Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Berberis Sawfly ... ?

Saw this in a friend's garden a couple of days ago. Her 20 year old berberis bushes were ravaged last year by larvae that completely stripped the leaves leaving a very sad looking skeleton and I am wondering if this is an adult Berberis Sawfly. Going to pay a return visit tomorrow, if dry, to look for the offending larvae and see what can be done to relieve the problem.



Sunday, 21 May 2017

... and another beetle (Leiopus nebulosus)

A couple of hours strolling between Tongwynlais and Forest Farm saw various leaf beetles just about everywhere. Also a number of weevils which I'm trying to get 'round to looking at but the most interesting was this beastie, seen on the shrubs along the old canal. It is Leiopus nebulosus (Black-clouded Longhorn Beetle). Aderyn shows no records for Forest Farm, although there are records around Tongwynlais.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

More beetles

The beetles in Mark's recent post prompted me to blog about a couple of species I saw today in Cardiff. For a change, these are relatively easy to identify.

The first is this Garden Chafer, Phyllopertha horticola, which was flying around our garden in the sunshine this morning. This is actually the first time I've seen it in a garden!
 
The second is the nitidulid beetle Soronia grisea, which was sat on a gooseberry leaf in a small block of woodland at Hailey Park. There is another, less common, species in the same genus, Soronia punctatissima, but that species is apparently darker in colour and the sides of the pronotum (thorax) are a different shape.

Tap and Click

I finished work early, so went to the nearby Tir Mawr y Dderi Hir SSSI to check on something. I didn't have long and having done what I went for, I took a few grab shots of various beetles, moths and a lacehopper.

First of all the lacehopper. I think this may be Tachycixius pilosus. If so, it is a common species. It was particularly breezy where it was, so unfortunately, all the photos I took have some degree of blurring on them.






I'm on firmer ground with this moth: Ancylis badiana.



And this one: Nettle Tap (Anthophila fabriciana)



This click beetle was one of two I found on honesuckle leaves. No idea what it is.



A shy beetle, tucked into a deep fold in a hogweed leaf.



And to finish, a pair of copulating click beetles in an interesting pose beneath a leaf of Hedge Garlic.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Galling

I was bought a copy of the FSC's British Plant Galls (2nd edition), by Redfern & Shirley, as a birthday present in November 2015. Since then I have made good use of the book - not by specifically hunting for galls but just by keeping an eye out for them while out and about in the countryside, then bringing home samples for identification. I have to say it is one of the most useful guides I've bought in recent years and at £28 is excellent value for money.
This price tag might sound a bit steep, but the book runs to 432 pages and contains around 300 keys. These are organised by host plant genus and contain useful line drawings to help separate the species; there are also some colour plates of the more common species at the back of the book.

I have found that in most cases it is relatively easy to key out a gall to species level, assuming you have collected a specimen. It is sometimes necessary to open up the gall to view the contents, but in many cases the external appearance of the gall will suffice. However, some mite galls are very tricky to identify (gall mite taxonomy appears to need further study) and oaks and willows both support a huge number of gall species, which can make identification rather taxing.

Looking at galls has also given me an introduction to the fascinating biology of gall-causers, some of which, like rust fungi and aphids, have alternating generations on different hosts at different times of year. I was surprised to learn that the wasp responsible for the familiar oak apple, Biorhiza pallida, also has a non-sexual (agamic) generation on the roots of oak trees.
Oak apple gall
So far I have recorded 56 gall-causing species, comprising a mixture of mites, fungi, wasps, flies, moths and psyllid bugs. Nearly all of these are common and widespread species, though there has been at least one notable record - the ramshorn galls I found on oak at Hailey Park in Cardiff, caused by the wasp Andricus aries, appear to be only the second record for Wales and the first from the SEWBReC area.
Ramshorn gall
More recently, I was pleased to find some 'pocket plum' galls close to my home in Llandaff North. These form on the developing sloes of blackthorn and are caused by the fungus Taphrina pruni.
Pocket Plum
 I'd certainly recommend galling as a fruitful area of study.