Thursday, 28 May 2015

The First First

I have been hoping that I may eventually score a new county record in Batch Valley, and last night I had confirmation that I had succeeded. Whilst I would have liked this be some stunning beetle or bug, or a new macro species in the moth trap, it was always more likely to come from one of the less recorded taxa, and so it was.

We are blessed in Shropshire with having a number of entomologists who are not only highly capable, but also happy to receive photographs and help to identify difficult species. Among their number is Pete Boardman, who whilst I have only met once had been full of support and ready to respond to entomological questions, particularly when it comes to craneflies.

When I returned from Pembrokeshire on 10 May, I noticed a cranefly on the side of the house. It looked different, so I took a couple of photographs with a view to sending them to Pete. Yesterday I finally got around to going through my recent pictures and sent them off to him. The reply came back very quickly.

"That's Triogma trisulcata - one of the Cylindrotomidae (long bodied craneflies) and it is NEW TO SHROPSHIRE :-) Fantastic stuff, it's a species I had hoped would turn up. If you look on the NBN Gateway you'll see it isn't a particularly common species in the Midlands"

Triogma trisulcata

Triogma trisulcata

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Rough Road

Over the last couple of days I have been searching the bottom of the Rough Road, a bridleway that leads from Batch Valley up to Castle Hill. This has been very productive, particularly for large numbers of Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum and Dock Bug Coreus marginatus. I have also recorded my first Volucella bombylans, a hoverfly which is a bumblebee mimic, though it did not pose for a picture.

I did manage to get some pictures of some new species for the 1km square. One of the first things I potted from the sweep net was this plant bug Liocoris tripustulatus, otherwsie known as the Common Nettle Bug.

Common Nettle Bug Liocoris tripustulatus

Another bug that I have found in this are is this rhopalid bug Rhopalus subrufus, a common bug of grassy and wooded areas. There are several very similar species, though the whitish tip to the scutellum is amongst the characters that help to identify this.

Rhopalus subrufus

On a similar theme, a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis was another nice find. Another common species, but the first I have recorded locally.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis

I was very pleased to find a new micromoth, Micropterix aruncella, which is a small but beautiful species. This is an unusual moth as it one of a few that actually feed on the pollen of various plants.

Micropterix aruncella

Returning home today, I found this tortoise beetle on the side of the house. This is a challenging group to identify, but the wedge shaped mark and dark area on the edge of the wing cases identify this as Cassida vibex.

Cassida vibex

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sniper vs Robber

Bank holiday Monday was livened up late on by the discovery of a couple of interesting Diptera in the garden. The first was on the outside wall of the kitchen, I was fortunately coming back from doing some sweep netting on Novers Hills so my net was on hand to quickly catch it.

A quick look in the pot revealed a wonderful looking fly, large with a distinctive posture on long stilit-like legs, a colourful orange body and distinctive wing pattern. It did not take too long to narrow it down to one of the Rhagionidae - Snipe flies. The distincytive posture, body colour and wing markings help to identify this as a Downlooker Snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus. This is a wonderful fly, with mouthparts designed for piercing the smaller insects that it predates.

Downlooker Snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus

Downlooker Snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus

Later on this evening I found another fly sitting motionless on the Marsh Marigold in our new pond. I was very excited, I knew immediately that it was one of the Robberflys, the Asilidae. This is a family that I have been really wanting to see, basically because they are just fabulous insects. The fly sat motionless for several minutes, allowing me to get some pictures. Having had a good look and comparing my pictures to ID resources, I was able to confidently identify this as a Stripe-legged Robberfly Dioctria baumhauri.

Stripe-legged Robberfly Dioctria baumhauri

Sunday, 24 May 2015


I had a walk up Novers Hill this afternoon, and decided to sweep the Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). This was quite productive with three species of bugs found.

In good numbers were Ditropis pteridis, a bracken specilaist. Perhaps not the most attractive bug, this planthopper appear to be a common species on the abundant bracken.

