Friday, July 7, 2017

A rather big surprise

Last Sunday I got up early to check the moth trap and was greeted with a rather unexpected sight....a Bedstraw Hawkmoth.

This was my 10th hawkmoth species for the garden and one that I'd not expected to see. I also thought I'd be trapping for years more before hawkmoth number 10 fell. But therein lies the wonder of mothing.

There had apparently been a small influx to various south and east coast locations. Even more surprising was that people even wanted to twitch the moth.... #fridgetick

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A first and second for the garden

Last night's overnight temperature didn't dip below 20 degrees so I put the MV moth trap. I was greeted at 4am to a sizeable haul of moths, many of which did a bunk as soon as I opened the trap. Such is the downside of warm nights.

300 moths of 70+ species but in amongst the usual suspects was the first Golden Plusia Polychrysia moneta for the garden and the second and third records of Lunar-spotted Pinion Cosmia pyralina.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A quick jaunt to the Gower

What seems like an age ago now but was in fact only a month past, the family and I managed a long weekend on the Gower peninsula.

I had not been to south Wales since an undergraduate field course to Pembrokeshire in 1995 so a return trip has been long over due.

My wife had work commitments in Swansea so we met up with her, picked her up and carried on to a cottage that we'd booked on Air B'n'B.

My main target for the weekend was to see the strandline beetle Eurynebria complanata. This is found on either side of the Bristol channel and during the day lives under tideline debris like drift wood and more recently, bits of plastic.

With a bit of gen from the Pan Listing Facebook group, we spent most of the first day visiting Whiteford sands. The weather was sunny but with a cool wind but basically absolutely gorgeous.

There was no one else around and we only saw 2 or 3 other people all day. We dumped our bags on the edge of the dunes and then started searching.

We quickly found a couple of Broscus cephalotes under a piece of wood. Interestingly these were the only ones we saw.  There were also plenty of staphs and what appeared to be Aphodius spp. too.

After about 10 mins we turned a log and were greeted with this sight.

In total we saw about 50 Eurynebria along a mile stretch of beach, under many of the bits of debris that were up near the high tide mark.

We also saw plenty of Dune Tiger beetles. What I noticed is that the sand has to be firmer with a higher number of small pebbles embedded for this species to occur. It's similar in Norfolk too. You can be wandering about looking for them in what seems like good habitat and you don't see any, but it just takes a small change in the substrate and suddenly they are everywhere.

There were loads of other goodies too. Some of which I'm still identifying.....

Onthophagus nuchicornis

Harpalus neglectus (left) and tarda (right)

Underside of Harpalus neglectus

Dicheirotrichus gustavii

Aphodius (Liothorax) plagiatus

Aegialia arenaria 

Cafius sp. (still not quite sure which!)

Pogunus chalceus

All in all everyone had a good day out and the weather held. I really want to get back for another visit to that part of the world ASAP!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jewel in the ....


A new family of beetle for me today, Buprestidae. The Jewel Beetles. A colleague noticed some of these beetles on a honeysuckle bush (correction: apparently snowberry) and took one for checking.
Turns out they are Agrilus cyanescens, an introduced species, I think from North America but do correct me if I'm wrong.

There were a fair few of these sat on leaves or flying around the honeysuckle this lunchtime. Very bluish when the sun hits their metallic exoskeleton.
Not too many records from the UK that I can see but apparently spreading quickly.
Despite being an alien they were rather lovely........

Monday, May 29, 2017

Assassin's Creed

I was out checking the moth trap last night. It was a very warm and muggy evening and there was lots of general insect activity. As I turned to come back in the house, a sudden movement from the wall of the house caught my eye.

It looked quite big and my first thought was that it was a longhorn beetle.

I potted it and soon realised it was a hemipteran (a true bug) with its piercing mouthparts.

A quick search revealed it to be Reduvius personatus, one of the Reduviidae otherwise known as Assassin Bugs. These are predominantly a tropical group of insects but there are 7 species that can be found in the UK.

Reduvius personatus is found around human habitation and feeds on a range of associated insects such as bedbugs, silverfish, booklice and flies.

Can't quite believe that I've never knowingly seen one before!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A new arrival...

This turned up in the post today

I have about 10 species of spiders on my list so this may go some way to inspire me to look a little more closely at some the easier ones to identify.

This book is good at pointing out the limitations of field ID of many/most species but it could help in getting to family or genus for many spiders that you'd potentially find.

Having said that I have enough on my plate trying to get to grips with beetles so I suspect this may only make brief appearances from the shelf over the coming months.

We will see. Looks very nice though.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What a difference a week makes...

I was recently chatting to a fellow beetler who reminded me of a section in the Coleopterists handbook about how to attract species of beetles that utilise the various stages of decaying carcasses. The idea implanted and I decided to have a go. What's the worse that could happen?

The perfect receptacle seemed to be an old Cambridgeshire Council recycling box filled up with about 4-5 inches of sand (courtesy of B&Q).

All I needed now was a body.....any body.

Over the following few days I came across lots of dead badgers and a couple of muntjac, all of which were just too big for the box. What a I really needed was a rabbit......

But just when I really needed one, rabbits at the perfect point of death were non existent. However fate was at hand as I drove to the tip one Saturday and saw what appeared to be a dead duck by the side of the road.

On the return trip (much to the embarrassment of my son) I stopped and examined the freshly dead female Mallard. The apparent victim of hit and run. In to the car she went and once home, she was lovingly placed on the bed of sand. 

I then covered the box with some plastic chicken wire and attached it firmly to the box to prevent any foxes or badgers making off with my hard won quarry!

All that was left to do was wait......

A week went by and the temperatures weren't too high. I went to check the duck which had now been christened 'Donald' despite the obvious sexual misnomer.

A few blowflies were on the carcass but when I turned it a small beetle tried to hide in the sand (what appears to be a histerid(?) but need some further work to ID). This was potted and the duck was returned to its resting state.

A week later (today) and on returning home after 3 rather lovely days on the Gower peninsula in south Wales (more on that later) I decided to check on 'Donald'.........

Wow, almost no flesh left and a writhing mass of thousands of maggots.

A bit of a more thorough investigation revealed 3 (possibly 4) species of staph which have now all been collected to put under the 'scope for IDing. Let's hope that goes better than some of my previous goes at staphs......

Just to give you the full immersive experience. Here's a short video (plus guest appearing staph)!!