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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tree-spotting

I found myself in the Brecon Beacons on Sunday after a family gathering. I’ve always thought of the Brecon Beacons as a biodiversity coldspot but I realised prior to this trip that I could potentially tick six species of Whitebeam including three which are restricted to this part of Wales. I didn’t have time to purchase Tim Rich’s BSBI Sorbus Handbook but I was able to get some Sorbus gen from Dave Gibbs, albeit from maybe 20 years ago before Google maps and GPS.

I have been talking vaguely about going to see all the British (and Irish) Sorbus for years but this is the first time I have actually done anything about it. What appeals to me about the idea is that they almost all grow in nice parts of Britain that I’ve spent very little, if any, time in: North Devon, Avon Gorge, Brecon, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Wye Valley, Anglesey, West Lancs, Westmorland, and Arran.

But after Sunday’s experience, I now realise that seeing all the Sorbus would be a major undertaking. My main problem at Craig y Cilau was that the trees only grow where sheep cannot reach them. And I am considerably less agile on the mountains than a Welsh sheep. And with most of the leaves already fallen, it wasn’t the best time of year for it. Plus I was getting a thorough drenching, right down to my undergarments, though I was able to retreat to the caves to consult my increasingly sodden copy of Stace.

Taking refuge.

I found Least Whitebeam Sorbus minima to be the commonest species, though it is known only from this 10-km square and nowhere else in the world.

Leaves of the same Sorbus minima tree.

I only found one English Whitebeam Sorbus anglica that I was confident of.

Some fallen leaves from below the Sorbus anglica.

This one looked good for Rock Whitebeam Sorbus rupicola.

Detail of the Sorbus rupicola showing leaf shape. 29.v.2013: Andy McVeigh and I checked my herbarium sheet with the Sorbus handbook and confirmed this as rupicola.

I think this is either S. porrigentiformis (Grey-leaved) or S. leptophylla (Thin-leaved), probably porrigentiformis. Though I wouldn't be greatly surprised to be told it is rupicola. I think this photo says everything about the conditions on the day, and this was as close as I dared to get. 29.v.2013: leaves collected from below this tree confirmed as porrigentiformis by Andy McVeigh and I.

Leaf of the same porrigentiformis/leptophylla tree.

The large Sorbus leptophylla tree described as forming a carpet against the cliff prior to Agen Allwedd cave must be dead and gone. I’m sure with more time and better weather I could have found all five Sorbus species at this site but I’ll give it another go some day, and also try to visit Craig Penmoelallt at Merthyr Tydfil for Ley’s Whitebeam Sorbus leyana.

No longer Housebound

The House Longhorn Hylotrupes bajulus is something I never thought I’d see. Until very recently, I thought it was a very rare indoor pest in a few houses breeding in old timbers, with only a single post-1970 dot in the cerambycid atlas. I’ve actually been contacted a couple of times with reports of possible House Longhorn infestations but they’ve turned out to be outdoor longhorns emerging from firewood.

So when I heard that House Longhorn could be seen outdoors, on some standing dead pines on a Surrey Heath, I thought I’d better mobilise and go to take a look. I was told that on a sunny day I’d be able to see them without having to peel any bark off, and so it proved on Sunday last weekend. I found one on the third tree I looked at, and saw three in total, all active in the sunshine.

House Longhorn Hylotrupes bajulus

I wish it well in its bid to colonise the British countryside.

Olibrus norvegicus new for Britain

Discoveries begin with bafflement. I thought I was reasonably familiar with all the British species of Olibrus; I’ve certainly seen all 7 of the species on multiple occasions. But I found myself baffled when trying to identify some Olibrus specimens collected at Sandwich Bay on the night of Friday 31st August going into the early hours of Sat 1st September.

The key to Olibrus species relies heavily on the presence or absence of microsculpture on head, pronotum and elytra. The microsculpture can be hard to see when it is present, so it is often difficult to be sure that it is absent. So ‘route one’ for me is to dissect, hoping for males, and match up to the genitalia drawings in the RES Handbook. I had four specimens and when I dissected them on Tuesday, they all turned out to be female, clearly of two species, and could not be identified by matching to the genitalia illustrations alone. So I keyed them out and they all came to Olibrus affinis. Bafflement begins. Presumably I’ve made some mistake somewhere, perhaps failing to see microsculpture? I put them aside to come back to on the following day.

