Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Unlucky 13? (Count 'em)

A Rove Beetle (Staphylinidae)

According to the UK Beetle Recording website, there are 1130 species of Rove Beetle (Staphylinidae) here in the British Isles. In fact, the family contains more than one quarter of all British beetle species.

How many of those have I found? Well let's just say that somebody suffering from Amelia could still count them. And I don't mean the captain of the Millenium Falcon , Hands Solo!

Another of my 'Staphy' finds

In case you don't know, and to save you rushing off (and possibly not returning) to look up Amelia. It is a birth defect causing one or more missing limbs. Anyhow, to return to the plot; I guess I must have actually discovered a dozen or so Rove Beetle species over the years and thought I knew the species at least well enough to be able to recognise anything belonging to this family. 

After all, I may not have found too many, but there is a definite similarity to all of them that I (wrongly) assumed would allow me to identify any, at least to species level. However, to quote Scottish singer-songwriter James Aaeron Diamond "I should have known better". Just when you think you have nature sussed, it throws you a curve ball.

Before I get to the 'Full Monty' and reveal all though; here are a couple more of my Staphylinidae finds that illustrate what I mean about the similarities...

The striking Rove Beetle: Paederus littoralis
There are a number of Staphylinidae subfamilies, of which Micropeplinae is one. Within Micropeplinae, there is just one Genus: Micropeplus. Micropeplus contains just five species ( are you following this? I shall be asking questions later). 

What has all this got to do with the price of bread? Use your loaf! We have arrived at the Full Monty; the hats are off  and all will be revealed, so...hang on to your hats...Oh! too late. You see that kinda shark fin shape my red arrow points towards: well in the end it all came down to that being one cool way of identifying my latest Rove Beetle find.

Which by the way, I still have not shared with you, so I had better put that to rights immediately huh? 

Micropeplus staphylinoides

Yes, it was one of those five species that I came across under a fallen branch in local woodland. But as you can see, it is so very different to anything that I have found previously from this family. I was flummoxed I don't mind admitting. The closest I could get was possibly Colydiidae which seemed to fit habitat-wise and had a similar appearance I thought.

Wrong! I was going to need some help with this and so contacted beetle expert Mark Telfer. Mark has his own  website @ http://www.markgtelfer.co.uk/ 
and is a very knowledgeable and helpful guy, who has identified beetles for me before. 

Here's his reply:

I well remember your discovery of Diachromus germanus. Which I did mention in the Status Review of Carabidae. 
These two beetles are rove-beetles (Staphylinidae) of the wonderful and distinctive subfamily Micropeplinae. The species is Micropeplus staphylinoides, with a characteristic shark’s-fin  near the rear of the abdomen. This is not an uncommon species but takes some spotting.

Fantastic! What I love about Mark's approach is that he provides just enough information, without getting into the minutia, which frankly, I would probably struggle to comprehend anyway, being the amateur that I am.

For instance, this is a description from another website:

The middle ridge of the abdomen towards the base of
the second to last tergite (fourth visible tergite
) projects
as a pointed tooth, almost reaching the hind margin of
the segment. Vertex with two
indistinct furrows in the middle and with a rounded
swelling each side. Elytra distinctly narrower than the

Micropeplus staphylinoides it is then. Another newbie for me and the local woods. 

I did find another beetle on one of my walks. This one was on a concrete post and I spotted it whilst photographing a wolf spider. Possibly Panagaeus species (Carabidae) but wouldn't want to go further than that.

The family Carabidae, commonly called ground beetles, is made up of just over 350 species in Britain and Ireland. It is quite varied, with some beautifully marked beetles: Asaphidion curtum being a real favourite of mine..

Asaphidion curtum-A Ground Beetle (Carabidae)

All of the beetles pictured above are previous finds of ground beetles. 

Apion weevil

I seem to be stuck in beetle mode here and so may as well add a couple more finds. There was this Apion, or Seed weevil. And then one day there were lots and lots of these Pea-leaf weevils that you can see in the next photograph. I suspect the Pea weevil is Sitonia species, and probably Sitonia lineatus. They are one of the earliest weevils I find each year and have even found during winter.

Sitonia lineatus?

Oh! This is the Wolf spider that I was photographing when I spotted that first Ground beetle. This spider is Pardosa species. The Lycosidae, or Wolf spiders, are primarily ground-inhabiting and will also forage on low-growing vegetation. All Lycosids are hunters, so they do not trap their prey in a web. They are not easy to photograph because can run very fast.

