they make their nests within wood ant nests, producing chemical deterrents that stop them from being attacked as outsiders.

“They are tiny compared to wood ants (and very shiny) and they’re really hard to find shining guest ants in action. They’re usually seen on warm mornings, walking about on the surface of the wood ant nest – and will only very occasionally leave the nest to follow wood ants to their food sources.”

Originally only known to inhabit the nests of hairy wood ants in the Cairngorms, the RIC project has also found them using Scottish wood ant nests in Inshriach.

Because of the woodland locations of the nests they inhabit, shining guest ants are at risk from unsympathetic forestry operations and habitat loss.

Graeme Prest, Forestry and Land Scotland’s north region manager, said: “So far, the project staff and volunteers have found these amazing ants at three new sites but we’re especially pleased that this tiny and elusive species has been rediscovered in Inshriach, quite close to their last known location.

“To be sighted again after a four-year gap in the record is fantastic confirmation that the species is persisting at Inshriach.

“Knowledge of their whereabouts means we can manage these areas of forest in ways that will help conserve this species.”
The surveys at Inshriach forest were completed in accordance with COVID-19 guidance, FLS said.

The RIC project involves RSPB Scotland, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Nature Scot, and the Cairngorms National Park Authority has been looking to help six rare species: Kentish glory, dark bordered beauty, northern silver stiletto fly, shining guest ant, small scabious mining bee and pine hoverfly.

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