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Pan-species listing at Knepp

The Knepp Estate in Sussex is my new favourite place in England. This is a landscape of woodlands, copses, rambling hedgerows, veteran trees, streams, ponds and lakes with herds of Longhorn Cattle and Exmoor Ponies wandering throughout. A place without fences, where a naturalist can wander through beautiful habitat to the accompaniment of Nightingales, where a picnic may be interrupted by a hungry Tamworth Pig coming grunting out of the undergrowth, where you can dream of what England would have been like in centuries past.

I was there on 1st and 2nd June, for a recording weekend organised by Penny Green of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, and to which the pan-species listers were invited. Inspiring company in an inspiring place and superbly hosted by Charlie Burrell, whose vision it was to “re-wild” Knepp.

Pan-species listers are, by definition, interested in all wildlife. But somehow on this occasion it all gravitated towards invertebrates on dung and carrion – luckily somebody brought some latex surgical gloves! Respite was provided by some lovely beetles on log-stacks and veteran trees, as well as some rare fungi.

With the field season in full flow, I’ve not had time to identify everything yet but this post is just to show a few photos. The rest may have to wait until calmer times!

Hedobia imperialis (formerly Ptinomorphus imperialis), a distinctive and very memorable beetle from the woodworm family. Nationally Scarce (Nb).

Coleophora on Blackthorn. The possibilities seem to be coracipennella, prunifoliae and spinella: hopefully it will rear through to adult.

Lateral view of the same Coleophora.

Putoniella pruni galls on Blackthorn Prunus spinosa. A gall that's not in the first edition of the FSC galls book but was identified for me via the pan-species listers' facebook group.

Korynetes caeruleus. Always good to see a clerid. This one was beaten from a flowering Field Maple near a red-rotten oak; a Nationally Scarce (Nb) saproxylic. We also saw a few of the similar Necrobia violacea on carcasses (and Sarah and Jon had also found N. violacea on a dead Fox at Denbies Hillside the day before).

Calambus bipustulatus, another saproxylic beetle beaten from flowering Field Maple. This is also Nationally Scarce (Nb) and I'd only seen it once before - at last year's PSL meeting at Parham Park.

Peter Hodge discovered several Pyrrhidium sanguineum on a stack of oak logs in the car park. It’s a red longhorn beetle newly arrived in Sussex from its historic range on the Welsh borders and was one of the highlights of the weekend. Torchlight searching of the log-stacks and surrounding tree trunks was productive with several Dromius agilis (an uncommon carabid), a single Corticeus unicolor (Tenebrionidae) and a single specimen of “Xyleborus species A”, a recently arrived bark-beetle (from the Orient?) discovered in Richmond Park by Peter Hammond and also known from Cowdray Park (discovered by Graeme Lyons and myself).

Corticeus unicolor. The second Sussex record of this Rare (RDB3) beetle after it was discovered at Cowdray Park by Graeme Lyons and myself in 2011.

Dromius agilis, a tree-climbing "ground" beetle associated with ancient parkland and wood-pasture. This one was found by Neil Fletcher.

After a disappointing catch of moths on Sunday morning, most of the pan-species listers took the opportunity to join a fungal tour with Ted Green and Jill Butler. I think Ted quickly got the measure of his audience and showed us some extremely rare species.

Ye Olde Greene Man, a.k.a. Phellinus robustus. On oak. One of about 20 trees known to support this fungus in Britain.

Phellinus populicola on poplar. Another rarity with an important population at Knepp. Especially happy to see this as it was one Jo gripped me off on in Buckinghamshire a couple of years ago.

Ted Green and Phellinus populicola

Agathidium nigripenne: one of the delectable leiodids. This was one of three tapped from dead poplar branches. It has no conservation status but I'd only seen 5 singletons prior to this.

Really enjoyed a weekend binging on biodiversity in fab weather and great company. I could do it every weekend, if only I could spend all week identifying specimens and photos and making sense of my notes! I learned so much from other people. My main regret is of having taken hardly any photos of people and landscapes … but it’s nice to have a reason to return.

