“Cuckoo” of the ant world rediscovered on Deeside - James Hutton Institute

A rare and very elusive ant has been discovered to be thriving in Deeside for the first time in more than 70 years.

The shining guest ant, known for being a “cuckoo” of the ant world, because it only lives in the nests of other ants, was last seen in Deeside 1952.

The rediscovery of the ant was made by wildlife tour operators Dan and Rachael Brown of Wild Discovery, at Crathie, near Balmoral Castle.

Their find has been confirmed by experts at The James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, who said the number of ants seen has been exceptional and far higher than anywhere else in Scotland.

Dr Jenni Stockan, a research scientist specialising in insect ecology at the Hutton, says, “This is a notable find. The shining guest ant only lives in the nests of wood ants and the only other places it is found in Scotland are Speyside and Loch Lomond. It’s also very elusive. We only know it is there when individuals, usually males, are seen on the surface of the nests in late summer or early autumn. They only live in the nests of wood ants, which is why they are known for being a cuckoo of the ant world. Shining guest ants are globally threatened so to have found another population in Scotland, and a thriving one, is great news. The fact that they are present also indicates healthy wood ant populations. But we should also be mindful that the wood ants – and wood ant nest mounts Shining Guest Ants rely on to live in – need to be protected as an important part of the ecosystem.”

The ant was last recorded in Deeside in 1952, on the Invercauld estate, by entomologist Cedric Collingwood.

Previous surveys for the shining guest ant on Deeside failed to find it, including extensive searches on the Invercauld estate, as part of the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project (led by RSPB).

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Posted On: 17/10/2023

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