Durham Wildlife Trust discovers stick insects' northern outpost

Hand holding a water stick insect Image copyright Durham Wildlife Trust
Image caption The water stick insect uses its tail as a snorkel allowing it to breathe underwater

One of the UK's most northerly water stick insect colonies has been found at a County Durham nature reserve.

Volunteers carrying out a study of aquatic invertebrates discovered the creatures at Low Barns Nature Reserve near Witton-le-Wear.

Durham Wildlife Trust said the Ranatra linearis is common in south and central Britain but very rare in the north.

Reserve officer Mark Dinning said: "This was an exciting find, proof that nature is always ready to surprise us."

The water stick insect hides amongst reeds and stems where it waits, camouflaged, to ambush passing creatures such as tadpoles and small fish.

It uses its long thin tail like a snorkel allowing it to breathe when submerged.

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