Bug is found hiding in a Cumbrian bog

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A species of insect has been living in Britain possibly for hundreds of years without ever being detected until it was seen wallowing in the splendid isolation of a Cumbrian bog.

A species of insect has been living in Britain possibly for hundreds of years without ever being detected until it was seen wallowing in the splendid isolation of a Cumbrian bog.

The obscure shore bug, Saldula melanoscela, is a winged member of the order Hemiptera, the true bugs. Three millimetres long with dark brown and yellow markings interspersed with tufts of golden hair, it is completely harmless.

Stephen Hewitt, keeper of natural sciences at Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, captured the creature on the banks of the river Wampool at Kirkbride and realised he had stumbled on a rarity after he spent days trying to classify it.

"It wasn't a species I had seen before and I couldn't find it in any British reference books. I eventually went to a French book and even though I couldn't read the text very well I recognised this bug," Mr Hewitt said.

He contacted the Natural History Museum in London, and made an identification after comparing the bug against samples sent to him.

"Out of curiosity I went back into the files in Tullie House and discovered we had this bug in here all along. It had been handed over to the museum and had been wrongly identified as another, which looks very like it," he said. "It was an understandable mistake given the old books available to them at the time."

The museum sample came from a collection made in the Twenties, but the bug might have been present in Britain for centuries without ever being identified. "Previously it was only found as far north as Denmark and had never been identified on these shores. In fact it has probably been here all along for hundreds of years but has never been recognised," Mr Hewitt said.

"It is remarkable that such a relatively large insect has gone undiscovered for so long. It is very exciting to have discovered a species new to British entomologists."

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