Friday, March 29, 2019

The Emperor's new clothes

So when I got home yesterday I found that a small package from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies had arrived. Some replacement pheromone lures. This time I'd also added a Emperor moth lure to the order.

I've seen Emperor Moths a few times over the years but never well and never at rest. Not expecting much I put the lure in a piece of muslin and hung it from an old fennel stem.

I went to make a cuppa and then sat down on the garden bench. Literally, within 5 minutes I saw a flyby of what first appeared to be a butterfly but quickly realised it wasn't. It buzzed round my head and I netted and potted the beast before popping it in the fridge to cool it down.

As it warmed it showed its full glory. It really is a stunning looking moth. The only UK representative of the silk moth family. This male was obviously freshly emerged as it was in absolutely perfect condition.

I still can't quite believe that this occurs in my slightly boring Cambridgeshire garden!!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A sylvan graveyard and a slightly frustrating day out

I had to use up a day's leave before the end of the month so I decided to pop up to Suffolk to check out a few sites. The day didn't quite go according to plan and my intention to properly kick off the beetling season failed to materialise. I just really struggled to find any at all.

First up was the RSPB's Lakenheath Fen. I've been coming here for nearly 20 years and it's certainly changed in that time.

As I neared the first viewpoint I could hear the bugling of cranes. A short time later a pair rose up and circled, still calling before moving off, presumably to feed elsewhere. A bittern also decided to fly past.

The poplar plantations are gradually disappearing and there were a large number of trees down since my last visit. It was rather eerie first thing in the morning and was like some tree cemetery.

I had a poke round the carpark looking for beetles but turned up nothing. SO ended up trying to identify plants!

The first I believe is Common Storksbill but have no idea on the second!! (EDIT: apparently Spring Beauty Claytonia perfoliata)

I then went and had a pootle about some field margins on the edge of Lakenheath village. Despite lots of grubbing around I drew a blank on beetles but did see what appear to be wild Grape Hyacinth plants.

After lunch I popped into Cavenham Heath. It was getting positively balmy by this point and Green Tiger Beetles were out in abundance, flying up from my feet.

Looking down I caught a sudden movement and noticed a largish spider standing at the lip of a burrow. Out she came and I managed a quick snap. Once home I checked my spider book and reckoned it was from the genus Alopecosa. Posting on the UK Spiders facebook group got me an ID of A. barbipes. Apparently the form of the cardiac mark is distinctive (the pattern at the front of the abdomen).

So, not the day I was expecting, but nice nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Beetling away in the reeds

After my bit of water beetling at Wicken Fen I reverted to a more familiar method of finding beetles. Sieving. In this case, sieving piles of reed cuttings that are produced from the management of the fen.
This piles of rotting vegetation are an amazing beetling resource, especially through the winter months as the temperature is usually a few degrees above ambient and they also offer a safe refuge from fluctuating water levels.

First up was this Agonum species. It has a hairy 3rd antennal segment which puts it in the subgenus Europhilus.

Not easy to see but it has a grove on the upper side of the tarsi

not too sure on wing length though. But appears to be the dark form (var. puellum) of A. thoreyi. A rather common beetle of damp leaf litter on water margins.

Also found this Bembidion in the same reed pile. It keyed relatively easily to B. clarkii which was new for me. In the last of the three pictures you can just about make out the difference between the heavily microsculptured head and much smoother and shinier pronotum. Tiny too at only 3.7mm. 

And finally one of the Anthicidae - the ant-like flower beetles. The rather lovely Anthicus antherinus.
There is a key by Telnov to UK species here. Another species, Microhoria terminata was recently added to the UK fauna from a single record in Shropshire, Mike Hackston's key now includes this species.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A towering sh*t fight

A quick walk yesterday lunchtime to inspect some bare ground, I came across some mammal droppings one of which appeared to be moving of its own accord.

Closer inspection revealed an Onthophagus similis trying to deal with the piece in question whilst also having to compete with three Euorodalus (Aphodius) coenosus who were also intent in having their way with it.

Happy days.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A plethora of coleopterists

Last Sunday, I attended the inaugural East of England Coleopterists Meeting at Wicken Fen, brilliantly conceived and organised by Bill Mansfield. Some of the UK's best known coleopterists were there, all those names that you see as authors of the standard keys and papers. It was a chance to chat to other beetlers.

There were a number of really interesting talks in the morning
Stuart Warrington – Beetles and Wicken Fen
Dan Asaw – trapping in vane!
Phoebe Miles – Back from the Brink; the Wormwood Moonshiner (Amara fusca) a rare Brecklands beetle.
Mark Telfer – The discovery of Bracteon argenteolum on quicksand in the Brecks
Mark Gurney - Weevils of the National Trust

Mark Telfer giving useful advice on how not to die while beetling!
 ......and then the afternoon was given over to beetling. I plumped for some water beetling as pretty much the only ones I've seen are those that have turned up in my moth trap. We stuck to some of the especially created dragonfly ponds and managed to find a few of the more common species. Most of which were new to me.

Berosus affinis

Acilius sulcatus 

Haliplus sp.

Hyphydrus ovatus
I suspect I need to get myself a net now and try and add aquatic beetling to the ever growing list of techniques for finding them.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Getting ahead of myself

Last September, I had a day out with some fellow beetlers at a Cambridge Fen site. We did a mixture of direct searching, either by sieving or poking around in relatively fresh cow dung. Given the dry summer we had had there was very little damp ground left but we still managed a good haul of species, many of which were new to me.

Basically lots of staphs. Species like this Lathrobium elongatum. This was a dark individual that lacked the reddish elytra, but as it was a male, a dissection clinched it as the aedeagus is diagnostic. This species likes damper places from fens through to the wetter bits of woodland and is very similar to the more regularly encountered L. brunnipes.

There were plenty of Stenus species too. Easily identified by the big eyes there are 74 spp on the UK list. This one has short tarsi, raised margins to the abdomen and a very bi-lobed 4th tarsal segment which tells you it's in the subgenus Metastenus. This narrows it down to 13 species. The body shape, but particularly the entirely yellow legs IDs this as Stenus flavipes - and the tackle confirms it. A very common species and one of the most frequently encountered Stenus species at least in my neck of the woods.

Another staph, this time a Lesteva species. It keys to sicula but I'm not entirely sure so one to get checked at some point.

I was finishing IDing the last couple of beetles this weekend just gone. I came across this one that looked like an Oxytelus and I assumed O. laqueatus which is one of the common staphs in dung. This one had been taken in cow dung. But the eyes were massive and take up almost the entire side of the head. Went to the key and it came out as a female O. piceus. But this is supposed to be a really rare beetle. Common a couple of hundred years ago but one of the dung fauna that has taken a hit in modern times.

I got very excited and thought I'd turned up an amazing record. But no. Not quite.

Long story, short. If I'd bothered to check the compiled checklist from that day that everyone had put together, I'd have seen that three O. piceus had been found in dung by other people. 

Still a rare beetle, but possibly not quite as rare as previously thought.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The horned ones

The work moth trap turned up 7 species of moth last night including a couple of Yellow Horned. Only the second time I've seen these I think.

There was also this female Minotaur Beetle sitting patiently underneath the egg boxes.

Wandered round the work building security lights on Wednesday and found a number of species including these Engrailed, Oak Beauty and Twin-spot Quaker.