Saturday, 11 April 2015

Some Surrey bug hunting...

With the boy still on school holidays and the weather half decent, a good days bug hunting was on the cards for Friday.
Prepped & ready - A common sight in the Kerr household
Thursley Common, Surrey, was the destination. A huge expanse of woodland, lowland heath and bogs and a popular choice for birders too, with Great Grey Shrike a nice winter visitor, Nightjar and Hobby being regular summer migrants.

Anyway, the bugs:
After a brief rain shower we set off and Archie was straight on the case, looking under the bark of fallen tree trunk and finding our first beetle of the day, the diminutive, sap feeding Glischrochilus hortensis.
...and he's off!

Glischrochilus hortensis

Sticking reasonably close to the path at first, Archie was checking another tree stump and again, found a new beetle for us both! This time, the striking Ant Beetle - Thanasimus formicarius which feeds on smaller bark beetles with it's powerful mandibles.
Very quick and capable of squeezing into the smallest gaps in the bark, it was a sod challenge to pot!


Ant Beetle - Thanasimus formicarius

Even with it's bright red colouring and distinct markings, it actually camouflages rather well once on bark:





Next invertebrate found (YES - by Archie again!) was the Heather Beetle - Lochmaea suturalis. We ended up seeing a LOT of these throughout the day:
Heather Beetle - Lochmaea suturalis

Heather Beetle - Lochmaea suturalis

First Alderfly - Sialis lutaria of the year spent most of the day hitching a ride on my shirt and strangely, only saw the one individual. To think these things only have an adult lifespan of 2-3 days!
Alderfly - Sialis lutaria

A little pitstop for some lunch didn't stop someone from having a look for spiders under logs. Definitely my lad!
Doing boys stuff! :)

We then went off track and into the heather in hope for some moths. That boy put me to shame again and netted the first moth of the day, a heathland speciality and in my eyes, a damn good looking micro: Argyrotaenia ljungiana.
Argyrotaenia ljungiana

Argyrotaenia ljungiana

Another heathland speciality caught soon after: Acleris hyemana.
Two individuals here:

Acleris hyemana

Acleris hyemana

The colours and markings on these heathland micros really give them perfect camouflage amongst the dark hues of Heather. Both species seemed very reluctant to fly and when they did, both stayed VERY low to the Heather. Once landed, it was almost impossible to pick them out, even when inches from your face. Incredible.


The one and only Shieldbug of the day and yet another new one for us both, was a Heather Shieldbug - Rhacognathus punctatus. These prey on the larva of beetles, especially those of the Heather Beetle mentioned above.
Apologies for the pics - this was one lively bug!

Heather Shieldbug - Rhacognathus punctatus

Heather Shieldbug - Rhacognathus punctatus

While Archie was busy digging around under roots, I managed to catch this Common Groundhopper - Tetrix undulata:

Common Groundhopper - Tetrix undulata

Common Groundhopper - Tetrix undulata

Also worth noting were at least 6 Peacock butterflies, 3-4 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 Red Admirals and a single Brimstone. A couple of Lizards scurried around in the grass as we walked, a 7-spot Ladybird and not to mention al the insects we didn't/couldn't catch - Hoverflies and Bees.

Most rewarding of all was just how much has rubbed off onto Archie. The knowledge is growing, the enthusiasm is there, as are the catching skills! :)
To sit with a 7yr old and have him tell me things like "Dad, there's some Dock growing - that must mean we're near water and nettles can't be too far away" or, have the discussion about what are invasive species and what are native species, it makes for one proud Dad!

Until next time...