The invertebrates (animals without a backbone) contain a great diversity of different animals groups that amongst others include; butterflys and moths (lepidoptera), ants, bees and wasps (hymenoptera), flys and midges (diptera), beetles (coleoptera), spiders (arachnids), dragonflies and damselflies (odonata), crickets and grasshoppers (othoptera), slugs, snails and molluscs (mollusca) and arthropods (crustacea). Together they form a bewildering 25,000 different species in the UK.
The broad range of habitats; river, woodland, flower rich meadows and cliffs etc, provide home to a huge array of invertebrates in the Wye Valley AONB. A general invertebrate survey of the River Wye performed by Edwards and Brooker in the 1970's recorded 166 different species from samples taken at Monnington, Ross, Goodrich and Monmouth with as many as 22,000 individual animals contained within a square metre! It would be impossible to discuss in depth the rich variety of invertebrates that occur within the Wye Valley AONB, however there are many notable and rare species across a variety of groups resident in the area and are worthy of note.
George Peterken (2008) describes there being 49 species of butterfly recorded in the Lower Wye Valley although several now are a distant memory. The Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) was recorded around Symonds Yat until the mid 1970's but has disappeared as it's range retreated during the 20th century to central and southern England. Other losses include the High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe), Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina), Silver Studded Blue (Plebius argus), Large Tortoiseshell (Aglais polychloros) and the Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia).
Despite these losses there are still excellent populations of some of the UK's rare and notable species. The Forestry Commission have established a Butterfly Trail within Haugh Woods on the Woolhope Dome due to the excellent diversity of butterflies that occur there. Species such as the Wood White (Leptidea sinapis), the White Letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album), Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene), Silver Wash Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) and the Pearl Bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) all occur in its woodland rides and glades. In addition two species have done particularly well in the AONB; the White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) continues to expand its range, a woodland speciaist it can be frequently seen within the Wye Valley. Similarly the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea), which in the 1950's was rare, is now relatively common on the flower rich, semi-natural grasslands in the AONB.
One of the most conspicuos invertebrate groups are the dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata). When walking the banks of the Wye the most noticeable of species are likely to be either the Banded Damoiselle (Calopteryx splendens ) noticeable by its bright green body and black patch on each wing or the Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus ) a black and yellow species that is associated with water crowfoot beds. There have been a total of 28 species recorded along the Lower Wye (Merritt et al, 1996). The commonest of these are the Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans), Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) ))) , Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula ), Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella ), Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea ) and the Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum ).
The number of bumblebees in the Wye Valley is almost certain to have declined as they have across all of the UK. However, the high concentrations of flower rich meadows still support some good populations. The six common 'true' bumblebee species are all present, they include: the White- tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), the Buff- tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), the Red- tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius), the Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) and the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). There are also two BAP species that have recently been recorded in the AONB; the Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis) was found at Penallt and just outside the AONB at Llanvihangel-tor-y-Mynydd and the Red- shanked Bumblebee (Bombus ruderarius) has also been recorded at Penallt. Addiitonally the Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) is another BAP species and was found just outside the AONB boundary on Aconbury Hill in 2007, but hasn't been recorded there since.
The Triangle Spider (Hyptiotes paradoxus) found on Lancaut and Ban-y-Gor Nature Reserve in 1997 is rare nationally with a scattered population. It has an unusal triangular web construction in which it can snare it's prey by altering the tension of some of the silken strands. Episinus maculipes another rare spider that has a very scattered (and largely unreliable) distribution in southern England with the only consistent records coming from the Isle of Wight. It was also recorded in Lancaut and Ban-y-Gor reserve in 1997
The lower reaches of the river Wye contains 24 bivalve species and 32 aquatic snails (Peterken 2008) although 4 species have not been recorded since 1965. Furthermore There is one rare and declining species present in the AONB, the Compressed River Mussel (Pseudanodonta complanata) at Monmouth. In addition there are 24 species of terresrtial slug and 55 species of terrestrial snail including the Ash Black Slug (Limax cinereoniger) a species almost solely associated with ancient woodland.
Other interesting species
The Hairy Click Beetle (Synapsis filiformis) found on the river bank at Tintern and at only one other location in the UK (the River Parrott). It requires tidal reeds on riverbanks which are only marginally brackish.
The Rare Pill Woodlouse (Armadillium pictum) was discovered at Symonds Yat in 1992
Eurospiders reference website
If you are 14-18 years old and love exploring the countryside of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, then the Wye Valley AONB Youth Ranger programme is looking for you! Come along to our Taster Day on September 30th.
The provisional programme for the mindSCAPE conference is here. Book now to save your place