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New ‘gall’ insect discovered at Giants Causeway

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The first ever Rhopalomyia ptarmicae gall in Northern Ireland has been recorded at Aird Farm, National Trust land adjacent to the Giants Causeway. Three of the extremely rare galls were discovered by Area ranger Dr Cliff Henry growing on the sneezewort plant while he was pulling ragwort from the marshy farm land.

This most recent discovery at the Giant’s Causeway now means Dr Henry holds the only record of the gall in the whole of Northern Ireland. Commenting on the find Dr Henry said, “It is fantastic to have these rare forms of plant and insect life and the more we learn about these unrecorded species that we have here, the more we can do to nurture them. A gall is the response that a plant has to being attacked by a particular organism. The plants often grow a large ball of cells that form into a bewildering range of shapes depending on the attacking organism. This particular gall on the sneezewort plant forms in the shoot tip transforming it into a hairy lump which usually contains many fly larvae”.

“It is a fascinating part of the work we do to come across these rare finds and the farmland around the Causeway and White Park Bay are Areas of Special Scientific Interest which must be cared for sensitively. We regularly monitor all of the plant and animal life so that we can help protect and preserve the biodiversity of the North Coast for future generations to come.”

The National Trust looks after 200 special buildings and outdoor places across 46 miles of beautiful countryside, farmland and coast. As a conservation charity, the Trust relies on the support of the community through visits, membership, donations and legacies.

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