Secrets of the Heath exposed

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 9 September 2019 13:42

I helped out yesterday for the second year in a row at the Secrets of the Heath event at Petersfield Heath. It was really great seeing so many kids getting into entomology and it was particularly nice to tell them when they had found a scarce invertebrate. The idea that you can do either public engagement or rigorous and complicated recording and not both is simply not true. I filled four pages in my notebook and recorded seven species with conservation status and used scientific names all day long. Not one kid questioned the use of scientific names, taking it all in their stride. The enthusiasm was incredible and we didn't stop from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm! 

First up though is a lifer for me. Above is the nationally rare Rhopalus rufus. I am pretty sure I picked one up last year but was not as convinced by this one and Tristan gave it the thumbs up too. This next photo was from last year but they were also present this year, the closely related Rhopalus maculatus.

These two were both caught by children with sweep nets. A real smart looking beast and one of my favourite bugs, the nationally scarce Alydus calcaratus. This one kept still enough for some photos.

And Sibianor aurocinctus is now turning up on nearly every site I survey in the south east. This is an adult male taken down the microscope, the one caught yesterday was a sub adult male.

And in the suction sampler, a completely green Cassida prasina. Also nationally scarce. Also recorded in the suction sampler was the tiny Nb ladybird Scymnus schmidti.

There is masses of Sheep's Sorrel there that wasn't present last year, something I have seen on a few sites this year. We think that it's likely due to Wavy Hair-grass being burnt off in last year's heat wave. I have looked at a few large patches of this and ran the suction sampler over it looking for Spathocera dalmanii and after quite a lot of effort, I found it in a tiny patch of the food plant right behind the Trust's stall. Another nationally scarce species that seems to be on rise. For a day's recording in September, considering the primary focus was public engagement, 63 species wasn't bad. Coupled with seven species with cons status, that comes out at 11.1% which suggests a pretty good site indeed!

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