skip to main content

Protected species - invertebrates

What are they?

Invertebrates are animals without backbones.  They include insects like butterflies, moths, and beetles, as well as spiders, worms, crustaceans (like crabs or lobsters), and molluscs (including slugs, snails and mussels).

Protected invertebrates found in Scotland include the extremely rare freshwater pearl mussel, and butterflies such as the marsh fritillary and small pearl-bordered fritillary.  For a definitive list of protected invertebrates you should refer to the full list of protected species in Scotland  PDF document .

Find out more about invertebrates...

How are they protected?

Freshwater pearl mussel, the marsh fritillary butterfly and some other invertebrates are fully protected under Schedule 5  PDF document of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).  Other species are also listed on Schedule 5  PDF document  of the Act but they only receive partial protection.


The following provides a summary of the offences in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) in relation to invertebrates given full protection under Schedule 5 (such as freshwater pearl mussel and marsh fritillary).

It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take a wild invertebrate listed on Schedule 5;
  • damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which such an animal uses for shelter or protection;
  • disturb such an animal when it is occupying a structure or place for that purpose.

It is also an offence to:

  • possess or control, sell, offer for sale or possess or transport for the purpose of sale any live or dead invertebrate listed on Schedule 5 or any derivative of such an animal.

Knowingly causing or permitting any of the above acts to be carried out is also an offence.

Many invertebrate species are listed on Schedule 5 of the 1981 Act but are only given partial protection, generally prohibiting their sale.  Check our protected species list  PDF document  to find out the level of protection afforded to different invertebrate species.

Licensing and invertebrates

Licences are available to allow specified people to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence.  As with any protected species, licences can only be issued for specific purposes that are set out in the legislation.  If you are planning any activities that could affect protected species or the places they use, you should make sure that you stay within the law.

If you are proposing to undertake an action that might otherwise constitute an offence, you may need a licence and should refer to our licensing and invertebrates pages.


*Please Note* The summary of legislation and list of offences on this page are not comprehensive, and is intended for use as a guide only. For a definitive list of offences you should consult the actual legislation. It is also important to note that this is the law in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK the legislation may differ.

Last updated on Wednesday 13th January 2016 at 14:01 PM. Click here to comment on this page