Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Long time no see

When we first moved into our house in 2011, I would occasionally find myself in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Along with mice and slugs the other nocturnal residents included a few Cellar or Churchyard Beetles Blaps mucronata. We subsequently gutted and renovated the property and whilst I still see the occasional slug and mouse I'd not seen a Cellar Beetle again until this morning.

I think they they are our biggest tenebrioid beetle and they are very distinctive with pointed ends to their elytra. They used to be fairly common in homes where they would live below floorboards and scavenge any crumbs which fell through the gaps (which is exactly what they do in my house). But they have apparently declined quite drastically in recent decades.

So nice to see that they cling on in this part of Cambridgeshire.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Struggling with staphs

So I've been trying to ID a bunch of staphs that I have left over from last season and I must admit to having mixed success. They certainly aren't easy. Well at least for me!

Take this one for instance

I think this a Xantholinus sp. At 8mm and with microstructure (but not too strong microstructure) it keys out as Xantholinus gallicus - but there aren't many records on NBN and I guess I'll need to wait and compare to some known specimens in a collection somewhere.

Someone somewhere reading this will be asking what the $%£@ is microstructure?

So glad you asked.....

You can make it out at about 40x magnification but it's the very fine structure (in this case) on the pronotum

Microstructure of Xantholinus gallicus (credit http://www.micropics.org.uk/) 
Pretty nifty when you see it well.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Not on my radar

I put the MV trap out on Friday evening as the temperature had picked up a bit. When I checked it first thing the next morning there was a moth sat just below the bulb that immediately had me scratching my head.

I soon worked out that it was a Small Eggar Eriogaster lanestris, a moth that I'd never really expected to see in the garden. It's now a reasonably scarce species and the larvae are more likely to be encountered in one of their communal silken tents. However, they do come to light every once in a while and a perusal of various Facebook moth groups has turned up a few records over the weekend.

It was a lovely moth. I wonder how long it will take to trap another?


Monday, February 20, 2017

What's that on your coat?

In the office last week and a colleague picked something off her coat and brought it over for me to look at, knowing that I had a thing for things with 6 legs.

A quick glance and even a novice like me could tell it was one of the Aphodidae dung beetles, but which one?

I went to the rather wonderful Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project or DUMP for short (d'ya see what they did there?) and had a crack at the key.

And came unstuck.


It eventually took a post to the Beetles of Britain and Ireland Facebook group and an answer from Darren Mann (Mr Dung Beetle UK) to put me straight.

Aphodius (Nimbus) obliteratus

I then figured out where I had gone wrong with the key. It was all down to a few hairs on the clypeus that I had missed.

You live and learn!

Out with the experts

I've been rather slack in blogging partly because I've not really been doing much natural history apart from finishing going through last year's beetles.

However, just over a week ago I had the opportunity to meet up with some folk for some valuable beetling experience. A trip to Wicken Fen with Mark Telfer, Steve Lane, Tim Hodge and Bill Mansfield was an invaluable experience and also added a good few new beetles to my list.

It was an opportunity to see two of the UK's top beetle experts in the field and having them to filter the IDs and explain the various ID criteria was a huge plus.

We spent most of our time sieving a couple of the big piles of cut-reed debris and turned up a good number of staphs and carabids plus some other bits and pieces. Nothing out the ordinary and we are still finalising the list but Mark recorded (I think) a new species for the Wicken list. Best looking beetle I think had to be Lordithon lunulatus.

It was a cold day and even snowed as we made our way back to the car park. What was a good lesson to learn was only to collect a manageable number of beetles. I now have a set of lovingly carded beetles added to my reference collection.

Also a reminder of how good it is to get out with people who really know their stuff. You just sort of learn by osmosis (plus copious listening and question asking).

Thanks all

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some late autumnal colour

A family walk yesterday to a local National Trust property ended up with the kids building a den from logs. I ended up turning some of the larger pieces and found a couple of these colourful beetles, Badister bullatus. These are distinguished from similar species due to their pale first antennal segment and black scutellum. A very widespread species pretty readily found at this time of year under logs.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stealth bomber

There had been a big influx of Convolvulus Hawkmoths into southern Britain in early September with large numbers seen along the coast. I never expected to catch one but when I went out to check my trap on the morning of September 25th a large shape was sat on the wall of the house.

This made a total of 9 hawkmoth species for the year in the garden. I suspect I may never add another!

NB: I let it go that evening and it turned up in next door's trap!