Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Early summer invertebrating

Invertebrates are insanely underrated organisms; up close and personal, their hugely varied body plans and lifestyles make the humans in tabloid magazines look decidedly average.

This spider (Cyclosa conica) has a rear-end a Kardashian can only dream of...

When it comes to managing habitats around an airport, the best practice is not to do anything which might encourage large flocking birds to the area. This can make conservation more of a challenge, but focusing on habitat management for invertebrates is a smart way to go.
   Invertebrates are highly versatile and incredibly important for ecosystems: grazers, predators, nutrient recyclers, soil aerators, habitat manipulators and plant pollinators; to name but a few. Without them, food webs would collapse and biodiversity (including us) would be non-existant.

Searching for deadwood invertebrates

Just last week, I was lucky enough to have a crack team of entomologists visiting our sites in the North West Zone, just north of the airfield. Scotty D, Jeremy and Keith were looking at a variety of habitats, using varied searching techniques in order to list as many different invertebrates as possible.
  Here are some of the habitats we were scrabbling about in:

Entomologist in natural habitat, scrub west of Brockley Wood

Shaded section of Man's Brook, Brockley Wood

Brockley Wood South Ride

Excavated soil on a grass slope

River Mole floodplain grasslands

Everyone was kept busy as Jeremy searched out the solitary bee species, Keith hunted for deadwood invertebrates and Scotty listed everything and anything. Despite the variable weather conditions, the list grew rapidly and the 100 species target was easily passed. Here are some of my highlights (i.e. the stuff I could photograph before it got away)

Silver-ground Carpet Moth (Xanthorhoe montanata)

Spider with no common name (Cyclosa conica), but which I shall now think of as Cone-Bum Spider

Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus)

Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus), which is only half shiny because it is in the process of shedding its old exoskeleton in order to grow

 A less common wetland species of woodlouse (Trachelipus rathkii)

Green Hairstreak Butterfly (Callophrys rubi)

Thistle Tortoise Beetles (Cassida rubiginosa), a copulating pair

Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmus angustus)

I've saved Jeremy's pics until last; these really show the jewel-like quality of certain insects. It's incredible to think that we swat these things away and think of them as a nuisance...

Black Colonel (Odontomyia tigrina), a type of Soldier Fly

Malachite Beetle (Malachius bipustulatus) female

Longhorn Beetle (Rhagium mordax) on Hawthorn

Mining Bee (Andrena carantonica) female on Hawthorn

Orange-tailed Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa) female on Hawthorn

Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis), male

Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus), female

Hoverfly (Xanthogramma pedissequum)

Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis)

It seems like most things want to be a wasp these days.
   I'm already looking forward to the follow up survey later in summer!