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Gnats a first! Fly and fungus finds flabbergast naturalists - Woodland Trust

A rare rainforest fungus and two tiny fly species never before seen in the UK have been discovered at Woodland Trust Scotland sites on the West coast.

Credit: Jan Hamilton / Lorn Natural History Group
Credit: Jan Hamilton / Lorn Natural History Group

An insect survey at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in Lochaber has recorded two species of fungus gnat previously unseen in Britain. While at Dunollie Wood in Argyll local naturalists found hazel gloves fungus.

Fungus gnats at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest near Spean Bridge

Fungus gnats are a large group of tiny flies whose larvae feed on mushrooms and fungi.

Boletina gusakovae is more usually found in Finland and Russia, and Mycetophila idonea in Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Georgia and Luxembourg.

“My guess is that these two have always been here, or at least for a long time, but just not found before,” said surveyor Ian Strachan.

The insects were captured in 2018 using Malaise traps – which look a little like a backpacker’s tent, and funnel flying insects into a collection jar. Two traps were in place over four months. It is a massive task to separate all the individual insects caught. Ian is still painstakingly separating out the samples and taking advice from a dozen different experts to help with identifications.

The new-to-Britain flies were represented by just one male of each species, out of over 1,500 fungus gnats Ian had in turn separated out from tens of thousands of other insects in the sample.