Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Extreme detail!

How to visually catalogue a spider using a scanning electron microscope - outrageous level of detail. Wonder how long it takes to process one spider, including shaving around the claw


Tenuiphantes cristatus

This little spider was another picked up by shaking grass cuttings at the weekend. I feel like I'm starting to get my eye in on the Linyphiid spiders, and to get to grips with the key tables. Now I know what I need to record before I open the book.

'Formula' for this spider is:  2-2-2-2, TmIV absent, TmI @ 0.15

This means that the dorsal spines on the tibiae are 2 on tibia 1, 2 on tibia 2 etc., there is no trichobothrium on metatarsus IV, and the trichobothrium on metatarsus I is at 15% of the distance from the proximal end.

The trichobothrium is a little sensory hair which has a pit at its base. Sometimes the pit is easier to locate first, but sometimes the hair is easier to locate because it vibrates when there is movement - a subtle move of your chair, a cough - anything. It is VERY sensitive. Trichobothria can sense air movements of prey items (flies) when in close proximity (link). This makes it harder to photograph, because essentially it's always moving. The pit is located in between the lines of other hairs on the leg - see picture 3

There is another Linyphiid rule I forgot. Must be broken sometime but the rule is as follows: "Where a number of species have size ranges your spider will be the exact size that meets the requirement for all candidate species!"

A very similar rule applies to fungal spores.

Spiny chelicerae

Why don't palp drawings also have this view?

Dark trichobothrium pit slightly right of the spine


Monday, 30 March 2015

Moneyspider - Microneta viaria

A good weekend playing with spiders, but ironically the only one identified to species level was one of the 'difficult' money spiders. The remainder hadn't reached the level of maturity to be finally identified.

The source of the rich pickings - cut grass:

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Spring harvestman, spring fly!

A new harvestman and a new fly for the reserve yesterday. Platybunus triangularis is sometimes called the Spring Harvestman, since it's the only species normally active as an adult in spring

The new fly is the Tachinid Tachina ursina which I initially thought was a hoverfly until I looked at it more closely. It's a hairy one! I thought it could be tricky, although it's a distinctive fly. It was identified thanks to Brock's insect book and Colyer and Hammond "Flies of the British Isles"

"Another early spring species is Sevillia ursina which is of bigger build and looks like a brown Humble-bee, on account of its dense hairiness" - C&H

I like the antique-y touch of "Humble-bee". Makes me feel like I should be waving a kite net around in a tweed jacket..

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

More spring

Lovely Wood Anemones springing up on the banking - one of my favourite flowers on the reserve. Amazingly for the first decade and more of going there I didn't notice they existed. How sad!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Invertebrate Diary, March

Invertebrate diary

Nothing in traps except springtails and a couple of  Tachypodoiulus niger

Grass cuttings -

   1 Ero sp., imm f. (first of genus on reserve)
   1 Clubiona sp. imm. m. (C.reclusa only recorded species on reserve)
   1 Pardosa sp. imm. f.
   1 Microneta viaria, f. (previously recorded)
   1 Tenuiphantes cristatus, m. (new to reserve)
   1 Linyphid sp., imm. m.

   also: Anthobium unicolor, Tachypodoiulus niger, Nebria brevicollis

   Pitfall under 2nd log in woodland re-sited due to seeing no activity

Filter Beds pitfall -
   1 Phorid
Orchid meadow pitfall
   1 harvestman
   2 spiders
   1 beetle larva
Woods pitfall - unchecked
1 large, hairy fly taken from path, assumed hover, but not

24/03/2015 - frosty
Filter Beds pitfall (a.m.) -
   2 x Nanogona polydesmoides,
   4 x spider sp.(1 lyniphid m, 1 f),
   1 small hymenopterid
Orchid meadow pitfall (a.m.) - not checked
Woods pitfall (a.m.) - empty
Willow catkins unproductive, some smaller flies basking on south facing trunks

Filter Beds pitfall (a.m.) - empty
Orchid meadow pitfall (a.m.) - empty
Woods small pitfall (a.m.) - Anthobium unicolor, 1 small rove beetle, 1 globular springtail - damaged
Willow catkins car park (a.m.) - small fly netted
Willow catkins car park (lunch) - Melangyna lasiophthalma. male
(Woods small pitfall decommissioned, larger pot placed under another log)

Orchid meadow, sweep netting p.m. - Two sheep ticks
Embankment sweep netting p.m. - Plant hopper Stenocranus minutus (2nd for Scotland)


Spider Tetragnatha extensa (probably)
Common Flowerbug (Anthocoris nemorum)
Ground beetle Nebria brevicollis (probably)
Large broad-nosed 'weevil:': 5
Small brown beetle: 10 (Micrambe ulicis)

Large broad-nosed 'weevil:' 3 - same species
Small weevil: 1 - putative Exapion ulicis
Small beetle: 1 - ID abandoned
Small brown beetle: 2 Micrambe ulicis