Ditropis pteridis

There was also a species of lacebug, a group of bugs that i am not familiar with. This proved to be Tachycixius pilosus, a species usually found in long grass.

Tachycixius pilosus

I also found large numbers of this bug, which I have not been able to identify. More work I think, and I will update the blog when I get an answer.

unidentified bug

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Flying high

A good session with the MV Robinson trap provided my second highest haul of the year, with 119 moths of 34 species. As with becoming regular with this trap, I am recording new species at a fierce rate.

The crowd-pleasers last night were two of these Waved Umber Menophra abruptaria. Despite its curious appearance, this is a common species and one I have been expecting to get in some numbers, particularly as one of the food plants for the larvae is Garden Privet Ligustrum ovalifolium.

Waved Umber Menophora abruptaria

I get quite a few species in the garden that are associated with moorland (though the Long Mynd itself is not moorland by definition, it is an extensive upland heath). A new species for me, and one again associated with this habitat, was this Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina.

Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina

And so into the micromoths, and there were three particularly nice species. First up is Aspilapteryx tringipennella, which rests hugh on its front legs in a similar manner to the Caloptilla.

Aspilapteryx tringipennella

Next is Epiblema scutulana, which is one of the Tortricidae and uses thistles as food plants for the larvae.

Epiblema scutulana

I will finish off however with one of my favourite macromoths. I love the fine detail of the patterning and the 'shouldery' shape of the May Highflyer Hydriomena impluviata. The two thin black streaks just below the pale band towars the edge of the forewing are the key distinction for identification for the July Highflyer (the month in which you see the moth makes little difference!). This moth needs Alder Alnus glutinosa as a food plant for the larvae, which spin the leaves together in the autumn.

May Highflyer Hydriomena impluviata

Friday, 22 May 2015


I have recently been enjoying watching this Yarrow Aphids Macrosiphoniella millefolii being tended to by ants on achillea in the garden. Whether my enthusiasm continues will depend on the effect they have on one of my favourite plants.

Yarrow Aphids Macrosiphoniella millefolii

Monday, 18 May 2015

Shropshire Invertebrate Group May 2015

The Shropshire Invertebrate Group spent a slighty chilly spring day yesterday on Bettisfield Moss. As a new member of the group, and someone with a burgeoning interest in entomology, it was like being a kid in a sweet shop. I spent several hours in county experts looking at a variety of (mainly) insects. I saw a hug number of new species, far too many to mention here. These are some of the highlights.

The Black-headed Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa coccinea was a nice find. I am familiar wth the Red-headed congeners, but this was a new species for me.

Pyrochroa coccinea

One of our two large violet ground beetle species, this Carabus problematicus was a nice find. The shape of the pronotum and the combination of ridges and dimples on the elytra help to identify it.

Carabus problematicus

Clouded Border is a moth that manages to completely avoid my trap, and as such I have only seen it a couple of times. It was therefore nice to find it in the daytime.

Clouded Border

Birch Leaf-roller Weevils Deporaus betulae where plentiful. Sweep netting any birch came up with several indivudals, and we found evidence of where the females were dutting and rolling leaves. The swollen rear femur of the male is a distinctive character.

Deporaus betulae

A new moth for me was Pleurota bicostella. WIth just the book I would have struggled to identify it, but having the county moth recorder present helped!

Pleurota bicostella

This Micropterix aureatella was an easier identification. We found several of these, and I like this picture of one resting on my hand lens.

Micropterix aureatella

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A cut above

I was very pleased to record a Glaucous Shears Papestra biren in the trap this morning, This is a moth that has been recorded by the National Trust in Cardingmill Valley, so I was hoping that one may eventually find its way to my mothtrap. This is a moth of the uplands, listing heather (Caluna) as a larval foodplant.

Glaucous Shears Papestra biren

There was also an early Lychnis Hadena bicruris, which I would not normally expect to see until June. This is a moth I have only recorded once before, so a fresh example had to be photographed.

