Orange is the new black

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 10 January 2019 14:45

Ground bugs are great, they are practically beetles. And this smart looking black one with a big orange blob on has been on my 'list of cool looking things I want to see' for some time. Behold, Aphanus rolandri! Now I took the above photo in the Brecks last year, the only time I have seen it. Meanwhile, Mike Edwards was doing a survey for us at West Dean Woods and picked it up there new to West Sussex within a few days of my record! Now what's interesting about this is how different the sites are, given that there are so few records in Sussex. There is a very old record from Seaford in 1949 and two from Brighton between 2006 and 2011 and that is it. It's a big and distinctive bug, I would expect it to come to me to verify via iRecord if it was more widespread but that hasn't happened.

Now the ones I saw in the Brecks were in a huge, hot, dry and old clearing on an abandoned airfield. The immediate vicinity was calcareous-like grassland due to the substrate put down for the runway. As this has been there since WW2, there is a great continuity to this glade. A mass of Wood Small-reed  (quite uncommon down in Sussex compared to East Anglia) was growing next to the old runway, mainly unmanaged and it was collapsing in on itself forming a very hot and dry litter layer. There were hundreds of nymphs and adults running around in this having a whale of a time.

You can read about it here on the British Bugs site.

At West Dean Woods, Mike told me they were plentiful and clearly well established there. Below is the site it was found on. A very recent and quite small clearing in fairly humid woodland. Even the recently cleared coppice coupes nearby are more like the Breckland site than this is but they lack any continuity of bare ground that even a very small glade like this can offer. It's fascinating, as these sites are so different, it makes you think why is it so scarce down here? Or are we actually just seeing the start of a colonisation event from a species that's actually not that fussy and just does well in warm sites? The impression I get is that it is genuinely scarce and whatever these two sites have in common is the answer but there doesn't seem to be much in common!

2 Response to "Orange is the new black"

Mark G. Telfer Says:

"Aphanus rolnadri" - you should change that to Aphanus rolandri

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks Mark! I do wonder if I am mildly dyslexic sometimes. I always read through my posts but miss loads of typos.

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