At least the beetles were nice

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 5 January 2021 18:36

It's been a while. This is the longest period, over three months, that I have gone without writing a post since I started this blog back in 2010. The last three months have been difficult for several different reasons but it's time to get back in the saddle. I've stopped and started writing several times over the last few months but my confidence with it had gone. The sudden death of my father, Roger Lyons, has been hard to process and come to terms with. He might never have read this blog in the decade I've been writing it (he wasn't the computer type), but it's at least forever got his name on it. So here's to another ten years plastering his and my name over the Internet with wildlife sightings. Your name lives on here, Dad.

And what a year to go fully freelance? I was fully booked by January, lost half my work by March but then by late summer, was back to being fully booked up again. Many of the new jobs were really close to home too and included some really lovely projects. This year was probably about 4/5 entomology and about 1/5 botany and other taxa. It's been AMAZING for wildlife. I have very little time still, even over the winter but that's down to several months of being less than my usual productive self.

It was a particularly 'beetle heavy' year for me. As I approach 1500 species of beetle, I thought I would start with my first post hiatus post with the beetle highlights of 2020. In no particular order, other than my favourite one is first. I should add, this is just the big showy stuff that I have photos of!

First up was the stunningly smart Grammoptera ustulata from a Surrey Heath (above). It appears to be a new 10 km square for this national rarity and a significant range expansion to the south. Might it make it's way to Sussex soon? I hope so as it is far better looking in reality than I ever thought. Look how shiny it is!

In Hampshire, in a field I visited three times in 2019, I found dozens of Cassida murraea in the first sweep. In fact, I visited that field six times over the last two years and only on one occasion did I find this beetle, and then it was in super abundant numbers, being the commonest beetle in the field. Incredible! No status but a smart beast that is much commoner in the west than it is down here.

At the same site in Hampshire in April, I suction sampled Baris analis! Certainly started the field season with a bang. A vulnerable species, this being a significant new inland record for this species.

I saw Stenostola dubia (nationally scarce) twice in 2020, my first since my only other record in 2009. The first one was beaten from an old lime at Knepp where I thought to myself, "I wonder if this is how you get Stenostola". It flew off before I got a decent photo though. Then, at a farm in East Sussex during one of those days where loads of Cantharis rustica and fusca are just bombing it around all day long, something flew over head and caught my eye. It was high, so I had to sprint and jump for it. It was another Stenostola dubia! Here it is.

At sites in East Sussex and in Wiltshire, I recorded Triplax lacordairii. The latter was a new county record. 

On a farm in East Sussex, I stumbled across the first county record of Pseudeuparius sepicola! What a gorgeous weevil. I then beat two from a dead branch at Knepp, the first record for West Sussex in about 50 years.

At midnight at Knepp, Dave Green spotted this Opilo mollis. I have never seen one up close, my only other records were of a single elytron and a beetle 12 foot up a tree (also in the moddle of a night). Such an unusual beetle and so unlike any other. Not the scarcest but always nice when you see something well for the first time.

Not the cleanest specimen but this is the only time I have seen the Nb weevil, Tropiphorus elevatus. East Sussex and Kent being a stronghold for this species. The specimen was picked up early in the year and was found in an an area that had experienced significant winter flooding, hence it is covered in crud.

Also Knepp whilst helping a film crew find invertebrates, I picked up Sphinginus lobatus new to West Sussex. This certainly seems to be spreading.

Another lifer for me, just inside the M25 and less than an hour from where I live was the Bryony Ladybird Henosepilachna argus. It's amazing that this isn't all over Sussex, it's so close. It may well be about in the north of the county where I spend very little time.

Thanks to Steve Gale (and the original finder Tristan Bantock), I was able to go and have a look at the awesome Lixus iridis in Surrey! What a beauty!

And thanks to Steve Teale, I was able to go and have a look at our newest chafer down in Newhaven! The delightful Rhizotrogus aestivus!

I suction sampled two Rhyssemus germanus from a site in West Sussex and I think this is also a county first. A lovely little wrinkly dung beetle.

This was a new one for me, the unpronounceable Phloiotrya vaudoueri (with a name that looks like two of the worst racks of Scrabble letters you could get), a nationally scarce saproxylic species that I found in Wiltshire. I hate names like this, my brain struggles to put the letters in the right order. 

From an arable margin in West Sussex, only the second time I have seen Trichosirocalus horridus. A lovely weevil (Na) that feeds on thistles, makes you wonder why it is so scarce.

And nice to see plenty of Thymalus limbatus in Wiltshire/New Forest. Not all that scarce as you head west but really uncommon in Sussex, with very few records.

Oh, and I finally caught up with Agrilus sinuatus! What a looker.

And the latest find for me was Cryptocephalus punctiger that I picked up on a Surrey heath! Love this genus.

What will 2021 bring? Lots more beetles I hope. I'm taking booking for 2022 now, and will be travelling a little further afield too. I am having a year off year-listing any taxa this year though. But PSL ticks on as ever. I'll be listing to the grave. One day, my PSL list will have 'the late Graeme Lyons' next to it, (for someone HATES being late, this sucks). Not for a while yet though.

And finally, any rumours that I am responsible for that stupid LEGO man I keep seeing plastered all over the Internet are totally unfounded, I am a serious naturalist. I don't know why someone would design it to look like me (arguably!) but I find that very offensive. It's not even funny.

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