Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Thursday 10 February 2011

A one-off or a sign of spring?

Moving on from a rarity new to Britain (see previous post), yesterday saw a specimen of the Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) on the ceiling in my house. It's a common species in all sorts of habitats - gardens, parks, woodlands, hedges, moors - and one of the earliest to emerge, but not usually until March. It's not a fussy eater either - the flowers of holly, ivy, gorse, broom, clematis, ragwort, heather and many others are all on its menu. The caterpillars are about 15mm long, mainly brown with a yellow-brown band along the back, within which is a line of brown 'arrow-head' markings.

Double-striped Pug, wingspan 17-18mm
So, it may not be the most exciting-looking beast, but it does make me wonder if this year's long cold winter is coming to an end - winter can be a quiet time for bug-nerds! It's only one specimen, but there's a tree in blossom down the road, and a few other glimmerings in bird behaviour and so on... maybe spring has just about sprung despite this week's night-time frosts?

Of course, other one-offs don't herald a change of season. The beetle below was simply disturbed while digging over soil pre-planting a the local community farm (Highbridge). It doesn't usually appear until about June, and was distinctly keen to burrow back into the soil. It's Harpalus rufipes - note the orange appendages, golden pubescence on the elytra, and pronotum with slightly acute hind angles, curving just in front, then rounded to the sides. Common, but quite an engaging little beast - and at about 15mm long, of reasonable size for a beetle in this part of the world!

Harpalus rufipes, posing on my paw.

If you are interested in British ground beetles, the following is splendid (and you can find an errata list on the web):

Luff, M.L. (2007). The Carabidae (ground beetles) of Britain and Ireland (2nd ed.). Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects 4(2): 1-248. Pub'd by the Royal Entomological Society.
ISBN 9780901546869

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