Update: 31/03/2023 

We are proposing to introduce permitting charges for some of species licence applications.  


See details of the proposed charges we intend to implement for 2023-2024, subject to Ministerial approval.   

Invertebrates are animals without backbones. The term includes insects (such as butterflies, moths and beetles), spiders, crustaceans (including woodlice and crabs), molluscs (such as snails and mussels), worms and microscopic animals.

There are over 25,000 species in Wales. Many are attractive and fascinating, and they play vitally important roles as pollinators, recyclers, pest controllers and components of the food chain.

UK legislation

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), lists around 70 invertebrate species on Schedule 5. There are various levels of protection. Offences include combinations of the following, according to the rarity of the species:

  • Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
  • Possession
  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring
  • Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection

Species with full protection under the Act include the marsh fritillary butterfly, southern damselfly, mole cricket, fairy shrimp, medicinal leech and freshwater pearl mussel, amongst many others.

For a summary of invertebrate legal protection, see Legally protected invertebrates in Wales. For full details of the legislation refer to the link on this page.


Natural Resources Wales issues licences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) for specific purposes, so you can undertake certain activities without breaking the law. We can grant licences for the following purposes:

  • scientific and educational
  • ringing or marking
  • conserving wild animals or wild plants, or introducing them to particular areas
  • protecting any zoological or botanical collection
  • photography
  • public health or public safety
  • preventing the spread of disease
  • preventing serious damage to crops, property, fisheries etc

We cannot issue licences for the purposes of development under this legislation.

Apply for a survey licence

If you want to apply for a survey licence and have not had one before, you will need to show that you have the necessary training and experience. You will need to submit your completed survey and conservation licence application form.

Reference form

If you have not held a relevant licence from us before, your application must include a reference form.

Referees must be:

  • able to comment on their experience of working with the relevant species
  • their ability to use the methods and equipment proposed within your licence application
  • qualified themselves and must have held a relevant licence before
  • must have experience of your work for at least one survey season

We can only accept one reference from the company you currently work for. We may contact your referees to verify their statements.

Who can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Renew your licence and report on your activities

If you want to renew your licence or report on the activities you have carried out under your licence, you will need to complete the survey licence reporting and renewal application form.

Amend your licence

You can ask for amendments to your licence using the relevant forms.

Amendment request form
Change of licensee
Change of ecologist form

Contact us

You can contact us for help at any time before or during your licence application.

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