Heathrow explores biodiversity at the airport

London Heathrow has completed a new survey of the unusual inhabitants that reside in and around the airport’s 30-hectare biodiversity site.

This is the first time the airport has surveyed the spiders and beetles that make their home at the UK’s hub airport. Located on the Thames Terrace Gravels and covering an area of over 1,200 hectares, including grassland, other landscaped areas and a variety of natural habitats, Heathrow Airport is home to a multitude of rare and macabre species of bats, spiders and insects.

The study was intended to increase Heathrow’s understanding of the fauna in and around the airfield to help effective management and protection of the species found. It discovered 129 species of spider, 304 species of beetles. There are currently five species of bat; Soprano Pipistrelle, Common Pipistrelle, Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, Noctule and Serotine, the last two being new visitors to Heathrow.

Two spiders were also found for the first time in Middlesex: Mermessus trilobatus is a small Linyphiid recorded in UK for the first time early in 2013. Xysticus acerbus is a scarce crab spider, not previously recorded in the London area.

Edward Milner, an arachnologist studied and counted new species of spiders in the Colne Valley area around Heathrow. Matt Smith, an entomologist, looked at several groups of insects across the airport, principally at the aculeate hymenoptera – bees, wasps and ants. Adam Cheeseman surveyed the bat boxes around the airport for new inhabitants.

The report is part of Heathrow’s pledge to help run the airport responsibly. This includes ensuring the protection of wildlife and species in and around the airport.

Heathrow Airport retained the Biodiversity Benchmark Award for a third year in a row in 2012. The award from The Wildlife Trust recognises continued biodiversity improvement, and Heathrow remains the only airport to have reached the standard.