Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 179–188 | Cite as

Mark recapture estimates of dispersal ability and observations on the territorial behaviour of the rare hoverfly, Hammerschmidtia ferruginea (Diptera, Syrphidae)

  • E. L. RotherayEmail author
  • L. F. Bussière
  • Pete Moore
  • Linnea Bergstrom
  • D. Goulson


In order to effectively manage habitat for fragmented populations, we need to know details of resource utilisation, and the capacity of species to colonise unoccupied habitat patches. Dispersal is vital in maintaining viable populations in increasingly fragmented environments by allowing re-colonisation of areas in which populations have gone extinct. In the UK, the endangered aspen hoverfly Hammerschmidtia ferruginea (Fallén 1817) (Diptera, Syrphidae) depends on a limited and transient breeding habitat: decaying aspen wood Populus tremula L. (Salicaceae). Conservation management for H. ferruginea involves encouraging aspen expansion across Scotland, and ensuring retention, maintenance and continuity of dead wood where H. ferruginea has been recorded and in areas that may link populations. In order to do this effectively we need to know how far H. ferruginea can disperse. By taking advantage of the tendency of adults to group on decaying aspen logs, we estimated dispersal ability through mark recapture techniques. In the first year, 1,066 flies were marked as they emerged from aspen logs and 78 were re-sighted at artificially-placed decaying aspen logs up to 4 km from the release site. In the second year, of 1,157 individually marked flies, 112 were re-sighted and one was observed 5 km from the release site. Territorial behaviour was recorded at all (19) decaying aspen log locations. In total, 72 males were recorded defending territories, which overlapped with 68 % of recorded female oviposition sites. Among males only, wing length was positively associated with dispersal. While these results show H. ferruginea is capable of locating decaying logs up to 5 km away, most dispersing individuals (68 %) were recorded at 1 km, which should be taken into account in developing management protocols. If enough dead wood is available it should be distributed within a radius of 1–2 km, and where possible, as stepping-stones linking up aspen woodlands. We discuss the implications of our findings for the natural history of this species, and make recommendations for its conservation management.


Saproxylic Populus tremula Mate seeking Distribution 



This work was done as part of the PhD research of the lead author and was funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the University of Stirling Strategic Development Fund, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Thanks to private landowners on Alvie, Dunachton and Rothiemurchus Estates, and Angus Macpherson at Craig Dhu, for their permission to work on or use their land as part of the project. Thanks to Forestry Commission Scotland and Karen Sutcliffe, RSPB Insh marshes, for continued support for the project. Thank you to research assistants Sarah Hoy, Vicky Nall, Geoffrey Wilkinson, and also Kate Williamson, Debbie Leigh, Morten Bucheister, Andrew Ford and Richard Siller. Thanks to Dr Tom Prescott and Dr Graham E. Rotheray for their indispensable assistance, and in particular Iain McGowan for initiating the project and for his dedicated supervision. Finally, thank you to the reviewers for their helpful comments.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1526 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. L. Rotheray
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. F. Bussière
    • 1
  • Pete Moore
    • 2
  • Linnea Bergstrom
    • 1
  • D. Goulson
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  2. 2.The Royal Society for the Protection of BirdsInverness-shireUK

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