Biblical plague on its way?

September 8th 2017

One of the intriguing things about the natural world is its utter unpredictability. Who would have dreamed that this insect would have turned up near Achmelvich Bridge (NC0824) on 24th August, where it was photographed by Jane Tulloch and brought to our notice by Roz Summers.

What is it? Obviously some kind of grasshopper, but, at about 5cm, considerably larger than any species native to Scotland, and, from the length of its wings, still an immature individual. A quick consultation with our friendly insect expert, Stephen Moran, elicited the opinion ‘looks like a nymph of the solitary phase of Locusta migratoria to me…or a very closely related species’ (NB on 28-11-17 Murdo Macdonald of the Highland Biological Recording Group suggested this may be Schistocerca gregaria, the Desert Locust). A very handsome insect, greatly outweighing either of our two local grasshoppers, which, incidentally, have been very thin on the ground this summer.

The next question is how did it reach Achmelvich? I seem to recall that migratory locusts are bred as laboratory animals and also as food for insectivorous pets, perhaps even, nowadays, for human consumption? So who, accidentally or otherwise, brought this one across the Assynt border and are there more lurking locally? That is hopefully unlikely, so the answer to the question in the title is probably not.

Ian M. Evans

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Recent Sightings

Harbour Porpoise

three adults, one of which had a calf, off Stoerhead Lighthouse (DAH) (15/06)

Common Scoter

19 birds flying north off Stoerhead Lighthouse (DAH) (15/06)

Great Northern Diver

single bird in breeding plumage, Loch Dhrombaig (DAH) (14/06)

Lesser Black-backed Gull

three birds Clashnessie Bay (DAH) (14/06)

Whooper Swan

single adult bird on Loch Cul Fraioch (Robin Shrubsole) (13/06)

Whimbrel

Six at Clachtoll crofts disturbed by three great skuas flying overhead (AS) (13/06)

Sand Martin

single bird Allt nan Uamh, at start of Bone caves walk (Robin Shrubsole) (12/06)

Mountain Hare

single animal spooked from below grassy bank, Beinn an Fhuarain plateau (Robin Shrubsole) (12/06)

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