I'm gonna do 24 hours at the Woods Mill biolblitz!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 23 August 2018 13:29

On the 31st August, Sussex Wildlife Trust will be conducting a 'bioblitz' at Woods Mill as part of the 50 year anniversary there. A bioblitz that starts in summer and ends in autumn (if you measure the seasons meteorologically like any reasonable person).When I heard that the event will be starting on the Friday evening and going on for pretty much 24 hours, I thought, maybe it will be worth giving this a go. And by that I mean actually doing a full 24 hours like Dave and I did last June.

So it's on! Lois, James and the team will be running the event but being sensible people, will be going to bed at some point. I am gonna start at 3.00 pm with a derived list from the reserves species master list on waterproof paper. I'm gonna plough on until 3.00 pm the next day. Then sleep. There are some differences though when it comes to doing this in June . One rather big one is that I'm not gonna have Dave Green (unfortunately he's not around that weekend) catching & identifying stuff and will also have to scribe and count myself. Eeeek! The other is 10 hours of darkness. And most of this will happen in September. However, here is what IS in my favour.
  • No travelling. It's all on one site.
  • A classroom with Internet, power and somewhere to put my books and microscope/s.
  • A site I have recorded intimately for years so I know where a lot of stuff is. All those lunch time walks will come in handy.
  • Lots of people on hand to help.
The master list for all reserves currently stands at 10,129 species for all 32 sites. Woods Mill is our fourth most well-recorded reserve at 2361 species (surpassed only by Rye Harbour, Ebernoe Common and Iping & Stedham Common). The mean year of the last record for Woods Mill is 2008 (compared to an average of 2006 for all reserves). The mode of the last record for Woods Mill is 2016. So we are highly likely to change these statistics. I predict a good few new records for the site and maybe the odd one new to the reserve network.

So what is realistically achievable? I have no idea. I really don't. I would expect to get a 100 species in the first 30 minutes and 200 within an hour, soon after this I think it's gonna plateau, I just don't know! Here are the challenges that I am gonna set for us:

  1. To collectively record a 1000 species at Woods Mill in the whole bioblitz, including identifications made after the 24 hour period. That would be over 40% of everything ever recorded in the last 50 years.
  2. To personally get to at least 600 species on the site within the 24 hour period. That would be over 25% of everything ever recorded there in the last 50 years.
Here is the link to the event on the Trust website. I am gonna have to rethink whether this is worth doing to this intensity if the weather is really wet though. So, if you would like to come and lend some support or add your sweep net to the mix, then come on down! You're gonna have to find me though, as I am gonna be very mobile. I'd really appreciate help with the odd social media update and relaying results back to the HQ. I'm probably gonna collect a lot of specimens in the first afternoon to go through in the 10 hours of darkness. Dew isn't likely to burn off until 10.00 am on this site, so there is gonna be 10 hours of trudging around in the damp on 1st September if I don't plan this wisely! At least I can use this time to do birds by ear though.

I'm not going to be fund-raising this time, it's purely for the joy of celebrating the wildlife at Woods Mill that I've enjoyed so much over the last 10 years and to produce a whole load of records for the site.

Anyway, it's only a week tomorrow so I better get packing, ordering and charging!

PS I HATE the word 'bioblitz'. Wish we had something better but this seems to have stuck.

Fussy Eaters: Part 2

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 19 August 2018 21:50

If you missed what all this is about, it started with this post a few days ago. I will recap where we are at in the story...

Many moons ago all the shieldbugs and squash bugs were eating any old thing and squabbling over who ate what. The oldest and wisest of all the bugs, Doc Squash, called a meeting and all the bugs mustered around the big table in the juice bar.

"This incessant fighting over what to eat must stop!" exclaimed Doc. "I propose we divide up the plants evenly between the bugs so that everyone can have their fair share. Now, I have decided to specialise in Rrrrrrumex. A delightfully abundant plant which means my offspring will never grow hungry. I might even have the odd bit of Rrrrrrhubarb for afters. Now some of you might want to generalise or pick a habitat to focus on. Or you might wish to specialise, like me, on a particularly common family or plant. So, with all that in mind, starting with you Dom the Downs Shieldbug, what do you think is a sensible thing for you to eat? Choose wisely mind"...