I must admit that even on Tuesday evening I was wondering whether I might have found a species new for Britain. But this is a guilty thought – the proper response is to investigate every other possibility first. Am I even sure it is an Olibrus?! Is there any chance it could just be an aberrant individual of one of the other species? After a few hours on Wednesday morning comparing my Sandwich specimens to dissected and confirmed specimens of all the other British Olibrus species, I was sure I had affinis and one specimen of something new to Britain. But what?
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .

Olibrus norvegicus (on the right) is very similar to O. affinis (on the left) but smaller, with metasternal puncturation resembling O. flavicornis, and with different genitalia. Better pics to follow once I've been to the museum at Oxford.

Ideally, it would be good to have an identification guide to the Olibrus species that occur on the near continent in northern France and the Low Countries. But in such situations, the best thing available is usually “FHL” (Die Käfer Mitteleuropas by Freude, Harde and Lohse) covering Germany and environs. And using FHL, I reckoned the only thing that fitted my specimen was Olibrus norvegicus. This species was added to the Mitteleuropas list sometime between 1967 (FHL volume 7) and 1992 (FHL volume 13) and was added to the Dutch list in 1985 but whether it was overlooked before or has recently colonised these areas I don’t know. Either way, it sounds like the sort of species that might be expected to turn up in Britain.

At this point, I decided I needed a male specimen to be certain, so I drove back to Sandwich Bay yesterday afternoon. After bumping into Paul Brock and chatting for a bit, I spent a couple of hours sweeping the grassland and dunes here. I reckon I saw many more Olibrus at night but this trip yielded 104 specimens, mostly affinis but with one male and two female norvegicus. The male is a good match to the genitalia illustration of norvegicus in FHL, so I’m now pretty confident that’s what it is. But I’d still like to compare it to confirmed norvegicus specimens, and/or get an expert opinion. If you can help, please get in touch.

It has to be said that bafflement is a pretty frequent feeling when I’m trying to identify beetles. Mostly the investigation just reveals that I’ve made a mistake, or occasionally that the author of the keys has made a mistake. But I love making discoveries so I’m always hoping that a bit of bafflement will lead to something like this!

This part of Sandwich Bay is a Kent Wildlife Trust reserve and permission to collect invertebrates on the site (which is a SSSI) can be obtained from them. Thanks to Greg Hitchcock of KWT for arranging permissions for attendees at the Coleopterists’ Meeting.

Beetling Sandwich

Left to right: Jo Hodgkins (+1), Mark Telfer, Simon Horsnall, John Paul, Tony Allen, Kevin Chuter, Roger Booth, Grant Hazlehurst, James McGill, Peter McMullen, Julie Collier, Martin Collier, Graham Finch and Eric Philp.

Fourteen coleopterists assembled at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory for the Coleopterists’ Meeting on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd September, with many people (including Jo and I) having traveled down on the Friday.

The weather stayed dry and mostly sunny for us throughout, which is not how most of the summer of 2012 will be remembered. Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory was a great base for the meeting and I will definitely be back there in future. The social side of entomology is something I miss during the field season so it was great to spend time with other like-minded folk, in the field as well as in the rather good Indian and Thai restaurants of Sandwich village. So I really enjoyed myself and I think everyone else would say the same. As the leader I was relieved that the meeting went off without serious mishap, though not entirely without misfortune – there’s a notebook and a good pair of reading glasses somewhere in Kent, and a blowy exhaust on my car thanks to some monstrous sleeping policemen.

But if you were wondering whether you should have been there, or whether you should attend the next coleopterists’ meeting, I should really let the beetles speak for themselves. So here’s my list for the Sandwich Bay area.

128 species
18 Nationally Scarce
1 Near Threatened
2 Insufficiently Known (RDBK)
1 New for Britain
11 ticks for me (a few of which I have seen in trap samples before but not alive)

