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.


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.

When you can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Apply for a protected species licence

If you cannot avoid disturbing protected species, or damaging their breeding sites and resting places, you can apply for a licence for a range of different activities:

Contact us

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

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