"I is like gonna eat this Bastard-toadflax juice ain't I?" announced Dom.
"Pardon me?" 
"I said BASTARD-toadflax bruv."
"Why on Earth would you chose that? You know it's really scarce don't you?" asked Doc Squash.
"Yeah but it's got a SICK name innit? It's got a curse word in it!".
"You know it only grows on chalk-grassland, you don't even like chalk-grassland do you Dom?" stated Squash.
"I don't even know what that is. Can you smoke it?".
"Oh dear, and you know it's really, really small? Why not pick one of the commoner plants, or families? Or something with some actual foliage?
"I like this stuff dude, I don't like anything else. Now I'm trying to do a selfie of me eating some Bastard-toadflax, do you mind?"
"Well, don't come running to me when you're sick of that stuff next week. Now, who's next? Spike, you've always been a pretty straight down the line guy, what are you going to specialise in?..."

You'll have to wait until next time for the next installment of Fussy Eaters...

First Blood

Posted by Graeme Lyons 12:00

I've had a very enjoyable couple of days freelancing in Surrey and Kent and quite a few lifers. But first I finally caught up with my first adult Rambur's Pied Shieldbugs. My first reaction was how much blacker they were, in fact it looked more like a black bug with white bits on than a pied one. These were in Kent. This bug has yet to reach Sussex but look for it on Black Horehound in the north east of East Sussex, it's only a matter of time!

Back in Surrey we saw quite a few Raglius alboacuminatus, also on Black Horehound and also not yet in Sussex. This is a striking ground bug that I found mainly with the suction sampler by sampling in litter beneath or near to the foodplant. 

Here are all the lifers from the last two days:

Raglius alboacuminatus
Cheilosia soror
Leopoldius strigatus
Tapinopa longidens
Creophilus maxillosus (at long last, what a beast!)
Scymnus femoralis
Stethorus punctillum (the UK's smallest ladybird at less than 1.5 mm!)

In fact, it was a great couple of days for ladybirds, the full list is here and includes the two lifers at the top. A total of 17 species not bad for two days. This is mostly down to using the suction sampler and picking up some of the smaller ones.

Scymnus frontalis
Stethorus punctillum
Platynapsis luteorubra
Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata
Propylea quattuordecimpunctata
Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata
Hippodamia variegata
Coccinella septempunctata
Harmonia axyridis
Harmoia quadripunctata
Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides/litura
Rhyzobius lophanthae
Scymnus suturalis
Scymnus interruptus
Nephus redtenbacheri
Nephus quadrimaculatus

And I bought some new art equipment so the next installment of "Fussy Eaters" is coming soon...

Weeping Conk

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 16 August 2018 17:25

I was out with Martin Allison at Ebernoe Common setting up some fungi monitoring there are a couple of days ago and we were enjoying the Oak Brackets Inonotus dryadeus. I love the amber droplets that extrude from the cap so I was trying to do some quick research to find out what they actually are. I drew a blank but did find out it has the colloquial name of Weeping Conk and I do love a good colloquial name.

On a tree that was full of Porcelain Fungus last year we walked right up to this huge bracket which is quite a goody. Martin microscopically identified this as Clustered Bracket Inonutus cuticularis. Hard to imagine they are in the same genus! There are only around 15 records in the SxBRC database and 10 of those are from either the Mens or Ebernoe Common. It's very hard to get a new fungus for Ebernoe Common!

And Ruby Bolete Hortiboletus rubellus was also a nice one to see.

Just a quick one today but I leave you with the remains of a Bird's-nest Orchid. Still good enough for a record quite late in the season.

Fussy eaters

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 14 August 2018 22:04

Yesterday I was mapping Bastard-toadflax at Southerham. I walked up to the first plant and there was the Bastard-toadflax (or Downs if you prefer) Shieldbug Canthophorus impressus. The next plant had these three TINY little Bastard-toadflax Shieldbug nymphs on. I then didn't see another individual all day. Now this little bug eats ONLY this restricted and nationally scarce plant that only grows in chalk-grassland. At Southerham it only grows in an area a few square metres in extent and within that, the bug has only ever been found on the steeper (and presumably hotter and more sheltered) area either side of the path. I have mapped the plant and the bug over the years but that's gonna take a while to generate. In the mean time, the following came to mind, so I am just gonna leave this here...

