I am always deeply envious of people who find exotic insects in grocer’s shops, bakeries, restaurants and the like. It never seems to happen to me despite much furtive searching in the fruit aisle at Tesco! So I was absolutely delighted when Jo found this tropical cockroach in the middle of our lounge carpet, waving its legs in the air.
How it got into our house is a complete mystery, perhaps in some cut flowers Jo was given a few weeks ago. Darren Mann was able to identify it straight off as a female Panchlora species (family Blaberidae) of central/south American origin.
I am organising a coleopterists’ meeting over the weekend of 28th/29th August this year at Dungeness, Kent, in collaboration with the RSPB. Pete Akers (Dungeness RSPB reserve warden) and Mark Gurney (RSPB Biodiversity Ecologist) will be helping and we will have the exclusive use of the education room at the reserve centre for the weekend where we can set up our microscopes and gather for refreshments.
The main reason for organising this meeting is to look for some of the Dungeness beetle specialities of the gravel pit margins including Omophron limbatum (RDB1), Dyschirius obscurus (RDB2), Augyles (was Heterocerus) hispidulus (RDB3), Acupalpus maculatus, Bembidion caeruleum and Bembidion semipunctatum. It is now several years since gravel extraction ceased here and the RSPB’s monitoring of this beetle assemblage has detected substantial declines in these species. The following figures compare the monitoring by pitfall trap in 2006 with the repeat monitoring in 2009:
Omophron limbatum from 977 to zero (but it was seen at Dunge in 2009);
Acupalpus maculatus from 307 to zero;
Augyles hispidulus from 103 to 84.
RSPB will be very interested in our results to try and understand how to conserve these beetles. Away from the gravel pit margins, there are a lot of other rare and specialist beetles, and at Dungeness there is always the chance of finding a species new to Britain, recently arrived from France.
You will need to arrange your own accommodation for the meeting but Dave Walker at the Dungeness Bird Observatory has 10 beds available which are reserved for coleopterists until about the end of this month. I’ve got one: there are 9 left! In two dormitories of 4 and 6. Bring your own sleeping bag (or sheets), pillowcases and washing gear. £7 a night. If necessary, Dave will allocate one dorm to women and the other to men. For greater comfort, you’ll need to search for local B&Bs, etc. This is the Bank Holiday weekend so some may wish to stay on to Monday.
For evening meals, the Britannia Inn is close to the bird observatory and would be a good place for us all to meet up in the evenings wherever we are staying.
For new coleopterists, this should be a good chance to meet others, and to pick up tips in the field and in the microscope room. For anyone who hasn’t been beetling at Dungeness, take this chance – it isn’t getting any better.
Please let me know if you are interested and I’ll then keep you informed of arrangements as we get nearer the date.