Local naturalist discovers rare insect in St Helen's

 Giant Lacewing (Osmylus fulvicephalus)


A small group, including myself, have been actively recording moths in St.Helens since around 1996 at our homes and also occasionally out on-site using portable traps powered by generators. At Sankey Valley Country Park, we were lucky enough to be able to construct a permanent, brick-built moth trap right outside the Heritage Visitor Centre where we are based at Blackbrook, St. Helens and this has been operated since 2012. This is obviously a source of valuable, regular records but is also an important resource to use with visiting school groups and on public events.

As well as an exciting and varied list of moths, we have also had a wide range of other creatures attracted into the traps including bees, hoverflies, caddis flies, ladybirds, Common Toads and even a Wren on one occasion! On the morning of June 25th 2021, I was emptying the trap and noticed a strange-looking insect which I at first thought to be a large caddis fly, sat in one of the egg boxes. On a very brief, closer inspection, the large, highly-detailed wings reminded me of various insects that I’d seen in Greece but whilst trying to sort out my camera for a photo, the insect took off and headed into the distance.

When I got home, the only thing that it looked like was Osmylus fulvicephalus – English name Giant Lacewing. I thought it was probably common and put it down as yet another insect that I’d failed to catch and identify. Luckily, on June 28th 2021, I found another one in the trap which I caught as quickly as I could. I was able to confirm that it was Giant Lacewing and, still not knowing that it was quite rare locally, I reached for my camera and let it out of the pot that I’d caught it in. Luckily I managed one, blurry photo before it took off into the distance like the first one.


 Giant Lacewing (Osmylus fulvicephalus)


On checking with Ben Deed from Merseyside BioBank,  I was surprised to discover that there had apparently only ever been one sighting of this species in St.Helens, back in 1988 at the Goyt woodland, Carr Mill about a mile and a half north of the Heritage Visitor Centre.

Hopefully more of these very impressive insects can be recorded in our area and we can start to learn a little more about their distribution.


By Dave Owen