Rare Snow Flea found in Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve

Experts have discovered a new species of insect living in Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve for the first time since records began.

By News Reporter
Friday, 21st February 2014, 7:06 am

The Snow Flea bears no relation to the common flea – it is instead more directly related to the UK’s four species of Scorpion Flies – but has never been identified at Sherwood Forest until now.

The discovery has been made by Trevor and Dilys Pendleton, who are specialists in identifying invertebrates within the county and beyond.

They carry out this work at Sherwood in conjunction with Nottinghamshire County Council which manages the country park and national nature reserve.

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Unusual among insects, the Snow Flea (Boreus hyemalis) is active throughout the winter months and is named through its habit of often being found on lying snow in the depths of winter. It makes short jumps to escape and can jump around five or six centimetres at a time. It loves the cold weather and is also at home nestled in moss where the larvae tunnel through.

Trevor said: “It is always exciting when we are able to discover a new species within Sherwood Forest. It is the first time that it has been recorded within the natural habitats at Sherwood Forest so we are very pleased to have made this significant find.

“People can relax - the Snow Flea bears absolutely no relation to fleas apart from the name! It prefers mossy sites and is often found in woodland. However, while it has been spotted in other areas of the UK in the past, there are few published or known records from much of England and the Midlands. This included Nottinghamshire until now.”

Coun John Knight, Culture Committee Chairman at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “Sherwood Forest is world famous as a national nature reserve which is rich in its biodiversity.

“It is always great news when we are able to confirm the sighting of a new species for the first time. Trevor and Dilys Pendleton have a proven track record of making discoveries within our great forest and we are delighted at their latest find – the Snow Flea.”

The Pendletons found the Snow Fleas after some searching within a mossy area of woodland in Sherwood, known locally by county council country park rangers as the Heather Walk.

Key characteristics of the Snow Flea include the fact the female is larger than the male, the female insect has a yellow marking on the abdomen, and the insects measure five millimetres in length.

Mr Pendleton explained that the couple often cross reference their finds with the 1914 natural history publication JW Carr – The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire which lists insect finds dating back to Victorian times – and the Snow Flea was not listed in the publication, or more recently.

Have you spotted any rare wildlife in our area? Email your pictures to [email protected]