A day in the life …

… of an entomological consultant. Yesterday was a pretty typical day, surveying a site which is proposed for development. I’m not able to reveal the location but it is a site with a mix of unmanaged grassland and secondary woodland. I spent a little over 6 hours in the field, concentrating my efforts on sweeping and beating. It almost goes without saying that I wore full waterproofs throughout though there was sunshine between the showers.

I worked yesterday evening and from early this morning to finish all the identification work and I’ve listed 102 species for the site. It is always my aim to record over 100 species from a day’s survey but I only just scraped over the line yesterday. I would expect more and I’m tending to agree with others who are saying that this is a poor spring for insects.

The list includes one Red Data Book species and five Nationally Scarce species, though, as is so often the case, some of these statuses are in need of revision for species which have become commoner and more widespread. But they are still useful species for assessing the conservation importance of the site.

I was really pleased to find the RDB hoverfly Rhingia rostrata: only the second one I’ve seen after Dave Gibbs showed me one last year. And there were two species which I got the camera out for. They’re just superb beasts and I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing them!

Centrotus cornutus, a treehopper

Attelabus nitens, the Oak Leaf-roller

Coproporus immigrans is a recent arrival in Britain, specialising in woodchip piles, and I’d only seen it on two previous occasions before yesterday. Here it was in quite an old woodchip pile with thistles growing out of it, though it favours fresh woodchip.

Coproporus immigrans, a distinctive tachyporine rove-beetle

It’s not my aim on survey work to look for species I’ve never seen before: it’s about playing to my strengths and giving the client best value for money, rather than trying to get ticks. But I usually manage a few new species and yesterday I cut open a currant gall on oak for the first time to see the larva of Neuroterus quercusbaccarum within. Also, the common mirid bug Dicyphus globulifer was a new one for me, from a group which I’m tackling more seriously since I acquired Suomen Luteet.

