Pine hoverfly conservation at Highland Wildlife Park

03/03/2019 in Highland Wildlife Park

Pine hoverfly conservation breeding at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

Above: Head keeper Una Richardson, inspects the pine hoverfly larvae at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

We have an exciting new species in our charge here at the Park - the pine hoverfly!

The breeding project, previously hosted at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, has been relocated to the Wildlife Park, where the conditions are more favourable and the site is surrounded by the species natural habitat.

In the wild, the pine hoverfly lives in ancient pine forests, laying their eggs in rotten tree stumps. Due to loss of suitable habitat their population has severely declined and captive breeding is necessary to boost the native population in their last remaining habitat in the UK - Cairngorms National Park.

Pine hoverfly larvae waiting to pupate at Highland Wildlife Park

Above: Pine hoverfly larvae waiting to pupate

Pine hoverflies play an important role in the ecosystem as a pollinator, which has increasing significance with the decline of bee species. The larvae also helps to recycle natural debris on the forest floor.

Breeding pine hoverflies in captivity is not straight forward. To ensure we give the project the best chance of success we are working alongside RSPB Abernethy, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission. We were also delighted to welcome Dr Ellen Rotheray to the Park, an expert on the species, and to date, the only individual to successfully breed the species through a full life cycle in captivity. Dr Ellen studied this species as part of her PhD and it was extremely valuable to be able to learn from her experience as we develop our plans and facilities for this project.

Looking for pine hoverfly in their natural habitat in Cairngorms National Park
Above: Looking for pine hoverfly in Cairngorms National Park with Dr Ellen Rotheray

Below: Pine hoverfly larvae

Pine hoverfly larvae at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

As with our conservation programmes with wildcats and Amur leopards, we have developed a special breeding habitat from them away from public areas. Unfortunately, this does mean that the project will not be visible directly to our visitors, however we do plan to provide regular updates both online and through our interpretation at the Park. At present the hoverflies are in a larval form, but we will be monitoring them closely in the coming weeks as they are to due to pupate, with flies hopefully emerging in the summer.

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