Sunday, August 25, 2019

The green green grass of home

This year I decided to leave the grass in half of the garden to grow after its initial spring mow. There were a smattering of flowering plants such as Cowslip and Field Scabious which seemed to do well but mostly it's just been loads of long grass.

There have definitely been more butterflies and other insects around, and the plan is to try and add a few more plant species into the mix by some adding some seeds.

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks, I've been strimming the long grass, raking it up and adding it to the compost heap.

I've left piles of grass to dry for several days and have then been sieving some of these piles to look for beetles.


This bug was extremely striking as it moved around the tray at a fast rate of knots. A quick scan of images on the amazing British Bugs site nailed it as Graptopeltus lynceus. It's apparently associated with dry sparsely-vegetated habitats such as dunes, breckland, and old sand or chalk pits. It feeds mainly on viper's bugloss. My garden doesn't really fit this description. It's really more of wet habitat sat on heavy clay soil on the edge of the fens. However, it is dry at the moment and there are a couple of Viper's Bugloss plants in one bit. So maybe that's all it needs.  

At 2mm, Cartodere bifasciata is a small beetle found in decaying plant material. The elytra are yellowy-brown and are marked with a darker patterning of large dot like blotches. The elytra are also studded with rows of dimples. It's fairly distinctive when seen.

There are also plenty of staphs in the dried grass. Here's a trio of them. In the middle is Tachyporus hypnorum, one of the commonest British Beetles. On the right is Drusilla canaliculata and on the left Sepedophilus nigripennis.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Small and brown

I picked up a couple of other beetles yesterday whilst on the walk, both were small.......and brown.

The first was one of a mating pair of flea beetles and the wee fella's wee fella was literally hanging right out. On closer inspection the aedagus took up a considerable part of the abdominal cavity and really is quite something to behold. 

The beetle in question is Neocrepidodera transversa and at 4mm was fairly easy to key out. But as it was a flea beetle I knew immediately which family it was in and where to begin my search. The other beetle wasn't quite so easy.

I went all round the houses with this 2.8mm beetle. I eventually asked for a pointer on family and was told to look at the Coccinellidae. It's only a blooming ladybird. From there, it's easy. Coccidula rufa, the Red Marsh Ladybird and one of the inconspicuous ladybird species. This one likes wet habitats where it feeds on aphids. It's very widely distributed so perhaps surprising that I'd not come across one before.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Imperial Guard Beetle

After 3 full days at Bird Fair, I've had a couple of days off to recover. Yesterday was mostly spend just sitting around not doing much but today the kids and I got out for a few hours to stretch our legs. 

An explore down the banks of the River Cam plus a trip to Wicken kept all fully entertained. I even managed a beetle tick. Now in birder's parlance this was a 'tart's tick', i.e. one that everyone should have seen. 

The reasonably common Anthocomus rufus.

I first saw a single individual on some Purple Loosestrife before then finding them pretty much everywhere!

They are a beautiful beetle when seen up close, but at about 4.5mm you need to get them under a hand lens or microscope to appreciate them properly.

But for some reason all I can think of when I see them is an Imperial Guard from Star Wars

Weird, the tricks the brain plays!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Who's your favourite beetle?

John, Paul, George or the funny one on drums?

Well after a couple of weeks in the south of France I think I can say so far it's Rosalia alpina, the Alpine longhorn beetle.

It all began when I had suggested to my 8 year old at the beginning of this particular walk that the beech and turkey oak forest that we were in might hold a particularly cool beetle. An hour late and I heard the words, "Dad what's that longhorn beetle?" as something flew in and crash landed on my arm.

What a beetle. 

It crawled around me for a bit before I put it on the ground (see crap video below)

I managed a few other longhorns during the trip too. Most just ended up flying into me whilst I was relaxing with a glass of wine. Wish beetling was that easy in the UK!

The weird Spondylis buprestoides which I initially couldn't even get to family

A road casualty Cerambyx species. Not sure which

Ergates faber
Chlorophorus glabromaculatus 

A female Monochamus galloprovincialis