Many moons ago all the shieldbugs and squash bugs were eating any old thing and squabbling over who ate what. The oldest and wisest of all the bugs, Doc Squash, called a meeting and all the bugs mustered around the big table in the juice bar.

"This incessant fighting over what to eat must stop!" exclaimed Doc. "I propose we divide up the plants evenly between the bugs so that everyone can have their fair share. Now, I have decided to specialise in Rrrrrrumex. A delightfully abundant plant which means my offspring will never grow hungry. I might even have the odd bit of Rrrrrrhubarb for afters. Now some of you might want to generalise or pick a habitat to focus on. Or you might wish to specialise, like me, on a particularly common family or plant. So, with all that in mind, starting with you Dom the Downs Shieldbug, what do you think is a sensible thing for you to eat? Choose wisely mind"...

But I'm afraid you'll have to wait another day for part 2! It's been years since I've picked up a pencil, really enjoyed doing that!

Invertebrates of chalk-grassland

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 9 August 2018 11:20

On the 1st June, I ran a course at Levin Down called the Invertebrates of chalk-grassland. I promised to write up the species list so here it is, unfortunately a bit late but this has bee a crazy summer so I am sorry for the delay. I now realise important rainy days are after experiencing a summer without any, I actually started writing this at the end of June. Anyway, the course was about showing people what they can do in the field but also what the limitations are of doing so. Here, I also wanted to prove the point that habitat specialists are pretty uncommon by introducing some rather crude resource analysis.

We arrived at Levin to find it shrouded in low cloud. This did not bode well. However, we started the morning simply by active searching, waiting for the dew to burn off. Sweeping, beating and suction sampling did not begin until after lunch.

It ended up being a pretty awesome day. We recorded 120 species in the field. Turns out 23 (19.1%) of these were new to the site! Nine had conservation status (7.5%). I personally didn't get any ticks but the highlights for me were these two. At the top of this post is the suction-sampler special. The tiny little Southern Crablet Ozyptila nigrita. I have 11 records for this species and eight of them have been made using a suction sampler.

But the star of the show was seeing three of these, two males and a female. Xysticus bifasciatus. A rather smart spider. You can do this male by its genitalia on this photo, they are so large and distinctive (fnar fnar!) Not a chalk-grassland invertebrate at all though.

And the beetle Tritoma bipustulata. This is the only place I have ever seen this, it seems to be fairly easy on this site on rather dull bracket fungi on relatively small trees, scrub and stumps that have been cleared. Again, not a chalk-grassland invertebrate.

Here is the list with a few notes on its key resources and associations, the year of the last record and whether it has a conservation status or not (noted after the species name). Now, these are quick notes, I expect people will disagree on some of them, please don't comment on the detail as I won't have the time or energy to get drawn into another debate. As you can see, looking down the list, chalk-grassland specialists are actually few and far between and probably don't make up anymore than 10% of what we saw. Sorry this doesn't quite fit the page but it's a compromise of getting as much detail into a small a space as possible and the year of the last record is quite a useful thing to have here.

