Thursday, April 24, 2014

A trip to Malling Down...

Malling Down lies close to the East Sussex town of Lewes and is an outstanding area for wildlife and especially invertebrates.
Given the right weather conditions that is-on the day I chose to visit, I had stupidly relied on the BBC weather forecast for the area, only to find that in place of the expected 'sunshine and up to 18 deg.' what I actually experienced was, cloud and mist and wind and spots of rain. 
Undeterred, I still very much enjoyed the day and even managed a few interesting photographs/subjects...

Once you climb the steep slopes there are spectacular views of the Sussex countryside to take in...

I probably spent around an hour wandering about the hillsides before so much as a sniff of an insect of any kind. I then spotted in the distance, what turned out to be my only sighting of a butterfly for the day-all I can tell you is that I think it was brown, but I'm not even sure of that, it was so far away.

It must have been 11am before things seemed to warm up enough to encourage a few hardy inverts to appear. This tiny ladybird was one of the first. I think this is a 10-spot ladybird (Adalia 10-punctata) judging by its small size (around 3.5mm) and the 5 spots on the pronotum.
The leg colour, which is tricky to see here was brown and that also fits for 10-spot.

Leucozona lucorum

At the bottom of one of the paths leading skywards, was a nettle patch and this proved to be a good hunting ground for hoverflies. I think this first one is Volucella species but which one? Maybe V.pellucens? Then again, it also looks similar to V. bombylans var. plumata? Not sure. (Edit: Actually Leucozona lucorum; see commentsI soon after discovered one of my favourite hovers. This one is what I recently saw described as the Pinocchio hoverfly! It certainly is quite a distinctive fly and one that I don't see all that often. Rhingia campestris to give it the correct title.

Helophilus pendulus was the next sighting I had. This one also seems to have acquired a nickname-the footballer hoverfly was how I recall reading it was described as on a fellow blogger's site.

Rhingia campestris
I think there is just about enough of a dark line at the base of the abdomen on this R.campestris hoverfly to be sure that it's not the other one R.rostrata.

Helophilus pendulus

My first green weevil of the year came next-a nettle weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus)

I know there are several similar weevils that this could be but have gone for P. pomaceus based on the antennae position and the shape of the front femora.

The same nettle patch also seemed to be a favourite spot for small tortoiseshell butterflies to lay their eggs, I found lots and lots of nettle covered in larvae and their 'tents' in the same area...

In some long grass, beside a footpath, I found a couple of very interesting looking cocoons. I thought initially that this looked like the work of a spider?

It was I suppose about 25mm across and soft to the touch. It looked very similar to me in size, texture and shape to the eggs sacks you see nursery web spiders carrying around at this time of year.

Well, I was still puzzling over exactly what it could be when my question was answered in part but what I discovered a few metres away lying on the ground.

It was in fact a second cocoon of the same kind, this one however was damaged (I assume) and had split open, revealing the inhabitants...

But now there seemed to me to be even more questions to be answered? Are these larvae/grubs the work of a moth perhaps, or could it be that they shouldn't be there at all and are the result of a parasitic wasp? 

Pomatias elegans
Although conditions didn't really suit me and made hunting for insects a little harder than I would have liked, it was perfect for slugs and snails, of which there were hundreds; most were the kind you would expect to see but this one in the photograph grabbed my attention as it seemed to be a tad different.

This is another interesting find for me because it seems to fit well to the description of a round-mouthed snail (Pomatias elegans) but there isn't too much in the way of information that I have been able to find about this species, save to say that it seems very scarce in the U.K. If I am right with the identity, it is a snail that only lives where there are high densities of calcium carbonate, such as on limestone or chalk.

One last photo of the stunning Sussex countryside...

Until the next time then...


  1. Looks an interesting reserve JJ! Not one I'm familiar with.
    Shame that the weather wasn't too good, but at least you did find some nice Inverts.
    Like the 'rounded corner' photos of the views. Very effective!

    Your first hoverfly I think is actually Leucozona lucorum, a beauty! Saw my first of the year yesterday too!

    Not sure about the larvae in the cocoon. They don't look Lepidoptera-ish.... more Hymenoptera-ish as you say.

    Just love that snail! Never seen one of those before. Peculiar and brilliant too!

    Best wishes


    1. Yes, it's a good spot and huge, I only saw a very small area of the total reserve..thanks for the heads up on that hover-have altered it already!

      The snail is odd but wonderful, I agree...

  2. Interesting cocoon and snail. I liked that weevil too - colour matching exactly with the leaf, may not be easy to notice. I am encouraged to pick up camera and search for some weevil here too :-)

  3. Thank-you, yes you should do that, I'm sure you'd find some interesting ones where you are...

  4. Hi jj, just found your blog, I was trying to find the name of a caterpillar I've just found. Have just spent the evening looking through your blog, you have some amazing photos. And you have seen some beautiful and interesting insects.
    Signed up for post reminders and put you on my blog list, I have many blogs to do with nature in the UK but my main one is. the quiet walker
    Look forward to seeing what you see next ,

  5. Thank-you Amanda..I will take a look at your blog


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