Sunday, January 27, 2019

An unsuccessful look for a crucifix

The latest issue of the Coleopterist has a paper about some recent records of the rather stunning ground beetle Panagaeus cruxmajor (otherwise known as the crucifix ground beetle) from along a stretch of the river Trent on the Lincs/Notts border. Lincolnshire coleopterist, Charlie Barnes was kind enough to suggest a couple of places to look and so last weekend I made a stop whilst driving from East Yorkshire back home to Cambridge.

I stopped at High Marnham and walked a little way north and then south for about an hour, checking under flood debris and bits of rubbish and looking in rotting logs and other bits of wood.

After about 90 mins the light was starting to go and I hadn't managed to find my quarry, so I made my way back to the car and carried on down the always lovely A1.

The trip wasn't a waste, however. I did manage to find two species of hemipteran and one beetle that were new for me.

Drymus sylvaticus

Liocoris tripustulatus

Oxypselaphus obscurus

I also found Agonum fuliginosum, Anchomenus dorsalis, Agonum thoreyi and Platynus assimilis


I will have to return again for another look next winter or even better find my own along the river Cam.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A restorative walk

I've had a bit of a shitty and stressful couple of weeks all in all and I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by life. However, this week work took me to the Lake District for a day and I was lucky enough to get a couple of hours walk in exploring Swindale.

The RSPB is working here to restore the river back to its natural meandering ways after it was previously artificial straightened.  This work should slow water coming off the hills somewhat and help contribute to the prevention of downstream flooding. Nature is also benefiting.

After a few miles up and down the valley the world seemed to right itself somewhat. It's amazing to me how being outside, exercising and watching nature is a cure-all for the modern day blues. An important thing for us all to remember sometimes.

I wish I knew something about mosses and lichens as the trees and rocks were hooching with them.

There was this big impressive brown and orange thing on a rotting tree stump. I'm not even quite sure what it is!

 Ferns a plenty too but as to which one.......

Anyway, with ravens cronking in the distance and the light doing some magical things on the hills, I felt restored and rejuvenated, much like the river.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Bath time tick

You never quite know when something new will turn up....

Today began with a check of the actinic moth trap. It had been warm last night and hadn't gone below 7 or 8 degrees.

The only reward however was a lone Silver Y cowering under the penultimate egg box that I checked.

It was then Sunday ablution time, a shave of the head and a trim of the beard. That all done I stepped into the shower to be confronted by a small hemipteran slowly crawling up the cubicle wall. Exit bathroom in search of a pot before resuming the morning ritual.

A short time later with some help from the True Bugs Facebook group and I've turned up another new bug for the list - Brachycarenus tigrinus.

This species was first recorded from London in 2003 and seems to be slowly spreading north and west, although God knows what it was doing in my shower. I'm also not entirely sure where this species originates from either.....

Update: Apparently this is the first record for Cambridgeshire!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Click bait

So far on my journey into beetles, there's a certain family of beetles that I've not really clicked with - the elaterids. (see what I did there?).

They look like they should be easy and they're all relatively big but there isn't really a good up to date key for UK click beetles and I find bits of what there are, really subjective. I often seem to end up going round and round in circles, exploring every divergence of the key. And more often than not just banging my head on the desk.

BUT I am slowly getting there and trying to give them a go.

So here's one that I found whilst out minding my own business on a bit of Bedfordshire heathland in May 2017. This particular individual actually flew in to me.

So the beetle is 8.5mm long and black with browner hairs on the pronotum and elytra. Using Mike Hackston's key the first thing to look for is whether the pronotum and prosternum are separated by a ridge.

The answer is no they're not. This takes us to the subfamily Cardiophorinae and the best bit here is there are only 5 species. Result!!

The rest of the key involves looking at the claws (long and slim) and the colour (all black), the puncturing on the pronotum (regular, fine and dense) and legs (black).

This combination gets us to Cardiophorus asellus. Job done, but.....

