Rare dung beetles have been unearthed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust at two locations in North Ayrshire.
The minotaur beetles were found at Dundonald Links and at Gailes Marsh Wildlife Reserve near Irvine. The species has only been recorded a handful of times in Scotland in the past 50 years.
Minotaur beetles are found in sandy grassland and heathland. They are most active at night and feed on dung, particularly rabbit droppings. They use their strong front legs to push dung into deep burrows where they feed their larvae.
Gill Smart, Reserves Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “It’s really exciting to find a new rare species on our reserve. I’d heard from local naturalists that they are present on the Ardeer peninsula and that they were also likely to be found around Irvine.
“Once I learned the giveaway signs, I knew I’d seen their burrows before. We set up pitfall traps surrounded with rabbit poo to confirm that they were there and sure enough, two fell into our traps on the very first night.
“A couple of days later two colleagues were looking for amphibians at Gailes Marsh at night and went to look for the beetle burrows. They were delighted to find beetles feeding around their holes.
“Finding minotaur beetles makes it even more vital to protect the increasingly rare open sandy habitats that we have on our coastline. We need to prevent gorse and other vegetation from taking over these areas to ensure the beetles can carry on thriving here.”
Ian Ferguson, Club Manager, Dundonald Links said: “Dundonald Links is home to lots of different kinds of wildlife. We’re delighted that a new rare species has been found here by our friends at the Scottish Wildlife Trust.”
Gailes Marsh Wildlife Reserve is a mixture of dry coastal grassland, marshland and a pond, sheltered by woodland. The reserve is grazed by horses in the winter to help maintain a diverse range of plant life, which in turn attracts many butterflies, bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects.