Thursday, July 21, 2022

The sun was rich, rich with a song of sin

What a few days. Scary temperatures that shouldn't be seen in the UK. The land is dry, parched and in need of water and here in Canbridge there is yet no sign of relief. A sign of things to come and an sign of how unprepared we are as a country for what's coming down the tracks.

Lots of idiots repeating the 'it's just like '76' or 'it gets hotter in Australia and they deal with it'. Countries that routinely experience high temperatures are built for it and the population usually has the knowledge and behaviour to deal with it and stay safe. Houses are built for it and people act differently. Siestas anyone? Conversely, when I lived in Australia I don't think I have ever felt as cold as I did during a Canberra cold snap. The houses were'nt built for it and there was inadequate means to heat houses. I ended up in a several layers of clothes each night and wrapped in a thick sleeping bag.

Anyway, it's been sobering but suspect the media will move on to the next thing soon.

On the natural history front I put the moth traps out last night in the slightly cooler temperatures and was rewarded with a brace of moth lifers.

Oncocera semirubella


Also had the second garden records of Marbled Clover and Dewick's Plusia. Beetle wise there were some bits and bobs including Amara bifrons. Also second garden records of Nicrophorus interuptus and Necrodes littoralis

   Post title inspiration comes from the dangerously hot weather and Siouxsie and the Banshees. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Tiny ladybird

Whilst cooking dinner tonight, I spied a small beetle on the ouside of the window pane. Potted and microscoped, it appears to be Scymnus auritus. 2.4mm and hairy, I do find these tougher than they probably should be, so happy to be corrected. This species feeds on oak of which there is at least one large specimen within 250 metres of the house, so may have been dispersing on this warm afternoon.
EDIT: wrong again, it's Rhyzobius lophanthae and it feeds on scale insects and is orginally found in Eastern Australia. 

Told you these tiny ladyirds were tougher than they should be. At least for me. 

Good news is that Rhyzobius lophanthae is new too!


Sunday, July 3, 2022

Stunned by the last light of the sun

So despite having another weekend full of the chores, jobs and commitments associated with family, I did manage a couple of hours out this afternoon.

I decided to head out to the River Cam and check out sites for a couple of longhorn species that I've yet to see. The weather was humid with rolling clouds with the threat of rain that never came. I began looking at some arable margins, mainly to see if I could find Saprinus viridescens again. No luck this time although there were plenty of its prey, Gastrophysa polygoni.

At the far end of this field I saw a carabid climbing a grass stem that I assumed would be Curtonotus aulicus but on closer inspection wasn't. I had an inkling what it was so decided to pot it for further scrutiny. 

I'm glad I did as it turned out to be Zabrus tenebrioides, a species associated with cereal fields that can reach plague proportions in eastern Europe but is reasonably scarce in the UK with most records from southern counties. It is pretty distinctive and one that I have hoped to see for a while. Any day with a new carabid genus is a good day.

A second new species for me, came in the form of Cryptorhychus lapathi. This is a large and distinctive weevil from a whole new subfamily, Cryptorhynchinae. It is a bird dropping mimic and was found on a small decaying twig of a Salix sp. Another one that I had been on the look out for for a while. Despite extensive searching I failed to find any more.

So despite no longhorns it turned out to have been a pretty good couple of hours out and I shall be back in a week or so in the sunshine to see what else I can find.

The blog post title comes from another track from Kae Tempest's latest album. All the tracks are good but this one especially so. This is a version from last week's Glastobury. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 18, 2022


Another month gone with no posts! 

Work, life and generally being ground down by the shit show that this country has become has meant there has been little time, energy or indeed inclination to do much beetling.

However, this week, I thought 'f**k it, I need to kick the lethargy and get out'. Cut to yesterday and a trip to revisit Panshanger Park in Herts, almost 2 years to the day since my first visit. Not only was the date silmilar but the temperature was too, although I think yesterday was a degree or two hotter.

It was good to be out but boy, it was tough going. Sweeping, beating and just looking, didn't turn up much and even the common stuff wasn't there in last time's abundance. Not only that but I soon became hot, bothered and slightly deflated. I managed four to five hours in the end but by early afternoon I decided to pack up and make my way back to Cambridge.

It wasn't a wasted trip though and I managed to find a couple of new species, the best of which was this hairy wee blighter. 

It was beaten from an old oak tree, and was found amongst a few scirtids. I had assumed that it would be another one and so got a surprise when I looked down the microscope. This is Trinodes hirtus and it is in fact a dermestid. It is listed as a Grade 1 Old Forest Indicator and is usally found in old established broadleaf woodland with plenty of damaged and decaying trees but it can also occur in old trees in parkland, which is exactly where this was found. It's either quite rare or just difficult to find and so there aren't that many records for it on NBN.

