Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take a look and tell what me what you find

I took a quick break from the beetle backlog today and had a quick look at a couple of flies  that I'd recently picked up. The first was from Panshanger Park in Herts and was a nice fat Tachinid. I got to a tentative ID relative quickly through a process of picture matching and squinting at online keys. With flies there's a whole load of new terminology to get your head round and at my advanced age learning new technical names is always going to be a struggle!

Anyway, I was quite confident that this was Linnaemya vulpina. And the recording scheme organiser, Chris Raper agreed. The densely hairy eyes, protruding mouth edge, pale basicosta and orange femur are diagnostic. Result.

The second fly was picked up today and was a new robberfly for me and given my previous record on keying these I was up for it. This proved less easy. 

My first issue was that the arista at the end of the antennae had broken off, leading me initially down the wrong bit of a couplet. I soon realised my mistake and headed down the correct bit, but I soon got confused by the amount of orange on the femora. I think it is Machimus atricapillus aka the Kite-tailed Robberfly, but have stuck it on the appropriate Facebook group for confirmation or otherwise.

The blog title inspiration takes me back to my late teens. Happy times.😁

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Look into my eyes..

...Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don't look around my eyes, look into my eyes, you're under...

If you are a male Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca you need this impressive set of peepers to see those pin points of luminescence produced by the females as they climb a grass stem in their attempt to lure in the fellas for a bit of 'how's yer father'.

This male and several others came to the even larger source of light known as a mercury vapour bulb. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Looking for family looking for tribe

It's been a busy week on the natural history front. A trip out on Tuesday and then several nights of moth trapping in the warm evenings. Most of these were at home but Thursday found me at Chippenham Fen again. I've got a backlog of beetles that need a closer examination, but I have managed to knock another couple of beetle families off the list.

First up was the Colydiidae or Cylindrical bark beetles in common parlance. My first taste of this family came in the form of Aulonium trisulcus. According to some sources it specialises at predating elm bark beetles, but the smart money is actually on them being saprophagous or a scavenger attracted to conditions created by elm bark beetle damage. Adults are also apparently most often recorded at MV, as this one was.

The second new family was Hydraenidae aka the Moss beetles. The one that turned in my trap on Wednesday had the look of a Helophorus species, the colour and shape were similar but the pronotum was all wrong with none of the longitudinal furrows. I think this one is Ochthebius minimus but always happy to be corrected. It's a common species associated with a variety of fresh water habitats. 

I'll need to work through the remaining specimens this week. There are quite a few dark Badister species so it will be interesting to see if I find more collaris.

The post's title inspiration comes from the band that I've seen live more than any other. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

An unexpected puzzle

Looking at the beetles from Panshanger, there was one that I had assumed would turn out to be a Mycetophagus. It was beaten from Oak and at 6.5mm looked like one of the hairy fungus beetles.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Driving South

I took the day off today and decided to venture a little farther afield. I got in the car and drove for an hour south(ish) and visited Panshanger Park, in between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City. Owned by the Cowper family from the late 17th century to the early 20th century, the Panshanger Estate was shaped around the Mimram Valley following input from Humphry Repton and 'Capability' Brown. Since the 1980s, the park has been owned by Tarmac and parts have been quarried for sand and gravel. It's a brilliant mix of grazed pasture, parkland, woodland and lakes and river. I'd seen some of the great beetles being found there by others on the Beetles Facebook page so thought I'd go have a look.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Old pirates, yes, they rob I

A family walk at the weekend in some quite nice meadows allowed me a bit of sweeping action. In fact, giving the kids the net and letting them have a go kept them quiet for a fair old while and they turned up several grasshoppers and bush crickets as well as a plethora of hemiptera.

But it was the robberflies that again caught my eye as they perched on stems of grass and made their sorties out for prey. First up was this large blue-black indivdual.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

I will act as a semaphore

So my pond is starting to accumulate life. It's amazing how quickly things will find and gravitate towards a fairly uninspiring bit of water. I've started the process of muddying and planting the outer edges and have got a variety of native species in already: Marsh Marigold, Yellow Flag Iris, Water Mint, Water Plantain, Gypsywort, and Purple Loosestrife.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Golden Times

I went out yesterday evening to stretch my legs and have a look for insects. I stuck my sweep net and a few pots in the car and headed on a 10 minute drive to an adjacent village and a Local Nature Reserve known as Wort's Meadow.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A matter of light and death

It's been a rather nice weekend. Have done lots of jobs round the house and garden, have cooked some nice food and even managed a few beetles. Pretty much a perfect combination 😁

The overnight temperatures were running at about 14-15 degrees so I decided to pop on the MV trap on Friday and the Actinic on Saturday. Moth numbers were reasonable and included a rather fresh Eyed Hawkmoth which is not annual in the garden, but it was the beetles which stole the show. An increasingly common occurrence.

It's funny that I now sit and go through the trap first thing and my favourite bit is looking through all the detritus at the bottom for the tiny beetles that just might be there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

We are hiding in the bushes from dead men

When we moved into our current house we inherited a few apple trees at the bottom of the garden. They provide a steady crop of apples each autumn, most of which get turned into juice and a surprisingly pleasant cider. A couple of them were already elderly a decade ago and last winter the most decrepit one finally died.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

I follow rivers

Over the last week I've managed to fit in a couple of evening walks along the River Cam. It's been quiet with very few people around and also rather relaxing after a day of home working, home school and general family shenanigans. 

Like most places, the further you get from a car park, the fewer people that can be bothered to make the effort. It was just a bit of a recce as there are a couple of rare beetle species that used to occur in this area and I that I guess might still do so. No sign of either this evening but I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for exactly, so probably need to do some more research...

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Two new flea beetles

I managed a brief walk this afternoon with my younger son at a site in south-east Cambridge. We didn't get long before the much needed rain began but I did managed to do a little bit of tapping vegetation over my white umbrella to see what beetles I could find.

I targeted clumps of plant that I couldn't for the life of me identify. When I was about 10 or 11 I was really into plants and spent lots of time IDing and drawing them. I used to go on trips with the local wildlife trust to see various interesting habitats and their plant assemblages. Unfortunately birds and moths quickly took over and my plant knowledge gradually faded and I've been trying (mainly unsuccessfully) to resurrect it over recent years. I was pretty sure it was in the borage family but didn't get beyond that.