Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Mega - from the toilet seat!

About a week or so back, I was sitting on the loo watching a small Pholcus phalangioides hanging upside down in its web. Then I spotted movement below the web, in the crack where the skirting board meets the lino. From where I was perched, I couldn't quite make out what it was that I could see slowly moving back and forth. It looked kinda orange though. Anyway, I had no pot or tube on me, so I flushed the loo and forgot all about it. 

This happened several times during the course of the week. Today though, I had a glass tube to hand...

What the blinking flip is that then ???
With my naked eye I thought I'd found some sort of a large, furry booklouse, or maybe an indoor-loving springtail. Or was it a bug? I actually couldn't tell. Through a handlens I was somewhat surprised to see that it was a beetle! Freaky weird-looking thing, whatever it was. 

A short while later and I figured I had the Golden Spider Beetle Niptus hololeucus, something I'd never even heard of before. I couldn't find too much online about confusion species so shamelessly pinged the above image off to beetle guru Mark Telfer. A (very) short while later he came back with, Gripping!!!! Do not clean that toilet until I can get up to Skye next year! Unfortunately the whole house is being completely gutted and rebuilt this winter, and I won't be living in it any more, so I've popped it into a tube with some tissue paper and a slice of courgette (for moisture and nibbles) and I'll post it off to him when the post office opens. Mark won't tick it, but it'll be confirmed (or otherwise) before plugging a gap in his already immense collection of carded beetles. 

I find it quite hilarious that Mark, one of the most highly respected professional coleopterists in Britain, needs a beetle that I casually found whilst taking a dump.

In other news, there's an apple tree growing in my mate's garden just upslope of here. I noticed a few leafmines on it and brought them back to check. Bohemannia pulverosella, as expected. New to Skye, also as expected. This really is one crazy island! 

Leaf mine of Bohemannia pulverosella - new to Skye!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Agromyzid rearing

I've been in loose contact with Barry Warrington of the Agromyzid Recording Scheme this past couple of months or so. I have to say, he's quite possibly the most helpful and responsive organiser of any scheme I've ever been involved with. It doesn't matter if I email him at 2am, he'll ping me back an email within ten minutes or so. Ok, fifteen at the absolute outside. I believe he has a wife and young Agromyzid recorders in tow, quite how he does it is beyond me. 

Anyway, Barry has a team of folks across the country collecting tenanted Hogweed mines and rearing out the adults to further our understanding of the species involved and of their distributions. I merrily threw in my lot and signed up for this, Uig Wood being a rich hunting ground for Hogweed loving Agromyzids. Alas, none have survived beyond pupal stage so far, I've not even managed to hatch out any parasitoid wasps, clearly I must be doing something wrong!

Today I had a rare free day, the whole damn day. I headed into my square and came face to face with an unfamiliar mine on a Common Reed leafblade

Well it's a flymine, I can see that much at least
I whacked it in my bag and duly forgot about it in the excitement of sweeping various Mirid bugs and a suspiciously dark harvestman off nearby vegetation. Back indoors again, I found the leaf and took a closer look...

Puparium with anchor rope. Hmmm, interesting...
This, if I'm to be entirely honest, was not what I was expecting (but this is Skye where the unexpected is a daily occurrence. I should know that by now, really...) The 'common' flymine on Reed is Cerodontha (Poemyza) phragmitidis which has a wonderfully diagnostic puparium as can be seen here.

Unfortunately, this isn't quite so wonderfully diagnostically-shaped. So what am I left with? Well....Cerodontha incisa and Cerodontha pygmaea are the options. By all accounts they are indistinguishable from each other whilst puparia, so I shall have to rear it through to adulthood. Which, unfortunately, is not something I appear to be particularly proficient at doing, thus far.

Here's a quick peek at my setup for Agromyzids. I suspect ventilation/humidity may be the main factors that I need to address in order to successfully breed them through to adult stage. I already wipe off any excess condensation every couple of days or so, but maybe a mesh lid would be better than a solid one? 

Cerodontha spp with foodplant in a moist environment - what could possibly go wrong?

In other news, I found a couple of harvestman 'new' for my 2018 tally. One was also new to my PSL

Leiobunum rotundum, this is a male judging by the colour/body patterning
Female Oligolophus tridens - seemingly common and widespread yet new to me
I even went as far as extruding the ovipositor and taking pics, but nobody wants to see that. Oh, you do? Bloomin' weirdo, so you are...

Probably the first time you've looked upon the ovipositor of a Oligolophus tridens. At least I hope it is!

Dunno what this is yet, an Ophion type yes, but I can't honestly say that I've ever seen one with a black tip to the abdomen. Hopefully all will become clear once I start keying it through

It's an Ophion Jim, but not as we know it....
I'm on 1157 species for NG3963 so far this year. That's precisely 85.7% of the way towards my target of 1350 species and 82.2% of the way towards achieving Andy Muzza's 2013 score of 1407 species. I'd be seriously happy attaining either target. Tim, being Tim, is already well on his way to 2000 species this year. I have no hope of keeping up with his record-breaking yearlist. But I do have Small Autumnal Moth. Yo Tim, let's see ya claw that back from the Broads! 

I seem to be in a good place for these