Species (scientific name) Species (English name) Conservation Status
Oniscus asellus Common Shiny Woodlouse None
Porcellio scaber Common Rough Woodlouse None
Nuctenea umbratica a spider None
Pisaura mirabilis a spider None
Glomeris marginata Pill Millipede None
Cylindroiulus punctatus Blunt-tailed Millipede None
Forficula auricularia Common Earwig None
Leptophyes punctatissima Speckled Bush-cricket None
Centrotus cornutus a treehopper None
Dicyphus globulifer a mirid bug None
Deraeocoris lutescens a mirid bug None
Liocoris tripustulatus a mirid bug None
Miris striatus a mirid bug None
Stenodema laevigata a mirid bug None
Harpocera thoracica a mirid bug None
Anthocoris confusus a flower bug None
Anthocoris nemorum a flower bug None
Kleidocerys resedae a ground-bug None
Pentatoma rufipes Red-legged Shieldbug None
Paradromius linearis a ground beetle None
Ptinella aptera a featherwing beetle None
Euplectus karstenii a pselaphine rove-beetle None
Tachyporus hypnorum a rove-beetle None
Coproporus immigrans a rove-beetle None
Stenus flavipes a rove-beetle None
Trixagus dermestoides a beetle None
Athous haemorrhoidalis a click-beetle None
Agriotes pallidulus a click-beetle None
Cantharis decipiens a soldier-beetle None
Rhagonycha lignosa a soldier-beetle None
Epuraea pallescens a beetle None
Meligethes carinulatus a pollen beetle None
Meligethes nigrescens a pollen beetle None
Byturus ochraceus a beetle None
Cerylon histeroides a beetle None
Rhyzobius litura a ladybird None
Exochomus quadripustulatus Pine Ladybird None
Propylea quattuordecimpunctata 14-spot Ladybird None
Coccinella septempunctata 7-spot Ladybird None
Cortinicara gibbosa a beetle None
Mycetophagus piceus a beetle Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Mordellochroa abdominalis a tumbling flower-beetle None
Nalassus laevioctostriatus a darkling beetle None
Ischnomera cyanea a beetle Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Oedemera lurida a beetle None
Pyrochroa coccinea Black-headed Cardinal Beetle Nationally Scarce (Nb)
Salpingus planirostris a beetle None
Anaspis frontalis a beetle None
Anaspis fasciata a beetle None
Anaspis maculata a beetle None
Bruchus rufimanus a seed-beetle None
Lochmaea crataegi Hawthorn Leaf-beetle None
Longitarsus luridus a flea-beetle None
Crepidodera aurea a flea-beetle None
Lasiorhynchites olivaceus a weevil Nationally Scarce (Na)
Tatianaerhynchites aequatus a weevil None
Attelabus nitens Oak Leaf-roller None
Aspidapion aeneum a weevil None
Protapion fulvipes White Clover Seed Weevil None
Protapion trifolii a weevil None
Perapion curtirostre a weevil None
Perapion hydrolapathi a weevil None
Apion frumentarium a weevil None
Ischnopterapion loti a weevil None
Phyllobius roboretanus Small Green Nettle Weevil None
Phyllobius pyri Common Leaf Weevil None
Sitona lepidus a weevil None
Magdalis armigera a weevil None
Rhinoncus pericarpius a weevil None
Ceutorhynchus typhae a weevil None
Ceutorhynchus obstrictus a weevil None
Trichosirocalus troglodytes a weevil None
Nedyus quadrimaculatus Small Nettle Weevil None
Anthonomus pedicularius a weevil None
Anthonomus rubi a weevil None
Curculio glandium Acorn Weevil None
Archarius pyrrhoceras a weevil None
Gymnetron pascuorum a weevil None
Neuroterus quercusbaccarum f. sexual Currant gall causer None
Biorhiza pallida f. sexual Oak-apple causer None
Lasius brunneus Brown Tree Ant Nationally Scarce (Na)
Lasius niger sens. str. an ant None
Myrmica rubra an ant None
Myrmica scabrinodis an ant None
Bombus hortorum Small Garden Bumblebee None
Bombus pascuorum Common Carder-bee None
Panorpa germanica a scorpion-fly None
Rhagio scolopaceus Downlooker Snipefly None
Beris chalybata Murky-legged Black Legionnaire None
Microchrysa polita Black-horned Gem None
Empis tessellata a dance fly None
Melanostoma mellinum a hoverfly None
Sphaerophoria scripta a hoverfly None
Rhingia campestris a hoverfly None
Rhingia rostrata a hoverfly RDB3
Neoascia podagrica a hoverfly None
Syritta pipiens a hoverfly None
Tephritis neesii a picture-winged fly None
Anthophila fabriciana Nettle-tap None
Pieris rapae Small White LC
Pararge aegeria Speckled Wood LC
Monacha cantiana Kentish Snail None


It’s been well over a month since my last blog (back on April 12th) but my excuse is that it is May, the best month to be a naturalist in the field in Britain, and a busy time for an entomological consultant!

I have actually posted a few blogs in recent weeks about my progress towards recording 1000 species in my home 1-km square here in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire. For those who don’t know, the participants in the “1000 1ksq challenge” are attempting a pan-species total of 1000 for a 1-km square of their choice between 1st Jan and 31st Dec 2013. Click here to see all my posts. It is amazing how much wildlife you can see if you go really broad and stay really local, and amazing just how successful you can now be as a truly pan-species naturalist using online identification resources.

One of my recent highlights was this weevil, Bradybatus fallax. Roger Booth found one resting on his car roof in Merton Park, Surrey on 13 August 2011 but I’ve not heard of any more being found since so this could be the second British individual. It is associated with Sycamore and other Acer species. I found one by beating trees, including sycamore, in Middlesex on 9 May 2013.

Bradybatus fallax: second for Britain.

Final results: Sandwich Bay Coleopterists’ Meeting 2012

I wrote a brief blog about this sunny and sociable weekend in Kent shortly after the event: here.

I have now finished my identifications from the Sandwich Bay Coleopterists’ Meeting (31st August to 2nd September 2012) and have also received records from Eric Philp, James McGill, Kevin Chuter, Martin Collier, Peter McMullen, Roger Booth, Simon Horsnall and Tony Allen. Between us we recorded 273 species of beetle (and 36 species of other invertebrates, including spiders, millipedes, dragonflies, bush-crickets, bugs, flies, bees, wasps, ants, moths and snails).

One of the highlights for me was the discovery of the phalacrid beetle Olibrus norvegicus new to Britain, as well as an intriguing featherwing-beetle specimen of the genus Ptenidium. Another major discovery was of the dung-beetle Euheptaulacus sus which was found by Roger Booth (from a light trap), Tony Allen (by evening sweeping) and James McGill. It is many decades since this dung-beetle was recorded from Kent.

Amongst the beetles were 7 Red Data Book, 1 Near Threatened and 36 Nationally Scarce species. In total, 16% of the beetles recorded during the meeting have conservation status, a figure which is consistent with top sites of national importance for invertebrate conservation.

A spreadsheet containing a species list and a worksheet of all records from the meeting can be downloaded here.

To download the keys, left-click the link. This will take you to my Google Docs webpages where you can see an online preview of the document (in which the formatting and pagination isn’t great). From the File menu, select Download and Save the file to your computer to see it in its original form.

The meeting did not formally start until Saturday morning (1st September) but most people travelled down on the Friday and the results include records from Friday afternoon and evening. In my case, I worked the area seaward of the Chequer’s Inn, Deal, where I had found Amara spreta, Melanotus punctolineatus and many other interesting beetles on a previous visit in 1999. This was also the area where Eric Philp recorded Ophonus cordatus although a few decades earlier. On a warm and still evening, I gave the Autokatcher a spin, driving back from the Chequer’s Inn to our accommodation at the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. It yielded a massive sample of mostly very small beetles, including the Ptenidium mentioned above and an impressive five species that I’d never seen before. Only one of the five (Omalium exiguum) is actually Nationally Scarce but the Autokatcher seems to be a good way of finding beetles that I don’t bump into using my normal fieldcraft. After dining together at an Indian restaurant in Sandwich village, a small party donned headtorches and headed out with sweep-nets to the dunes north of the Prince’s Golf Course clubhouse. This was when I found Olibrus norvegicus new to Britain though of course it wasn’t until a few days later that I dissected them and realised what they were. Of the species recognisable on the night, one of the most interesting finds was a single individual of the tenebrionid beetle Xanthomus pallidus.

After much loitering in the Bird Observatory car park on Saturday morning, the meeting got underway with people dispersing in small groups, some back to Chequer’s Inn, others to the Prince’s Golf Club dunes and some walking out to the north in search of Dune Tiger-beetle Cicindela maritima. It was a good day for carabids with several people finding Amara curta, and with several other scarce carabids being recorded: Amara fulva, Amara equestris, Harpalus serripes, Dicheirotrichus obsoletus, Panagaeus bipustulatus, Masoreus wetterhallii and Demetrias monostigma. We dined at a good Thai restaurant in the evening, followed by more torchlight fieldwork.

On the Sunday, while some carried on with fieldwork at Sandwich Bay, a few of us visited the other site for which permission had been arranged: Blean Woods RSPB Reserve. Martin Collier and I tackled a wood ants’ nest – the first time either of us had attempted to find beetles in such a potentially painful microhabitat! We soon discovered that the ants were remarkably placid and the whole experience was surprisingly painless. However, there were very few beetles evident in the field (only three individual beetles in my sample, only one of which (Gyrohypnus atratulus) was an ant-nest specialist). Martin wisely took his sample home and put it in an extractor which yielded a specimen of Myrmetes piceus. Meanwhile, Roger Booth and Tony Allen were beating dead and dying branches and amongst a good list of saproxylic beetles, found the Vulnerable anthribid beetle Pseudeuparius sepicola off a dead oak branch.