Family Species: scientific name Conservation Status
Carabidae Leistus ferrugineus None
Carabidae Notiophilus aquaticus None
Carabidae Trechus obtusus None
Carabidae Trechus quadristriatus None
Carabidae Calathus cinctus None
Carabidae Calathus erratus None
Carabidae Calathus fuscipes None
Carabidae Calathus melanocephalus None
Carabidae Calathus mollis None
Carabidae Olisthopus rotundatus None
Carabidae Amara aenea None
Carabidae Amara curta Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Amara familiaris None
Carabidae Amara ovata None
Carabidae Amara bifrons None
Carabidae Amara apricaria None
Carabidae Amara fulva Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Curtonotus convexiusculus None
Carabidae Harpalus affinis None
Carabidae Harpalus anxius None
Carabidae Harpalus rubripes None
Carabidae Harpalus serripes Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Harpalus tardus None
Carabidae Harpalus rufipes None
Carabidae Ophonus ardosiacus Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Ophonus puncticeps None
Carabidae Ophonus rufibarbis None
Carabidae Bradycellus verbasci None
Carabidae Panagaeus bipustulatus Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Masoreus wetterhallii Nationally Scarce (Na)
Carabidae Demetrias monostigma Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Carabidae Paradromius linearis None
Carabidae Philorhizus melanocephalus None
Carabidae Syntomus foveatus None
Carabidae Syntomus truncatellus None
Hydrophilidae Berosus affinis LC
Hydrophilidae Hydrophilus piceus NT
Hydraenidae Hydraena riparia None
Hydraenidae Ochthebius minimus None
Silphidae Silpha laevigata None
Silphidae Silpha tristis None
Staphylinidae Omalium exiguum Nationally Scarce
Staphylinidae Metopsia clypeata None
Staphylinidae Megarthrus denticollis None
Staphylinidae Megarthrus prosseni None
Staphylinidae Sepedophilus nigripennis None
Staphylinidae Tachinus rufipes None
Staphylinidae Oxypoda haemorrhoa None
Staphylinidae Gnypeta carbonaria None
Staphylinidae Amischa decipiens None
Staphylinidae Alaobia trinotata None
Staphylinidae Philhygra elongatula None
Staphylinidae Philhygra palustris None
Staphylinidae Microdota liliputana None
Staphylinidae Atheta graminicola None
Staphylinidae Atheta triangulum None
Staphylinidae Mycetota laticollis None
Staphylinidae Dimetrota atramentaria None
Staphylinidae Chaetida longicornis None
Staphylinidae Coprothassa melanaria None
Staphylinidae Aleochara bipustulata None
Staphylinidae Aleochara verna RDBK
Staphylinidae Aleochara tristis None
Staphylinidae Cypha pulicaria? None
Staphylinidae Drusilla canaliculata None
Staphylinidae Oxytelus laqueatus None
Staphylinidae Anotylus nitidulus None
Staphylinidae Paederus littoralis None
Staphylinidae Philonthus cognatus None
Staphylinidae Philonthus varians None
Staphylinidae Tasgius morsitans None
Staphylinidae Megalinus glabratus None
Staphylinidae Xantholinus linearis None
Staphylinidae Xantholinus longiventris None
Malachiidae Anthocomus rufus None
Phalacridae Phalacrus fimetarius None
Phalacridae Olibrus aeneus None
Phalacridae Olibrus affinis None
Phalacridae Olibrus millefolii Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Phalacridae Olibrus norvegicus (TBC) New for Britain
Phalacridae Stilbus testaceus None
Cryptophagidae Cryptophagus denticulatus None
Cryptophagidae Cryptophagus puncticollis None
Cryptophagidae Atomaria atricapilla None
Cryptophagidae Atomaria testacea None
Cryptophagidae Ephistemus globulus None
Endomychidae Endomychus coccineus None
Coccinellidae Rhyzobius litura None
Coccinellidae Coccidula rufa None
Coccinellidae Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata None
Coccinellidae Coccinella septempunctata None
Coccinellidae Hippodamia variegata Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Latridiidae Corticaria crenulata None
Latridiidae Corticarina curta None
Latridiidae Cortinicara gibbosa None
Tenebrionidae Phylan gibbus None
Tenebrionidae Xanthomus pallidus Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Tenebrionidae Cteniopus sulphureus None
Anthicidae Notoxus monoceros None
Anthicidae Anthicus antherinus None
Anthicidae Omonadus floralis None
Aderidae Aderus populneus Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Chrysomelidae Cassida nobilis Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Chrysomelidae Timarcha goettingensis None
Chrysomelidae Chrysolina banksi None
Chrysomelidae Chrysolina haemoptera Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Chrysomelidae Gastrophysa polygoni None
Chrysomelidae Phyllotreta nigripes None
Chrysomelidae Aphthona euphorbiae None
Chrysomelidae Longitarsus parvulus Nationally Scarce (Na)
Chrysomelidae Longitarsus pratensis None
Apionidae Malvapion malvae None
Apionidae Protapion assimile None
Apionidae Protapion dissimile Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Apionidae Protapion fulvipes None
Apionidae Protapion nigritarse None
Apionidae Protapion ononidis None
Apionidae Perapion hydrolapathi None
Apionidae Holotrichapion ononis None
Curculionidae Otiorhynchus ligneus None
Curculionidae Neliocarus faber Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Curculionidae Sitona humeralis None
Curculionidae Sitona lineatus None
Curculionidae Lixus scabricollis RDBK
Curculionidae Ceutorhynchus obstrictus None
Curculionidae Trichosirocalus troglodytes None
Curculionidae Tychius tibialis Nationally Scarce (Na)
Curculionidae Mecinus pyraster None