Order Species Last Resource/associations
Mite Ixodes ricinus 2016 Mammal parasite
Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum 2016 Detritivore
Woodlouse Oniscus asellus 2016 Detritivore
Woodlouse Trichoniscus pusillus agg. 2016 Detritivore
Woodlouse Porcellio scaber 2016 Detritivore
Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare New Detritovore
Beetle Agriotes sputator 2016 Grassland, roots
Beetle Agrypnus murinus 2017 Roots, light soils, often chalk
Beetle Athous haemorrhoidalis 2016 Generalist, roots
Beetle Ampedus elongantulus (Na) New Deadwood
Beetle Cantharis rustica 2016 Grassland predator
Beetle Carabus problematicus 2017 Generalist predator
Beetle Chrysolina polita 2017 Generalist herbivore
Beetle Cordylepherus viridis 2017 Grassland
Beetle Cryptocephalus aureolus 2017 Chalk-grassland, yellow composites
Beetle Orchid Beetle 2017 Chalk-grassland
Beetle Lesser Stag Beetle 2016 Deadwood
Beetle Epitrix atropae (NS) 2016 Deadly Nightshade
Beetle Harlequin Ladybird 2016 Generalist predator
Beetle Dasytes aeratus New Deadwood
Beetle Denticollis linearis New Deadwood
Beetle Isomira murina 2016 Woodland edge
Beetle Oedemera lurida 2016 Flowers
Beetle Oedemera nobilis 2016 Flowers
Beetle Onthophagus joannae 2016 Dung
Beetle Phyllobius roboretanus 2016 Grassland herbivore
Beetle Phyllopertha horticola New Grassland, roots
Beetle Pterostichus madidus 2017 Generalist predator
Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis 2017 Deadwood
Beetle Sinodendron cylindricum 2017 Deadwood
Beetle Stenocorus meridianus 2017 Deadwood
Beetle Stenurella melanura 2017 Deadwood
Beetle Tritoma bipustulata (Na) 2016 Deadwood
Butterfly Orange Tip 2018 Woodland edge
Butterfly Brown Argus 2016 Grassland
Butterfly Small Heath (NT, BAP) 2017 Grassland
Butterfly Small Blue (NT, BAP) 2017 Chalk-grassland, Kidney Vetch
Butterfly Dingy Skipper (VU, BAP) 2017 Grassland, legumes
Butterfly Common Blue 2017 Grassland, Bird's-foot Trefoil
Butterfly Grizzled Skipper 2017 Chalk-grassland, Rosaceae
Cockroach Ectobius lapponicus (NS) 1988 Detritovore
Dragonfly Broad-Bodied Chaser New Aquatic larva
Hymenopteran Andrena cineraria 2014 Flowers
Hymenopteran Andrena haemorrhoa New Flowers
Hymenopteran Bombus terrestris New Flowers
Hymenopteran Bombus pascuorum 2016 Flowers
Hymenopteran Formica fusca 2016 Generalist omnivore
Hymenopteran Robin's Pin-Cushion Gall 2017 Rose
Hymenopteran Yellow Meadow Ant 2016 Grassland omnivore
Hymenopteran Bombus hypnorum New Flowers
Hymenopteran Vespa crabro New Generalist predator
Moth Silver Y 2016 Migrant
Moth Yellow Shell 2016 Generalist herbivore
Moth Celypha lacunana 2004 Generalist herbivore
Moth Green Carpet 2010 Bedstraws
Moth Crambus lathoniellus 2016 Grassland herbivore
Moth Delplanqueia dilutella 2017 Chalk-grassland, Wild Thyme
Moth Helcystogramma rufescens 2017 Grassland herbivore
Moth Vine's Rustic New Generalist herbivore
Moth Treble Brown Spot New Genralist herbivore
Moth Nemophora degeerella New Wood-anemone
Moth Common Swift New Generalist herbivore
Moth Micropterix calthella New Flowers
Moth Dusky Sallow New Dry grassland, herbivore
Moth Pyrausta aurata 2016 Labiates
Moth Straw Dot 2006 Grassland herbivore
Moth White Ermine New Generalist hebrivore
Moth Speckled Yellow New Wood Sage
Orthopteran Field Grasshopper 2017 Dry grassland omnivore
Orthopteran Speckled Bush-cricket 2016 Woodland edge omnivore
Orthopteran Roesel's Bush-cricket 2016 Rank grassland omnivore
Orthopteran Common Green Grasshopper 2017 Grassland
Orthopteran Dark Bush-cricket 2016 Woodland edge
Scorpionfly Panorpa germanica 2016 Woodland & scrub predator
Bug Juniper Aphid 2016 Juniper
Bug Agramma laetum 2016 Dry grassland
Bug Calocoris roseomaculatus 2017 Chalk-grassland
Bug Capsus ater 2016 Grassland
Bug Juniper Shieldbug 2017 Juniper
Bug Sloe Shieldbug 2016 Generalist
Bug Leptopterna dolabrata 2017 Grassland
Bug Leptopterna ferrugata 2016 Dry grassland
Bug Stenodema laevigata 2017 Grassland
Bug Nabis rugosus New Predator
Bug Aphrophora alni 2016 Trees & scrub
Bug Cercopis vulnerata 2016 Tall herb
Bug Eupteryx notata 2016 Chalk-grassland
Fly Chloromyia formosa 2016 Generalist
Fly Leptarthrus brevirostris 2017 Chalk-grassland
Fly Myathropa florea 2016 Deadwood
Fly Eristalis pertinax New Generalist
Fly Rhagio tringarius 2017 Humid
Fly Rhingia campestris 2016 Dung/Wood-edge
Fly Tipula vernalis 2016 Generalist
Fly Volucella bombylans 2016 Aculeate hosts/Flowers
Millipede Cylindroiulus punctatus 2016 Deadwood
Mollusc Balea sarsii 2017 Trees & scrub
Mollusc Candidula intersecta 2016 Chalk-grassland
Mollusc Cochlodina laminata 2016 Woodland, chalky
Mollusc Cornu aspersum 2017 Generalist
Mollusc Deroceras reticulatum 1983 Generalist
Mollusc Pomatias elegans 2017 Woodland-edge on chalk
Mollusc Vallonia costata 2016 Dry short turf, often chalk
Mollusc Vertigo pygmaea 1993 Dry chalky soils also marshes
Mollusc Monacha cantiana 2016 Generalist
Spider Labyrinth Spider 2016 Generalist predator
Spider Harpactea hombergi 2016 Trees, litter, house etc predator
Spider Larinioides cornutus 2016 Grassland predator
Spider Mangora acalypha 2016 Grassland predator
Spider Metellina mengei 2016 Generlaist predator
Spider Ozyptila claveata (NS, BAP) 2016 Chalk-grassland
Spider Nursery-Web Spider 2016 Grassland predator
Spider Selimus vittatus 2016 Woodland edge predator
Spider Simitidion simile New Generalist predator
Spider Neottiura bimaculata 2017 Woodland & scrub predator
Spider Xysticus bifasciatus (NS) 2017 Scarce generalist predator
Spider Zora spinimana 2016 Grassland predator
Spider Pachygnatha degeeri 2016 Generalist predator
Springtail Pogonognathellus longicornis New Fungivore/detritovore
Springtail Orchesella cincta New Fungivore/detritovore