Lychnis Hadena bicruris

The old favourite, Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa, also made its first appearance in adult form. This is an odd moth for me in that I have recorded many more just out and about in the garden, particularly attracted to the porch light, than in the moth trap itself.

Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa

Also out a little early was a Shoulder-striped Wainscot Leucania comma. I find the wainscots a very tricky group, but the combination of white line, dark shoulder markings and dark markings near the wingtip help with the identification.

Shoulder-striped Wainscot Leucania comma

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Tiger, Tiger

This mornings moth trap yielded the second garden record of Grey Birch Aethalura punctulata. Like the one a couple of years ago, this moth was settled on the wall of the house. This is a reasonably common species, and it's foodplant  - Alder Alnus glutinosa - grows along the stream in Batch Valley.

Grey Birch Alnus glutinosa

I also recorded the first Buff-tip Phalera bucephala of 2015. This is a real crowd-pleaser of a moth, with it's resemblance to a birch twig. This is quite an early record, perhaps it will be a good year for this species.

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala

The real highlight of the day came at lunchtime, when I found this caterpillar on the Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare. This is the larva of a Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula, a species which appears to be spreading quickly in Shropshire. I will certainly be on the lookout for the adults in a few weeks time.

Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula

Monday, 11 May 2015


On our drive back inland from Skomer, we stopped to investigate the Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum that seem to line all of the roads in this part of Pembrokeshire. Theye were alive with insects on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I spent some time photographing and identifying all the insects I could find.

Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum

There were St Mark's Fly Bibio marci everywhere. There name obviously comes from their emergence around the 25 April, and two weeks later there were plenty in evidence.
St Mark's Fly Bibio marci

We also picked up a Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana, a distinctive jet black fly with orangey-gold bases to the wings and feet.

Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana

I also spotted this lovely hoverfly and managed to get a picture. This is Leucozona lucorum, a new species for me, with a distinctive pattern to the abdomen and wings, looking like someone has drawn on it with a black marker pen.

Leucozona lucorum

Delving into the base of the vegetation we found a few frisky Bloody-nosed Beetle Timarcha tenebricosa. This species produces a red substance from its face when it is challenged, giving it the rather interesting name.

Bloody-nosed Beetle Timarcha tenebricosa

Finally there were many Yellow Dung Flies Scathophaga stercoraria, a very common species but quite a good looking one. This is a carnivorous fly, catching smaller insects. it lays its eggs in cowpats, hence the name.

Yellow Dung Fly Scathophaga stercoraria


This bug was crawling up the wall at the back of the house this afternoon. It is Megalonotus dilatatus, a species of groundbug (Lygaeidae).

Megalonotus dilatatus

This is a bruiser of a bug, a bug chunky heavyweight species, which is found in grassland and heathland habitats, though is not particularly common.

Megalonotus dilatatus

Also in the garden today was the soldier beetle Podabrus alpinus.

Podabrus alpinus

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Images of Skomer

A selection of images from a beautiful birthday on Skomer Island.

Wall Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris

Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta


Sea Campion Silene uniflora

Unknown beetle

Unknown plant

Razorbills and Guillemots

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A time to dance

A curious dipterid today in my Batch Valley garden. This is my first of the Empididae dance flies this year, and a wonderful insect it is.

Empis tessellata is a common fly found in gardens, hedgerows and woodlands. It is quite a large fly, with the bronze-tinged wings and black thighs helping to identify it from others in the genus. This is a predator which strikes fear into smaller insects - the long, pointed proboscis piercing their bodies. Males collect small insects and offer these to the female as part of a macabre approach to courtship. The males will not be allowed to mate by the female unless she recieves her 'romantic' gift.

Empis tessellata

These flies will also visit flowers for nectar, particularly umbellifers. On release this one decided to refuel on one of the Vibernum tinus. Diptera fans can find more information on this wonderful insect here.

Empis tessellata