I decide to look at records online at NBN and find this

All records are either coastal or in the Brecks. Bugger, I must have made of mistake.

Luckily after putting a query on Facebook, Mark Telfer told me that none of the data from the elaterid recording scheme has been added to NBN and that C. asellus IS on the Bedfordshire list.

So I went and checked the RSPB's list for the Lodge reserve (where this was found) and discovered four previous records for the species. Phew!

Maybe clicks aren't as bad as I thought...

Some extra bits on click beetles.  An atlas (not the most recent).  Mark Telfer's updated version of Joy's key

Monday, January 7, 2019

Not sweating the small stuff

I picked up these two beetles off an Autumn bracket fungus on a lunch time walk. Both are pretty small at around 2mm each.

The first is pretty distinctive when seen well. A very thin, pointy neck and bulging elytra point to Autalia, one of the easier of the nightmarish aleocharine staphs. There are four species in this genus and they invariably turn up in dung, decaying material and on fungi.

Of the four species only 2 are multi-colored like this - impressa and longicornis. The differences are subtle and best gauged against reference material. So this will have to go down as Autalia sp. until I can compare with others. 

There's a useful overview of the genus here.

This size of beetle is also at the limits of my dissection skills, which may go someway in explaining why I failed to find any genitalia when I took a look inside!

The other beetle from the same fungus is another staph and is equally small. I think this is in the genus Proteinus and if so is possibly ovalis but I'm not sure. So for now will have to join the others in my box of beetles labelled as 'No f***ing idea."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Got the bug

A quick jaunt outside at lunch today with an upside down white photography umbrella and a stick for beating trees and bushes.

I hit a few oaks to see what there was and 100s of this bug ended up crawling around the umbrella.

I took a couple home but struggled to ID what was obviously a very common species. The wonders of social media - this time the British Terrestrial True Bugs Facebook page - proved once again to be most helpful. This is Kleidocerys resedae aka the Birch Catkin Bug and a new species for me.

I also found a Pine Ladybird which I'm sure I've recorded before but somehow isn't on my list! It is now...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Hung like a country vicar

So my first new beetle of the year is in fact one that I found in August 2017 at Holme Dunes in Norfolk. It's been sat in my fridge since then waiting for me to get round to dissecting it.

I ran it through the keys in Duff's Beetles of Britain and Ireland volume one at the time and it came out as Choleva fagiezi. However, having never seen a Choleva before I wasn't 100% convinced that I'd got it right. The main differences are in a bit of the hind leg called the trochanter.

Luckily the specimen was a male, so I dissected out the aedagus and compared it against the illustrations in Duff and lo and behold got a match with fagniezi.

But look at the image below. The most striking thing is the size of its 'equipment' in relation to its body size. This beetle must be more than half genitals!!

I've no idea what the reason for this massive appendage is but it sure is impressive.

I can't find much out about this genus except that they appear to be associated with mammal nests and presumably feed on the associated decaying material. Although this individual was found on coastal sand dunes.

There don't appear to be too many records for Choleva fagniezi and apparently there are only seven modern records for Norfolk.

So not a bad record to start 2019's beetling.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

First new species of 2019 and it's.....

...not a beetle!

I managed a quick 20 minutes beating ivy and mistletoe in the garden today. 7 spot Ladybird and Dromius agilis plus lots of diptera ended up in the tray. Also several of these bugs.

I don't have any literature on these and after failing to picture match on the British Bugs website I put my usual call out on twitter to Tristan Bantock who suggested the Minute Pirate bug Cardiastethus fasciiventris. And at 2.2mm it's pretty minute!

This species has a mainly English distribution but also seems to occur in eastern Wales.

Can't find too much else about it online apart from that it's saproxylic i.e. depends on dead and decaying wood. Plenty of that in my garden!!

Anyway, off to a start albeit a slow one.

Happy New Year.

I'll leave you with this from one of my favourite albums of 2018.