Clash of the Titans

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 7 August 2018 07:56

Yesterday I completed the 5th (out of 6) survey visits planned at Iping & Stedham Commons this year to monitor invertebrates. The highlights was stumbling upon a Hornet Robber-fly carrying a huge black mass. It struggled to fly more than a few metres at a time due to the weight of its food but eventually I got a look at the prey item. It was none other than Tachina grossa, our largest tachinid! This alone is a huge fly so this really was quite the sight! Go large or go home!

In the black corner, we have Tachina grossa. They spent their informative years living inside the body of an unsuspecting Fox Moth larvae devouring it from within (the most likely host at Iping). In the yellow corner, Hornet Robber-fly, who as a youth lived under a cow pat and devoured Minotaur Beetle larvae in their subterranean burrows (the most likely host at Iping). They had never met until today but now one has become the other's lunch. It's a fly eat fly world out there!

I had a couple of lifers, both were also new to the SWT reserve network. These were the ladybird Scymnus suturalis beaten off pine and the mirid Trigonotylus caelestialum. Neither particularly rare and I was surprised to see the latter was a first for West Sussex.

Just to clarify what I was talking about in my last post, "what exactly IS a heathland invertebrate?". The point of this post was to show my course attendees just how few species are often strictly tied to a single habitat. And that this description itself is therefore inherently subjective depending on how we define this. For example, you could say they are all heathland invertebrates as we found them all on a heathland. Not very helpful.

You could take the extreme approach and describe only those that are say Calluna/Erica obligates as being heathland specialists, also not very helpful as it restricts you to an extremely small number of species. Such as this Phytocorois insignis which feeds on heathers and is now the most westerly record in Sussex (we recorded it at Stedham last year).

But that doesn't take into account (for example) the species that are using structural types, or a particular colour of flower that is provided in that environment. Such as these two. Now they're not heather obligates. But they do have a strong tie to heathlands. Thomisus onustus occurs mainly in heather flowers waiting to ambush its prey but I have found it on Dodder and Common Cotton-sedge over the years where it can clearly survive without the heather. Is that enough reason to not consider it a heathland specialist? I don't think so. Likewise, Evarcha arcuata is common on heathlands in Sussex in both heathers and Molinia (which I see as just another component of heathland). In Sussex I know of only one record away from heathland of this species and that's from Butcherlands. So is that enough to not consider it a heathland specialist? I would also say no. It clearly has a strong association with dwarf ericaceous shrubs in a structural way but to ignore this just because very occasionally it doesn't is wrong in my opinion. 