What about the creature in these photographs (above) then? Again, this is something I have not seen before; unless, they are Thysanoptera (Thrips). I did once find a whole family of both adults and juveniles, and as far as I can remember, which isn't far at all...these look similar. I could check my files I suppose. But, chances are that the original photos were lost when my USB spare drive went down with 30000 photographs on it!

I think that is probably long enough for one update: almost 2 metres already. 

I shall beat a hasty retreat with this  photo of a magnificent looking Collembola...

Neanura muscorum - A Springtail (Collembola)

And remember: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

Wonderin' who sayeth that now? It was this fella...


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Wide eyed and legless...

This was how we saw out January here in darkest Kent...

With daytime temperatures like this...

But the weather in this part of the world has been exceptional for a while now, and on yet another fine February day that evoked Robert Browning poetry, I ventured out with the macro lens to see what I could find...

Dunno, but here's another one...

Actually I do know. At least, I have some idea. These are Bagworm moth larvae of the Psychidae family.

The  larvae of  Psychidae construct cases out of silk and environmental materials such as sand, soil, lichen, or plant materials. These cases are attached to rocks, trees or fences while resting or during their pupa stage, but are otherwise mobile.

A bagworm begins to build its case as soon as it hatches. Once the case is built, only adult males ever leave the case, never to return, when they take flight to find a mate.

In the larval stage, bagworms extend their head and thorax from their mobile case to devour the leaves of host plants.

And yes...there is a caterpillar inside of those strange constructions; here's another, larger one that I found...

Just to prove that it was moving around; I tried to get a little video, but this was at about x3 mag using the MP-E 65mm macro lens and natural light. Holding it steady and getting the camera to focus was not easy. In fact, almost impossible.

Warning: This video may not appear in emailed versions of my blog...

(Apologies for the 'up next' notification at end of video. The option to remove this has been removed by YouTube recently.)


Shall we have another from the...

Okily, dokily!

Issus coleoptratus is a species of planthopper belonging to the family Issidae.

This is an early/mid instar, which means it has a lot of growing to do yet. The adult hopper will have a totally different appearance...

Adult Issus coleoptratus hopper

My mantra on these bug walks is 'One good find', I always tell myself that if I have one good find, I can regard it as a successful day. And this next photograph demonstrates just that: my one good find. Although to be fair, I was rather pleased with all of my finds, anyhow, here it is...

This one is Leptolossus occidentalis, a Western Conifer Seed Bug. A large, impressive squashbug. In fact so large that I struggled to fit it all in the viewfinder. It is not a native bug and was first detected in the UK in 2007. I think they must be well established here in Kent now. This is the third location I have found them at.

The long legs with twin claws

In for a penny, in for a pound!
More weirdos...

I think this is an inebriated Soldier Fly larva. If not intoxicated, definitely legless. 

And this final weirdo has me foxed: I have no clue as to what it is...

Possibly another fly larva but i'm not even convinced that is correct.

I will take my leave of you with this walking hard hat...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Smells like goat to me?

And have I got some intrigue to share in this update! Have I? Yes, I sure have. You will find that this latest update will be so intriguing that it'll be kicking open the door to your mind with a size nine Doctor Martin boot, rushing in, grabbing your cerebrum with both hands and giving it a good squeeze. 

Not too sensationalist was it? Good. Let's blog then because I can't wait to see what I have to say and share. 

I doubt this photo below will mean much to you, but it does to me...

This is the part that had broken inside of my extreme macro lens, preventing me from using it. However, I finally got around to getting it replaced and now have my lens back. Why am I telling you this? Because it happened to coincide with an upturn in the weather. That combination meant I could once again get out with the camera and do some serious bug hunting. 

And the photograph you can see above this line of text was the very first find I had. So what is it? Intriguing, that's what it is! Looks a bit like a caterpillar right? I actually thought I had found an identity for it; it looked like the larva of a Larder Beetle (Dermestes lardarius). Or perhaps D.ater. 

But...I am not convinced at all. The hairs or setae, seem too short for starters. Then I cannot even decide if the small, up-curved tail hooks called Urogomphi are present....

 I may have to settle for Dermestidae species for now. 

Next up was slightly more scary. I disturbed a hibernating hornet...

