The Sycophant

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 12 March 2013 11:08

I would literally trade in family members to see this beetle. Sadly, the Sycophant Calosoma sycophanta is only ever a very rare vagrant to the UK so I am not likely to see one any day soon. So why am I featuring this at all...

...last Saturday I attended the carabid workshop at Dinton Pastures ran by Mark Telfer and John Walters. It was a great day, it's hugely important NOT to be an entomologist in isolation and having the opportunity to work through a correctly identified reference collection is worth its weight in gold. It's so great to see specimens of beetles that you have only ever seen in photographs. You really can't get the scale and the jizz from just a photograph. Mark and John are great at explaining things and the guides they are working on are really ground breaking. I particularly like Mark's English names for beetles. They are really well thought out but memorable and imaginative too. Naming species like this is a great responsibility, not just for entomologists as a memory aid but I think it's also part of our national heritage. Look at the English names for macro moths. Did they know when they named them that they were leaving behind one of the most fun things in natural history? I don't know if they did but natural history would be a poorer place without them and I feel Mark is doing something similar with carabids. I hope they are well used!

After an inspiring talk by John (including a section on Philorhizus species, making me realise just how significant a dip it was when I missed the tiny carabid Mab's Lantern Philorhizus quadrisignatus that Dave Gibbs found whilst torching oak trunks last year at Parham). I then spent the rest of the day keying out several families which I rarely encounter representatives of beyond the extremely common ones: Dyschirius, Anisodactylus (I will remember how to identify the Heath Shortspur Anisodactylus nemorivagus BASED on its name!) and Amara. I have been to both the carabid and the staphylinid workshops at Dinton Pastures. They are free although they often get fully booked and you don't need to be a member of BENHS to attend.

I am now getting the beetle bug back and I can't believe I am planning on starting invertebrate surveys in a couple of weeks time, as I am now sat at home writing this on a snow day as Woods Mill is closed and the server is down. Now, I think I will work on my presentation to kick off my 'Introduction to Beetles' course...

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