Monday, 3 June 2019

Picture-winged Flies and other insects

A fine but blustery day found me in Byfield, where time allowed me a visit to the local pocket park. Situated on land once occupied by Byfield railway station and yard, the pocket park is being sympathetically managed by a team of volunteers led by Pom Boddington. Wildlife seems to be responding.

I had only advanced a few yards into the park when I noticed that the goosegrass beside the main track was galled by Cecidophyes rouhollahi. This mite causes a twisting and general distortion of the leaves at the tip of the stem. It is both widespread and apparently harmless.

The mite, Cecidophyes rouhollahi, causes goosegrass to wring its
hands in despair.  Byfield Pocket Park, 3 June, 2019
A butterfly, the obligatory Speckled Wood, settled a few feet away, enticing me into a photograph. I obliged, notwithstanding the fact that I have featured this species, Pararge aegeria, dozens of times before.

Please take my picture. This Speckled Wood decided to rest just in front
of my camera. I couldn't resist. Byfield Pocket Park, 3 June, 2019
Equally common was the Sloe Bug, Dolycoris baccarum, now more often referred to as the Hairy Shieldbug. This second name is fully justified even though the hairs are not particularly obvious. It is a pretty bug and there seems some evidence that this species has become more common in recent years (Ref 1). Certainly I see it very regularly.

The zebra-crossing antennae of the Hairy Shieldbug are very
distinctive. Byfield Pocket Park, 3 June, 2019

At this time of the year tiger craneflies are very common. The word 'tiger' refers not to carnivorous habits, for they do not bite and may have no functioning mouthparts. Rather it refers to the pattern of black and yellow stripes on the thorax and abdomen. The commonest species at this time of the year is Nephrotoma appendiculata, with a relatively broad dark stripe down the centre of the abdomen and an dark inverted 'U' shape below the wings. Even allowing for a certain amount of variation this is fairly straightforward to identify.
This cranefly, Nephrotoma appendiculate, seems unbothered by the
uncomfortable position of its wings. Byfield Pocket Park, 3 June, 2019

Less colourful but rather more pleasing to find was this hoverfly, Rhingia campestris. Not that it is rare, for at this time of the year it is a frequently-seen species, but this may be the first record from Byfield Pocket Park. The larvae are said to breed in cow dung, but perhaps they can make do with sheep dung, for cattle are relatively uncommon in the area.

Rhingia campestris. Its long 'snout' is clearly seen here. Byfield Pocket
Park, 3 June, 2019
Most pleasing, but a challenge for my little camera, was this Picture-winged Fly. Its distinctive wing patterning and the fact that it was on Black Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, help to establish that it is Urophora quadrifasciata, sometimes clumsily called the Four-barred Knapweed Gall Fly. (Latin names are often so much easier.) It is not rare but is by no means the commonest member of its family, the Tephritidae. 

Urophora quadrifasciata on Black Knapweed (Hardheads). Nice to see but
easy to miss. Byfield Pocket Park, 3 June 2019.
Some years ago I built up a long(ish) list of the insects and spiders of Byfield Pocket Park. Somewhere along the line this was lost and I am slowly re-compiling it, hopefully for future generations to examine and assess what has been lost and, hopefully, what has been gained. It is going to take quite a few more visits.


Hawkins, R.D.(2003) Shieldbugs of Surrey.  Surrey Wildlife Trust

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