Martin sieving a wood ants' nest at Blean Woods.

I really enjoyed this meeting, not just because Sandwich Bay is such a great place for beetles but also for the chance to socialise with other coleopterists over the course of the weekend. I enjoy it enough to be thinking of organising another weekend field meeting but I’m not going to do that until 2014 (probably at Orford Ness). Meanwhile, if anyone else wants to organise a meeting, it doesn’t have to be a lot of work: pick your location and dates, suggest somewhere people could stay but leave them to make their own arrangements, make a restaurant booking in the evening, and arrange with the BENHS to extend their insurance to cover the meeting. That really is all it takes. Following the successful examples of Dungeness in 2010 and Sandwich Bay in 2012, both based around bird observatories, a couple of obvious venues to try are Portland Bill Bird Observatory and Lizard Point Youth Hostel.

My first alexiid!

It is a rare event nowadays for me to see a new beetle family but yesterday’s highlight was finding Sphaerosoma pilosum for the first time, the sole British member of family Alexiidae.

Sphaerosoma pilosum, Britain's only alexiid beetle.

I knocked it off a log with a white crustose polypore fungus, lying on the ground in calcareous woodland near Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire. I have now seen 96 of the 103 families of British beetles. Of the remaining seven families, six are represented by single British species that are either rare, very difficult to find, or Scottish. The seventh family is the Bostrichidae with five species on the British list and it is high time I bumped into one of them.

Another exciting find on the same outing was this Anommatus duodecimstriatus, found under bark on the underside of an Elder log pressed into the soil. This is one of Britain’s 13 species of blind beetle, previously featured on this blog after some turned up in my garden. It did two remarkable things, for a beetle. One, it just turned round and round on the spot rather than running away (maybe being blind has its disadvantages when someone disturbs your hiding place). And two, it clung on to the log despite me dropping it from waist height!

Anommatus duodecimstriatus, one of Britain's 12 blind beetles.

Recent attempts at fieldwork have felt pretty futile so it is good to have finally found some decent beetles. Looking forward to spring really getting going now!

A Ptenidium from Sandwich Bay

I am no great fan of the featherwing beetles (Ptiliidae) but they are growing on me and I’ve been trying hard to get to grips with the genus Ptenidium and others, though still largely ignoring the dreaded Acrotrichis. This blog is just to put on record an interesting specimen of Ptenidium which might be a species new to Britain:

A male Ptenidium from Sandwich Bay, East Kent from an Autokatcher sample on 31st August 2012. It is an unusual specimen of P. pusillum (or maybe an additional species of the pusillum-complex?). Click for large photo.

It is closest to P. pusillum (probably the commonest British species of the genus) but differs most strikingly in having much deeper and more extensive puncturation on the elytra. In addition, it has slightly more elongate elytra with less strongly rounded sides, elytral hairs a little shorter, pronotum sides a little more strongly rounded and with slightly broader side-margins, and the antennal clubs a little darker than the average pusillum. Michael Darby kindly examined it and agreed that it could be a species new to Britain, but what?

I sent my photo to Mikael Sörensson in Lund, Sweden who is an expert on European ptiliids and got an excellent response. In fact, Mikael’s reaction was that this looks the same as specimens of P. pusillum which he sees from Sweden and continental Europe. P. pusillum is apparently highly variable in body shape, colour of body and appendages, and also length of the pubescence. Mikael was struck by the somewhat darkened last two antennal segments of my specimen but has seen such colouration before in occasional specimens. So the conclusion is that “your specimen is a mere variant of P. pusillum“.

However, Mikael stressed that “because of the external variation, the taxon ‘P. pusillum‘ seems complex and might include ‘hidden’ taxa within. Viewed on a western Palaearctic level it is extremely difficult to tell if we have one single, much variable species, or two (or more?) ‘hidden’ within. Until we have applied other methods (molecular) for separating populations and variants on a pan-European basis I hesitate to split P. pusillum and therefore regard it as one single variable species”.