The other new species was Sphinginus lobatus which was also beaten from oak and seems to be expanding its range a bit at the moment. Still quite a few bits still to ID including a few ptinids (Ochina plus others here).

The post title is a nod to TISM who have reformed this week after a hiatus of 19 years. This song came out when I was living in Australia at the end of the 90s and I got to see them perform this live at a gig in the Sydney Royal Botanic gardens, memorable for the fact that as dusk descended, 100s of large fruit bats emerged from the trees. Watch to the end...

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The man of shadows thinks in clay

A day in the office today but jam packed full of meetings so no chance to take myself off at lunctime for a walk round the reserve. 

I did however, make a stop on the way home at one of my favourite bits of ancient woodland and managed 45 minutes having a walk and poking my nose in the first flowering brambles of the year. A Wasp Beetle was my first of the year plus a rather chunky Meligethes that I need to have a closer look at.  

All the flowering hawthorn was over but I remembered a decent Dogwood bush on one of the main rides through the wood. Lo and behold it was still in flower and I gave it a few thwacks over my umbrella. Mainly Anaspis and not a single longorn (except for Grammoptera) but there were a couple of these beetles. 

Quite a size difference betwwen these two and looking for all the world like soldier beetles. They are in fact Melandryidae aka the False Darkling Beetles. These are female Osphya bipunctata.  I have only seen males before and from the same wood and exactly the same bush, almost 2 years ago to the day!

Up close they really are stunning beetles and have an almost super hero/Green Lantern like mask. They also have quite a scattered distribution over southern England and are nowhere common, although Cambs seems to be a stronghold. So a good one to see again.

Blog title comes from one of my favourite band, Bauhaus. All elegant posturing and cheekbones.

Monday, May 2, 2022

The more I look, the more I see

What a month that's been (since the last post)...

Had a lovely week in Argyll, Scotland with the family at the beginning of April. Not many beetles but did see Otter, Pine Marten and White-tailed Eagle as well as some fantastic scenery, walks and even a couple of hill runs. But we picked up covid somewhere en route and we returned to Cambridge and tested positive. 

Completely knocked me for six and have spent the last 3 weeks with next to no energy and a disconcerting brain fog that has made even the simplest decisions a real effort, nevermind more complicated ones. So grateful to not have had classic covid sans vaccines. Government says it's all over, so that's okay then.

Anyway, given all that, I have not managed to get out and about for any natural history until today.

Energy levels back to normal I got up early and paid a visit to Woodwalton Fen in west Cambs and pretty much had the place to myself for a couple of hours. Lots of bird song and quite a bit of beating flowering hawthorn and other assorted foliage. 

It was probably about a week too early for it to be absolutely hooching and the air was still cool out of the direct sun. Species number was quite low but it was just lovely to be out again and finding bits and pieces. I've a few weevils and scirtiids to look through but I did find one new species quite early on. Another one of those 'can't believe I haven't seen it already' beetles. Curculio venosus. The slightly elongated scutellum being the key feature. The colour also stood out in the field.

There were plenty of the longhorn Grammoptera ruficornis on the hawthorn and I also managed to find a single Rhagium mordax.

Back home for lunch and a bit of sweeping and I had my second garden record of the staph Astenus lyonessius. A rather lovely looking beast.

So hopefully that's me back in the beetle saddle and I can get stuck into late spring. Fingers crossed.

The post title comes from Kae Tempest, who I coincidentally saw at the Cambridge Corn Exchange this week. A really stunning and emotional live performance and their new album is rather beautifully introspective and hopeful too. Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

My favourite way of getting kicks

Staying up in Argyll, Scotland and popped to Knapdale for a walk. This is the place that in 2009 saw the first Scottish beaver reintroduction. Individuals were brought in from Norway and whilst not yet a self sustaining population the beavers have expanded their range a wee bit and the evidence of their presence was hard to miss while doing a circuit of the loch where some of them live.

There were plenty of obvious knawings, from tiny saplings through to some fairly substantial trees.

In places their dams were keeping the surrounding pools about a metre and a half above the main loch water level. Pretty amazing when it's only done with sticks, twigs, leaves and mud.

The lodge we saw was a fairly substantial affair. A suitably crap and zoomed in phone image I'm afraid.

On the vegetative front the invasive alien (and alien it looked, more triffid than anything else) American skunk cabbage Lysichiton americanus was new for me and was seen at another site whilst visiting some ancient ruins.

Think I will have to pop back early doors for a chance to see the beavers but definitely worth a try. Just need to get my hands on one and give it a comb for Beaver Beetles.

Post title inspiration comes from the highly non-PC Pop Will Eat Itself song.....