Pan’s progress

All my consultancy fieldwork is now finished for the 2012 season and the next few months will be spent working through and identifying my samples of invertebrates, as well as writing up reports. These samples contain many specimens which received little more than a glance in the field before being pooted, in the knowledge that they’d need microscopic scrutiny or dissection to be identified. So there’s plenty of potential for surprises, as my sample from an Oxfordshire site on 14th June proved …

This blog profiles the 9 ticks I’ve added to my pan-species list between Friday 24th August and setting off for the Sandwich Bay Coleopterists’ Meeting on Friday 31st (more on that later!). Dave Gibbs has been posting photos of each of his ticks on the Pan-species Listers facebook page which I’ve been following with interest. His 9,967th tick was the Short-billed Dowitcher yesterday at Lodmoor. So here is another instalment of my personal progress through the massive biodiversity of Britain …

Gyrophaena joyi (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae), 1 male, Alfoxton Wood, Somerset, 19th Aug 2012.
From quite fresh Dryad’s Saddle brackets. A Nationally Scarce species. Dave Boyce has already found it on several occasions in Somerset.

Gyrophaena joyi

Aloconota sulcifrons (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae), Dorset, 22nd August 2012.
Grubbing in wet woodland clearing. A common species, or at least one with no conservation status. No faffing about keying this out – it is one of the Athetini that has a diagnostic pronotal hair-pattern, confirmed by dissection.

Aloconota sulcifrons

Ptenidium laevigatum (Ptiliidae), Dorset, 22nd August 2012.
I’ve trapped this species on numerous occasions using subterranean traps at tree roots but a singleton suction-sampled from a tussock-sedge pedestal was the first I’d seen alive. Carding 1.1 mm long beetles doesn’t always end up as well as this!

Ptenidium laevigatum

Orthonevra nobilis (Syrphidae), 1 male, Newlands, Heanor, 28th August 2012.
Sweeping in wet woodland. A fairly common wetland hoverfly.

Orthonevra nobilis

Psenulus pallipes (Crabronidae), 1, Oxfordshire, 14th June 2012, det D.J. Gibbs.
Beaten off Lime branches in parkland. A fairly common wasp.

Psenulus pallipes

Elodes tricuspis (Scirtidae), 1 male, Oxfordshire, 14th June 2012.
Now this was a big surprise! Elodes tricuspis is Britain’s rarest scirtid and Garth Foster’s (2010) Water Beetle Review was able to list all the known British records: Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire in the 19th Century; Windsor Great Park in 1934; Frensham, Surrey, in 1954; Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire in 1981; Parham Park, West Sussex in 1996 (twice); and Mid-west Yorkshire in 1999. So this was the 8th British record and the first for Oxfordshire. It is regarded as Vulnerable. Map here. This one was swept under wet woodland canopy in a parkland.
The four British species of Elodes are only really separable by dissecting males so on this occasion the odds fell in my favour.

Elodes tricuspis male

Lonchaea mallochi (Lonchaeidae), 1 female, Oxfordshire, 14th June 2012, det D.J. Gibbs.
Pooted off a fallen poplar trunk in wet woodland. A readily recognised family of flies with many saproxylic members. There is also a good new RES Handbook for their identification, though I still turn to Dave Gibbs for help.

Lonchaea mallochi

Scaphisoma boleti (Staphylinidae: Scaphidiinae), 1 female, Oxfordshire, 14th June 2012.
Pooted off a fallen poplar trunk in wet woodland. A Nationally Scarce (Nb) saproxylic beetle associated with fungi.

Scaphisoma boleti

Rhadinoceraea micans (Symphyta), larvae, Oxfordshire, 14th June 2012.
I’ve seen these sawfly larvae munching on Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus leaves before but never attempted to identify them. The name Rhadinoceraea micans comes up on google if you enter “iris sawfly” but the clincher for me was a comment on iSpot by Martin Harvey with the assurance that Rhadinoceraea micans is the only sawfly that feeds on Yellow Flag.
No photo from me but here’s one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonhaas/3369939919/