So what next? Mikhael writes: “It would be nice to uncover more specimens from that part of Britain, and also from France, in order to get an idea of the local variation. The problem of P. pusillum sensu lato is indeed intriguing and calls for more work”. I plan to pay much closer attention to Ptenidium, especially if I’m on the Kent coast, and I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has found similar specimens in Britain or abroad.

It would also be good to start applying molecular techniques to these kinds of taxonomic problems but I still don’t know of anyone who I can send a beetle to, with a cheque enclosed, and get it sequenced. Any suggestions?

I thank Michael Darby, Peter Hammond and Mikael Sörensson for helpful discussions and for sharing their expertise. As always, I have Darren Mann and James Hogan (of the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford University Museum of Natural History) to thank for allowing me to use their auto-montage kit.

Final results: Dungeness Coleopterists’ Meeting 2010

Fourteen coleopterists gathered at Dungeness on 28th and 29th August 2010. I posted an account of the meeting here shortly afterwards but have only recently finished identifying my own samples from the meeting, and collating records from others who were there. A spreadsheet including all our records and a species list can be downloaded here.

To download the keys, left-click the link. This will take you to my Google Docs webpages where you can see an online preview of the document (in which the formatting and pagination isn’t great). From the File menu, select Download and Save the file to your computer to see it in its original form.

This spreadsheet only includes records from myself, Roger Booth, Martin Collier, Andrew Duff and the late Eric Philp. (Apologies to James McGill who did submit his records but I lost them when I hit trouble with my old @carabids.fsnet.co.uk email address).

We recorded 187 species of beetle, and a scattering of invertebrates from other groups (woodlice, bugs, ants, etc.) to bring the total species list up to 212. Perhaps not an impressively long list but awash with rarities, as you’d expect from Dungeness. The list includes 37 Nationally Scarce or Near Threatened species and 4 Red Data Book species; collectively 19.3% of the species had conservation status. That’s about as good as it gets in terms of the proportion of rare and scarce invertebrates in Britain. My highest ever percentage from my invertebrate survey work was 22.8% – from Dungeness RSPB Reserve!

In my account of the meeting posted online just a month afterwards, I wrote:
    “For Dungeness virgins there was much to see but for veterans, the pit margins were disappointing by the high standards of years past. Most people, including myself, have yet to finish identifying their specimens, or send in their records, but as far as I know there were no sightings of any of these carabids: Acupalpus maculatus, Dyschirius obscurus, Bradycellus distinctus, Bembidion caeruleum, Bembidion decorum, Bembidion pallidipenne or Bembidion semipunctatum.”
Well only one species on that list turned up; Bembidion decorum was found by Martin Collier and Roger Booth.

I also wrote:
    “But once all the samples are identified, and the records are in, what’s the betting that Dungeness will surprise us and yield yet another first for Britain?”
I think I may have fulfilled that prophecy but that will have to be the subject of a separate blog …

I’d like to repeat my thanks to Pete Akers and Mark Gurney of the RSPB for hosting the meeting and to Dave Walker for letting us take over the Dungeness Bird Observatory. The insurance for the meeting was provided by the BENHS; without their support meetings like this would not be feasible.

A first for Britain? No.

Compare the two Glocianus weevils in these images (click for large images). I didn’t think they could be the same species …

Glocianus punctiger. A male from Derbyshire, typical of British specimens.

Glocianus punctiger. An atypical male from Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Somerset.

… and I thought my Sutton Bingham Reservoir specimen had to be something new to Britain. But they are both specimens of Glocianus punctiger. That is the opinion of Italian weevil expert Enzo Colonnelli, and there is nobody with greater experience of these species across Europe.

