Clark's mining bee (Genevieve Tompkins)

While Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project volunteers continue working through the colder months, looking for the overwintering stages of various invertebrates, there is nothing like the thrill of seeing the first of Spring’s insects emerging!  Here are five of Gen Tompkins, Project Officer, favourite harbingers of spring from the insect world.


  1. Bumblebees and Solitary Bees

 Nothing says spring like the deep purr of a passing queen bumblebee. These ladies will be searching for suitable places to establish their nests. Meanwhile, springtime solitary bees are some of the most dashing, including the brightly coloured Clark’s mining Bee (above) and Early mining Bee. Look out for these soaking up the sun or poking their heads out of nest holes – adorable!


  1. Wood ants

 You know things are warming up nicely when the wood ants start to stir! In the Cairngorms National Park, it’s the hairy wood ant and Scottish wood ant who are the ‘early risers’, with feisty slave-maker ants making an appearance on really warm days. The first thing the ants do is swarm on top of the nest, warming up again following their winter retreat below ground.

Macro shot of a hairy wood ant in a nest

Hairy wood ant (Genevieve Tompkins)


  1. Spring moths

 One of several early moths, the Kentish glory is a magnificent, brightly coloured species which begins to fly in early-mid April, following a winter spent underground as a pupa. This moth doesn’t live up to the first part of its name though, as it is now only found in the Cairngorms and surrounding area. Other spring moths to look out for are hebrew characters, found widely across Scotland, and herald moths, which spend the winter as adults hiding in caves and outbuildings!

Beautifully patterned moth on a twig

Kentish glory moth (Mary Laing)


  1. Dark-edged bee-flies

 These super fluffy flies pretend to be bees, even managing to buzz like one. The slightly alarming long, straight proboscis (tongue to you and me) is actually used to feed from spring flowers, such as primroses and violets. Like many flies, these are hugely important pollinators. However, they have a dark side – females flick their eggs into solitary bee nests, where the larvae grow as parasites! Nature is a fascinating thing.

Dark-edged bee-fly on the ground

Dark-edged bee-fly (Genevieve Tompkins)


  1. Large red damselfly

 Spring is mostly definitely here when the first large red damselflies emerge, that well-known denizen of many a garden pond. In the UK, this can only be confused with the small red damselfly, a much rarer species with red legs, compared to the black legs of the large red damselfly. Damselflies and dragonflies are fierce predators, both when living underwater as larvae and when on the wing as adults. They also have incredible flight capabilities, with all four wings moving independently to allow lightning-fast changes in speed and direction.

Large red damselfly on a leaf

Large red damselfly (Genevieve Tompkins)