Sundew Festival 2018

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 13 July 2018 14:56

Yesterday was an epic day! I did visit 4 of the Iping and Stedham invertebrate survey. I picked up some 50 species in the first 30 minutes and this included some great charismatic species such as Woodland Grasshopper, Bee-wolf, Heather Shieldbug, Alydus calcaratus, Phytocoris insignis, Thomisus onistus, Vespula rufa, Mottled Grasshopper, Araneus sturmi (the 208th spider recorded there), Xysticus kochi (the 209th spider recorded there), Pilophorus clavatus (the first West Sussex record since 1997, my first and the first on an SWT reserve), Hydroporus melanarius (new to me and all SWT reserves) etc etc...and that was just on Stedham.

However, when we returned to a different area of Stedham later in the day with our Conservation Committee, I got rather excited when we stood in a purpose-made scrape looking for Marsh Club-moss. A tiny plume was barely visible in the vegetation. Having seen Sundew Plume before at Graffham Common last year, I know how easy it is to lose sight of one. So when I yelled "NOBODY MOVE" I was pleased to see that everyone ignored me and pounced on the moth! I managed to miss it with my net, only to find I had caught it all along and there were actually two individuals present! So all the Sundew Plumes recorded in Sussex in the last 20 years have been recorded on SWT reserves in areas that are actively managed! This shows how important early-successional habitat management is. This species couldn't survive without this long term. Grazing alone just wouldn't be enough to keep the M16 and sundews going.

I mentioned the Heather Shieldbug above. This is a real oddity. I have swept and swept and swept Heather at Iping and Stedham over the last ten years and I have never seen it before there (it was last recorded there in 2015 but not by me). Going through my database I have only two records for this species. Once sieved from Sphagnum at Burton Pond and the other sieved from a pile of birch brash in mid winter at Selwyns Wood in 2015. So this is the first I have swept one from Heather. However, even that isn't strictly true. The bug was clearly dead, it seems I swept it from a spider's web no doubt suspended between two Heather stems. I wonder why this bug is so hard to find? Could it be nocturnal? Any ideas?

I had a moth new to Iping, myself and the reserve network too, the sooty-black pyralid Matilella fusca.  Mike Edwards suggested I try looking on flowering Dodder for weevils and just by tapping one clump I dislodged a Thomisus onistus and a Smicronyx jungermanniae (my fourth new species for the day but know to the site). Whatever next?! Man, I love Sussex.

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