I haven’t found Glocianus weevils very often, though more so in recent years as I’ve started to use my suction sampler more and more routinely. To date I have recorded Glocianus distinctus on 5 occasions (6 individuals), G. punctiger on 4 occasions (4 individuals) and have not yet found the other two British species: G. moelleri and G. pilosellus. I’ve been keying them out using Mike Morris’ RES Handbook (Morris, 2008) but also dissecting males as a matter of routine. The two males pictured here are the only two males of G. punctiger that I have found. I thought I’d been lucky and discovered a species new to Britain but actually I’d been unlucky and found a specimen with really unusual genitalia! Anyway, it seems worthwhile to bring this to other peoples’ attention, especially as this is an extreme degree of variation to find within one species. I will certainly be dissecting and retaining any other male punctiger I find, to learn more about the variability of aedeagal structure in British populations. And as Enzo has said: “variation is the engine of evolution”!

Glocianus punctiger feeds on dandelions Taraxacum, mainly the Section Ruderalia which is by far the commonest Section of this large genus, and mostly includes micro-species which are weeds of lowland areas. Although the host plants are widespread and abundant, the weevil is much more restricted, typically being found in grasslands, waste places, at the sides of roads and tracks, in woods and in open and rough ground generally (Morris, 2008). It occurs very locally throughout England and Wales and has Nationally Scarce (Nb) conservation status.

I am very grateful to Mike Morris for all his help in investigating the identity of the Sutton Bingham specimen and for putting me in touch with Enzo Colonnelli, to whom I am very grateful for letting me have his opinions on my photographs. As ever, I am indebted to James Hogan, Zoe Simmons and Darren Mann at the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, for access to their digital auto-montage equipment. The atypical specimen from Sutton Bingham Reservoir was found during surveys of the invertebrates of unimproved grassland habitats for Wessex Water.

Morris, M.G. (2008). True weevils (part II) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Ceutorhynchinae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 17c. St Albans: Royal Entomological Society.

One of the most mysterious beetles on the British list!

A fellow coleopterist recently said that Ousipalia caesula “has to be one of the most mysterious beetles on the British list!” I was intrigued, to say the least. So what’s the mystery? Well, there is not a single mention of it in 21 volumes of the journal The Coleopterist. There are only about 14 dots on the NBN Gateway map, and you have to take some of those with a pinch of salt. There’s no evidence that Derek Lott ever found it; in fact I only know one coleopterist who has …

Or should I say, “one other coleopterist”. I’ve just used the OUMNH collections to confirm that some small, blackish-brown aleocharine staphylinids that I collected at Sandwich Bay, East Kent on 3rd July 2012 are Ousipalia caesula.

Ousipalia caesula: demystified

Ousipalia caesula spermatheca

It must be common here as I found 14 in a few minutes suction-sampling on the calcareous dune grassland just seaward of the road to the Prince’s Golf Club at TR360582. I was actually targeting Yarrow, as much as you can target one plant with a suction-sampler in such floristically diverse turf. The habitat fits with Marc Tronquet’s (2006) description for France: “on sandy ground, under lichens and in the flower spikes of Aira canescens“, except that Grey Hair-grass Corynephorus canescens (= Aira canescens) is absent from Kent and more prevalent on East Anglian dunes and a few spots in the Brecks (map here).

So Ousipalia caesula is probably no longer one of the most mysterious. We can’t say that it is a well understood species but it is only averagely mysterious: so many beetles are so poorly known! My guess with Ousipalia is that it is a habitat-specialist of dry, sandy ground with very short vegetation, good cover of bare ground, mosses and lichens, and perhaps favouring calcareous sites. It probably deserves to be regarded as Nationally Scarce, maybe even Red Data Book?

I would be interested to hear from anyone with more information on this beetle.

Thanks to James Hogan and Zoe Simmons at the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford University Museum of Natural History for allowing me to take these montage photographs with their kit.

Tronquet, M. (2006). Catalogue iconographique des Coléoptères des Pyrénées-Orientales. Vol. 1: Staphylinidae. Supplément au Tome XV de la Revue de l’Association Roussillonnaise d’Entomologie. Perpignan: Association Roussillonnaise d’Entomologie.

