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.

Monday 8 June 2015

Bioblitz bits AKA things in other things

I've done a couple of bioblitzes as entomological geek-in-residence for the day, identifying things that are a little tricky, and the most recent was just a couple of days ago in Southampton, around the Southampton University campus. This involves me looking for specimens myself, but during busy periods such as when groups come back from recording sessions, I'm at a table with a microscope and a pile of books. A lot of different species passed through my hands that day, but here are a couple of less familiar one that are both endoparasites...

The species of interest here isn't the aphid, but the disc-shaped structure below it. The aphid is a mummified husk at this stage because it has been parasitised by the small wasp Discritulus planiceps. This lives inside the aphid, then exits through the body wall and develops into an adult inside the disc-like cocoon it builds beneath the host skin. Wasps of the genus Praon do something similar but their cocoons are tent-shaped.
This cluster of pupae was attached to the underside of an oak leaf. They are each a few millimetres long and have small blobs of what I assume are dried faeces at one end. A bit of research indicated that they are probably wasps of the genus Eulophus. They are now in my hatchery to see if I can confirm the species once they emerge. They will have emerged from a caterpillar host before pupating and the fragments to the left of the cluster are probably where it was attached before falling off the leaf. A more familar species is the braconid wasp Apanteles glomeratus that has a similar lifestyle, parasitising the caterpillars of white butterflies like Pieris.

A close-up of a Eulophus pupa - various structures are quite clearly visible such as eyes and mouthparts.
At the end of the day, Lizzy from HBIC announced the total number of species recorded on the day - 257, an increase of about 30 on last year's event, although more records will trickle in a specimens like the Eulophus above are identified.

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