Equally I would also consider many of the species that occur on bare sandy ground to be heathland invertebrates. They often outnumber the heather obligates hugely and are a vitally important part of the heathland. So my whole point of asking "what exactly IS a heathland invertebrate?" was to show how few heather obligates there were but to also show how this is a subjective question in the first place! What exactly is a heathland? Is it just the heather  or is it all the components together functioning as a whole? And also to give people an idea on how resource analysis works with invertebrates but when you only have space for ONE factor (you'd normally use several), you're bound to have disagreements.

Now that's cleared up I can go back to my specimens but not until I show you this weird larva which I believe is a Scalloped Hook-tip.

Oh and one last thing, if you want to see Thomisus onustus, it's having a really good year at Iping and sweeping Bell Heather would yield one within a few sweeps this year where usually you could work all day and see only one, IF you were lucky.

What exactly IS a heathland invertebrate?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 4 August 2018 09:13

Back on the 16th June (how can six weeks feel like a lifetime away?!) I ran a short half-day course for the RSPB at Wiggonholt Common, part of Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve. The remit of the course was to teach a whole load of RSPB staff about heathland invertebrates. This recently restored heathland coming out of pines is fairly under-recorded, so we were likely to get some good records for the site. I used the picture of the Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes just to attract your attention, although a nice 'bare ground' species, they are well known from the car park at Pulborough Brooks! Those hind legs are spectacular but I am sure I have seen them somewhere before...

By far the best thing we found was this Dalman's Leatherbug Spathocera dalmanii found by one of the attendees! It's actually my first Sussex example of this species (I have only recorded twice before, once in Hampshire and once in Dorset). It's also only the third Sussex record and the most easterly in the county! Well done.

What I really wanted to do was to show just how few heather specialists occur on a heath. In the table below, I have written a very quick one or two words about the most significant habitat requirements of that species. Now please note these are quick notes and someone is bound to object to the odd detail. So unless I have made a glaring mistake, please don't bother! It's a rough guide and this sort of analysis works by weight of numbers. For those that came on my chalk-grassland invertebrate course, I am working on a similar post but with twice the species, this is taking a little longer than I had hoped.

Taxon group Recommended Common Name Resource
Beetle Ampedus balteatus Deadwood
Beetle Anoplotrupes stercorosus Woodland, dung
Beetle Athous haemorrhoidalis Roots
Beetle Cryptocephalus fulvus Grassland
Beetle Cryptocephalus parvulus Birch
Beetle Dasytes aeratus Deadwood
Beetle Dune Chafer Roots, sandy soils
Beetle Green Tiger Beetle Bare ground
Beetle Heather Beetle Heather
Beetle Hemicrepidius hirtus Roots
Beetle Luperus longicornis Generalist
Beetle Malachite Beetle Deadwood
Beetle Nalassus laevioctostriatus Deadwood
Beetle Oedemera lurida Flowers
Beetle Small Heather Weevil Heather
Beetle Stenurella melanura Deadwood
Beetle Striped Ladybird Pines
Beetle Strophosoma melanogrammum Trees & bushes
Beetle Vine Weevil Roots
Beetle Welsh Chafer Roots
Bug Aphrophora alni Trees & bushes
Bug Evacanthus interruptus Generalist
Bug Rhyparochromus pini (Nb) Bare ground
Bug Spathocera dalmanii (NS) Acid grassland
Bug Ulopa reticulata Heather
Bug Zicrona caerulea Leaf beetle predator
Butterfly Green Hairstreak Gorse/broom
Butterfly Meadow Brown Grasses
Dragonfly Black-tailed Skimmer Aquatic larvae
Dragonfly Broad-bodied Chaser Aquatic larvae
Earwig Common Earwig Generalist omnivore
Fly Dasysyrphus venustus Woodland margins
Fly Dioctria atricapilla Grassland predator
Fly Helophilus pendulus Wetland
Fly Neoitamus cyanurus Woodland predator
Fly Scathophaga stercoraria Dung
Hymenopteran Ammophila sabulosa Bare ground
Hymenopteran Bombus pascuorum Flowers
Hymenopteran Cerceris rybyensis Bare ground
Hymenopteran Dasypoda hirtipes (Nb) Bare ground
Hymenopteran Formica fusca Generalist predator
Hymenopteran Honey Bee Flowers
Moth Beautiful Yellow Underwing Heather
Moth Brindled Beauty Trees & bushes
Moth Brown Silver-line Bracken
Moth Common Footman Lichens
Moth Endotricha flammealis Generalist
Moth Silver Y Migrant
Moth Vapourer Trees & bushes
Orthopteran Common Ground-hopper Generalist omnivore
Orthopteran Mottled Grasshopper Bare ground
Orthopteran Speckled Bush-cricket Generalist omnivore
Spider Araneus quadratus Generalist predator
Spider Arctosa leopardus Bare ground
Spider Cercidia prominens (NS) Scarce generalist
Spider Evarcha arcuata (NS) Heather
Spider Evarcha falcata Generalist predator
Spider Labyrinth Spider Generalist predator
Spider Mangora acalypha Grassland predator
Spider Marpissa muscosa Deadwood & fence posts
Spider Neottiura bimaculatum Trees & bushes
Spider Xerolycosa nemoralis (NS) Bare ground
Tick Ixodes ricinus Mammal parasite

