Monday, 27 October 2014

A spare half-hour

Finding myself with a bit of spare time in decent weather I took a three-minute walk to a belt of woodland near to my house, just off Christchurch Drive. Just to have a look.

Yellow Dung-fly with a crane fly.  Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 27 October, 2014

The area is overgrown with brambles, easily causing the unwary to stumble; but brambles can provide interest, for on a leaf was a Yellow Dung-fly, Scathophaga stercoraria. It had seized a crane fly and was tucking in to its meal.

I was considering capturing the pair when the dung-fly made off with its prize so the victim remains unidentified. Often these dung-flies will pounce on other insects on a cow-pat but a meal is a meal wherever it is taken.

Beneath the trees (mostly Field Maple, Acer campestre) shafts of sunlight caused insects to congregate on favoured leaves.

Here a Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, is sharing a leaf with a male muscid fly, in this case Neomyia cornicina. This fly is virtually cosmopolitan, occurring everywhere except Australia, certain areas of tropical Africa and parts of the Oriental Region.

These green flies demand careful examination to be sure of a correct identification so I used my net and swept the leaf. All entomologists will have had the experience of netting a target insect, only to find that they have caught other, overlooked, species. In this case I had secured, besides the muscid fly and the Harlequin Ladybird,  a Common Froghopper, Philaenus spumarius and a sepsid fly, Sepsis fulgens. The Common Froghopper is the insect responsible for the frothy 'cuckoo-spit' with which we are all familiar.

I was turning over a few logs and stones (and replacing them!) in the hope of finding some Carabid beetles - the glossy black, fast-moving beetles common in these situations - but found none. I had to be content with woodlice, slugs and a centipede.

Yellow Slug, Limax flavus. Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 27 October, 2014

The slugs were all specimens of the Yellow Slug, Limax flavus. This is a strongly synanthropic species, i.e. associated with human activity so not surprisingly it is often found under litter - in this case a piece of plastic sheeting.

In this second picture a pair of Yellow Slugs are beneath a log and it is just possible to make out some small white fungi at the foot of the photograph.

The fungal fruit-body looks vaguely like the wick of a snuffed candle, hence its common name of Candle-snuff Fungus. Scientifically known as Xylaria hypoxolon it is common on damp, dead wood.

My half-hour was almost up. There was just time to overturn a chunk of concrete and reveal the aforementioned centipede.

Geophilus flavus beneath concrete. Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 27 October, 2014
Blowing the dust off my copy of E.H.Eason's "Centipedes of the British Isles" I checked out the creature's identity. I was pleased to confirm that it keyed out as Necrophloeophagus longicornis; I was even more pleased to find that the preferred name for this species is now Geophilus flavus. The older name was so long that I needed a break for coffee between typing the generic and specific names!

Most of us are familiar with the glossy chestnut centipedes frequently found under stones, but Geophilus flavus may well be just as common. However, its largely subterranean lifestyle means that it is less frequently encountered, although most gardeners will have come across it when wielding a spade. The word 'flavus' means, of course, yellow, and it can be seen that the slugs and the centipede share a lemon-yellow hue.

So, an interesting jaunt to find mini-beats almost on the doorstep.

No comments:

Post a Comment