It was pretty docile though, being half asleep. I grabbed this shot and returned it to its slumber.

The honey bees were out in force, feeding on the snowdrops that in turn seemed to be enjoying the sunshine. So good to see this early in the year...

This will raise a smile; in fact, so confident am I that you will giggle, I will, to paraphrase Rambling Syd Rumpo...'hang myself by the postern, and nail my moulie to the fence' should I be wrong.  I was out walking when I suddenly felt that my left foot was really uncomfortable inside my walking boot. As I was almost back at the car, I decided to put up with it and take a look upon reaching my vehicle. When I did, I found something rather surprising...        

This is what I  discovered slotted down one side of my boot: it is a memento from a music festival and measures about three inches across! It must have somehow fallen into my boot  from the hall shelf. What is even more amazing is that I wore the very same boots yesterday and didn't even notice it.  Oh well, as the old saying goes: No fence, no ceiling. (Not quite a Spoonerism) you know, like ' A well-boiled icicle' (A well oiled bicycle).

Moving on...

What do you think these two photos depict? Intrigue! That's what they depict. These are Barkflies and there seem to be several generations present? One adult, winged insect and maybe three stages of nymph. 

Straightforward enough you might think; as I did at first. But no, what's puzzling is that the adult is in fact dead. Yet the youngsters were climbing all over it and showed no intent to move away. I have fired off an email to the National Barkfly Recording Scheme, to ask if this is normal behaviour. I will update you should I get an answer.

Edit: The adult insect is actually a Phsyllid and so no relation between species.

Intrigued enough, or would you like to be further intrigued?

Here comes my pièce de résistance then. Yes a real tour de force of intrigue....

Absolutely true. Knock me down with a feather, cover me in apricot jam and call me Susan if this is not a fact. Okay, perhaps I should just clarify, before I get too carried away; it is a fact, if my research has led me to the correct identity.

In defence of my ID skills, I would like the jury to consider the following evidence: Although I could not find an image that exactly matched, albeit I did find similar, but darker examples; all of the other evidence leads me to believe that this is in fact a Goat Moth larva (Cossus cossus).

The adult moth is most frequently found in damp, deciduous woodland (tick). The caterpillars feed amazingly inside the trunks of many deciduous trees, such as willow, oak and ash (tick). Mine was in a rotting oak. They are one of, if not the largest British caterpillar (tick). As you can see this one is already quite a size. They can become quite pale having spent a long time inside a tree (tick).

These must be unique in that, because of the long digestion period required for this food matter, the larvae often live inside the wood for up to five years before pupating.

And the smell of goat? I have to be honest and say that I didn't notice it at all. But....this is the same guy who walked for miles with a brass plate in his boot without noticing. Added to which, I am not sure I even know what a goat smells like.

Got intrigue fatigue yet? Hopefully not..more follows...

This looks very much like another moth larva to me. But this time, the image seems quite a good match, but conversely the habit doesn't. It appeared to be a reasonable match for Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) and yet, I can find no mention of this species overwintering under bark, which is how I found this one.

This is what Butterfly Conservation say about it: When the larvae are small they feed on flowers and seeds and when older they feed on roots and stem bases from within a chamber among grass roots where they will overwinter.

Sometimes you don't have to look far at all for bugs...

When I felt something tickling my lower arm/wrist, it turned out to be this Birch Catkin Bug.

The only other larva I found in the past few days was this rather scary looking Cardinal Beetle larva...

You wouldn't want that biting yer bum would you now!

Well I think that is more than enough intrigue for one update don't you. I will say goodbye for now with a couple of pictures of a Woodlouse that I took in the garden. They demonstrate nicely why I was so pleased to get my extreme macro lens back....

The top photo is as close as I could get with my standard macro lens, and the lower shows what the extreme macro lens is capable of.

Postscript: I was just wondering how it was decided that the so called 'Goat Moth' caterpillar actually smelled like goat. Who decided? You can imagine the conversation can't you...

"Erm, Frank...I have a little job for you". Frank says, "Sure, anything to help. What is it?"
"Smell this for me and tell me what it reminds you of - don't worry, it's only a caterpillar!" Frank sniffs an almighty sniff: "Hmmm...I'm getting... hedgehog, erm... no wait, now I'm getting... cow flatulence on a summer's evening in Provence."  
"Any hint of goat Frank?"