No stone unturned

With much less of my time available for natural history since 24th December, I’m making the best of it by staying local and broadening my taxonomic horizons. In fact, today I have spent the whole day studying the wildlife of our back garden and didn’t even make it down to the far end until just before dark! But I have literally left no stone unturned. I have been spurred into action by Andy Musgrove’s “1000 1ksq challenge“: the challenge being to find 1000 species in your chosen 1km square during 2013. It’s a pan-species challenge: invertebrates, vertebrates, plants, fungi, the lot.

I’ve been seriously impressed at how many species people have already racked up for their squares, with Seth Gibson topping the table at the end of January with a mighty 248 species. I’ve also been seriously impressed at the way so many of the participants are taking a truly pan-species approach and boldly tackling Britain’s biodiversity in its entirety. So, the 1000 1ksq challenge has aroused my competitive spirit, and shamed me into trying to identify things that I normally ignore (like lichens, mosses, earthworms, springtails, etc.). Here are today’s results.

First a few photos, then my species lists for today.

My first attempt at identifying a springtail. Originally named as 'probably Pogonognathus flavescens' but Dr Peter Shaw has kindly put me right (23rd Nov. 2015) that this is probably Tomocerus minor (very common), though the teeth on its jumping organ would need to be checked to be sure. Pogonognathus flavescens was way off the mark - it is a northern species, yellow-brown in colour.

Yellow Slug Limacus flavus

Deroceras invadens Reise, Hutchinson, Schunack & Schlitt, 2011. A new name for the species previously known in Britain as Deroceras panormitanum.

Tandonia sowerbyi

A terrestrial flatworm Microplana terrestris. This was a tick, but through administrative oversight: I'm pretty sure I've identified it before.

An overwintering Woundwort Shieldbug Eysarcoris venustissimus (was E. fabricii).

I did manage to identify three species of earthworm from the garden but this was one of at least two additional species that I failed to name.

Just the ‘famous five’: Armadillidium vulgare, Oniscus asellus, Porcellio scaber, Philoscia muscorum and Trichoniscus pusillus/ provisorius.

Polydesmus coriaceus
Cylindroiulus britannicus

Stigmatogaster subterranea
Geophilus insculptus
– a tick! Common and widespread species.
Lithobius microps

Terrestrial flatworms
Microplana terrestris – identified by comparing to Brian Eversham’s photos on flickr. Pretty sure Brian has shown me this species in the past but it wasn’t on my list, so a tick!

Earthworms: identified using the iSpot keys. A completely new group for me and I was amazed at how many species occur in the garden. I identified three but saw at least two others which defied confident identification.
Lumbricus castaneus Chestnut Worm
Lumbricus rubellus Redhead Worm
Eisenia fetida Brandling Worm. A banded worm, common in our compost bin, and curiously malodorous when handled.

Slugs: the MolluscIreland site is very useful for slug identification, with Roy Anderson’s expert ID tips and his photos.
Limacus flavus
Tandonia budapestensis
Tandonia sowerbyi
Deroceras reticulatum
Deroceras invadens (was panormitanum) – thanks to Christian Owen for bringing me up to date!
Arion hortensis/distinctus
– still not sure about these.
Arion rufus – with a bright orange foot fringe. Exhibiting a rocking response, which should be less strong than Arion ater though I’m in no position to judge that.

Oxychilus cellarius
Discus rotundatus
Lauria cylindracea
Cornu aspersum
Hygromia cinctella
Vallonia costata
Vallonia excentrica
Trochulus striolatus

Leistus spinibarbis (Carabidae)
Notiophilus biguttatus (Carabidae)
Tachyporus hypnorum (Staphylinidae)
Lobrathium multipunctum (Staphylinidae)
Xantholinus linearis (Staphylinidae)

Eysarcoris venustissimus

probably Tomocerus minor (thanks to Dr Peter Shaw)

Bryum capillare – leaves became “corkscrew-like” when dry.
Tortula muralis

Common Frog

Brings me up to a mere 117 species for my square.