Of the 63 species we recorded in around two hours, only five (7.9%) were thought to be directly associated with heathers. In total, six (9.5%) had conservation status which is pretty good. So generalists, bare ground species, woodland & scrub and deadwood species ALL outnumber those species that are tied to the heathers. Yet of these, it's only really the bare ground species that fall into what we would call a 'heathland invertebrate'. Not that the others are not welcome. Additionally if we count the acid grassland species and those on sandy soils, that's a total of 14 out of 63 species. So about 22.2% could perhaps be considered 'heathland invertebrates' but this is becoming more subjective as you group the species in this way.

This is a really interesting exercise in showing that a healthy heathland is not just about dense blocks of heather, far from it. A healthy heathland has a wide range of resources held in an intricate mosaic. This is not an easy thing to achieve, and requires careful management to hold these sites, often poised at the point of collapse, so that all of these resources can be present in some amounts all of the time.

The spider that thinks it's an ant...and a duck

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 1 August 2018 21:03

I had a rare thing last weekend. I had an afternoon off. So I thought I would I would switch off from natural history...kidding! So I thought I would head out to the Crumbles at Eastbourne and try and find Heath Shieldbug Legnotus picipes at its only known Sussex site. It was very windy but that's not a problem for the suction sampler. With John Burnham and Oliver Froom on their way, I stood in the car park looking at the Pampas Grass tussocks. The Crumbles is now a shadow of its former self, it was an incredible area of vegetated shingle but has been developed (and continues to be developed - a large chunk has gone since I was there last five years ago). It's a sad story that the value of vegetated shingle wasn't recognised at the time BUT it still has a lot to be found there. So with my feet on the tarmac, I rammed my suction sampler into the nearest Pampas Grass tussock. They reminded me of the kind of structure with hanging litter that Greater Tussock-sedge provides and I've had good results with those in the past. I walked right by them five years ago when I was last there though.

The first sample produced a lifer, the tiny ladybird Scymnus interruptus (above) and TWO immature Myrmarachne formicaria We went on to find maybe 50 Myrmarachne in all! Included one stonking adult male which we were very pleased to see! We initially thought we also had Synageles venator but they were just female Myrmarachne (they have surprisingly large palps). Being ant mimics, it's actually the females and immatures which make for a more convincing mimic than the adult male with those huge chelicerae, such as in this video. The mimicry comes from the way it moves, the unusually-shaped and patterned abdomen, the raised and darkened section on the cephalothorax but also from the way it holds and moves the angled front legs (which are also slightly darker and paler-tipped). I can't understand what the huge chelicerae of the adult male add to this!

In Sussex this most captivating of our jumping spiders is only known from here and Rye Harbour. They are really quite hard to find, so seeing around 50 was incredible! Here are some more shots. I can't help think it looks a bit like a duck (A sad little ant-duck-spider in the second shot).

But the fun didn't end there! I got a first for Sussex (and a lifer!) in the form of this beautiful ground bug, Beosus maritimus. That's the fourth new bug we have added to the Sussex list so far this year.

And Oli had ONE go on the suction sampler and came back with a lacewing that I thought was a spongefly at first but it turned out to be Psectra diptera. This is the second record for Sussex and the first for East Sussex. Other highlights includes Neides tipularius, Dasypoda hirtipes and Odiellus spinosus (which was a new one for me). We never did find Legnotus picipes. I wonder what else is there unrecorded?

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