Spider Metellina mengei adult female from grass cuttings beside the road


Lovely willow catkins at Cullaloe starting to attract flies, including the first two hovers. Sadly I don't know exactly which yet! One Eristalis, which evaded identification and one of the Syrphinae which is giving me trouble. Catikns are lovely though. Bumble bees are also buzzing around in the sunshine.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Planthopper Stenocranus minutus - 2nd for Scotland

This planthopper was swept from the grass on the flower meadow on Friday. From the redoubtable NBN there appear to be none recorded in Fife. From the less redoubtable Dumbarnie Links zoological list S.minutus has already been recorded in Fife, although noted as a 1st for Scotland at that point!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Lesser dung fly revisited

Yesterday I took delivery of the lovely Ent Soc key to the Sphaeroceridae (lesser dung flies), and it was an instant hit. Nicely illustrated with all the keys, at least the ones I used, giving very clear guidance. The first out from this new arrival is the fly Copromyza stercoraria

Median vein section 3 longer than section 4

Spurred hind tibia

"Y" shape and setae on scutellum


There are other interesting things from Cullaloe, but here's a pic of this morning's eclipse in the meantime

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Flea beetle

Shook some grass out onto the back of the sweep net yesterday and caught a bevy of small beetles. Amongst them was a group of shiny blue-ish beetles which caught my eye as leaf beetles - a target area for the year. I potted them and hoped for the best.

It was relatively straightforward to confirm them as leaf beetles, and to narrow it down to a group called flea beetles - you can see the hind leg are made for jumping, and the explosive way they occasionally cannoned around inside the pot was remarkable

Here's where it gets tricky. The genus they belonged to was Altica, comprising a handful of very similar species, which really require dissection of males to finally determine.I may consider doing this later, but I'm not up for beetle dissection yet and I don't really have the tools. I had a crack at the key and atlas anyway - you never know.

Working from the total list ...

Altica longicollis (= Altica ericeti) - possible candidate
A.olaracea - lacks diagnostic elytral markings
A.lythri - too southerly in distribution
A.helianthemi - too southerly in distribution
A.brevicollis - too southerly in distribution
A.palustirs - scattered records, possible candidate
A.carinthiaca - too southerly in distribution

This gives us basically two realistic candidates, and one of them keys out at the first step - A.longicollis has straight edge elytae for 2/3 of length. Does this? Maybe! I haven't completely given up on going all the way, but for the moment it will have to go down as Altica sp.

Birdy Boost

The first Chiffchaff(s) of the year singing their hearts out at cullaloe this morning. One of my favourite days of the year which for me marks 'turning the corner' into spring. Last year this happened on the 12th of March, so a little bit later this year. Additionally in the last couple of days some common birds that were mysteriously unticked have shown up - Curlew, Pied Wagtail and Reed bunting. Still waiting for Little Grebe.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Diplocephalus latifrons

Money spider, Diplocephalus latifrons
(ID - KB)

Compare to the below palp image from link

Kretzschmaria deusta

I photographed this species of fungus growing on a long-dead tree (but not so long-dead that I don't rememebr it falling!) yesterday. Checking back on last year's records it was recorded last year on the 20th of March, and was in a slightly more advanced state at that time. It's fruiting at almost exactly the same time.

A lot of other things are behind though, with cold evenings maybe the reason. By this time last year I had seen my first hoverfly and bumble bee.

Picture is horrible, but it was dark!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Psuedoscorpion - Neobisium carcinoides

So the pseudoscorpion Neobisium carcinoides becomes the 250th species recorded from the reserve this year - a fitting species since I've waited a while to see one - one that didn't escape anyway! Shaken from twigs in a birch tree, I had some faffing about with a collecting box trying to capture it. Capture it I did though, and what a fantastic beast it is.

Pseudoscorpion Recorders Group

New spider -

With assistance from East Scotland Spider Group facebook page (KB), I bring for your delectation the spider Walckenaeria nudipalpis

Also assisting is the German spider website: wiki.spinnen-forum.de

Monday, 16 March 2015

Just hit right or left - it's all good



Or similar.

Not only was the first beetle guest to my amateur pitfall yoghurt pots Nebria brevicollis but it seems that the larvae I have been routinely finding are also Nebria (or similar). So I no longer believe that they are making their way into the traps on purpose nor that they are aquatic.


There was a little girl who had a little curl

right in the middle of her Phorid. Horrible joke - a member of the Phoridae fell/flew into a pot at Cullaloe last week, but by all accounts you don't want to go much further identifying this family unless you're an expert. I'm not, so I won't! A little "hump-backed" fly.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Lesser Dung Fly week

Apparently. A second species of lesser dung fly has been obtained, this time from a pitfall trap. The previous swept one was Leptocera, wheareas this one is a Borborus. The terminated vein 5 is characteristic of the group

From wiki:

New fungus species for the reserve ... and for Scotland!

Not quite what you would think of as a mushroom, but a fungus anyway. This Jaapia argillacea was identified last night from a rotten and sodden piece of wood in the woodland at Cullaloe

A tuberculate species which also hosted various other things not given a final ID..

The fruit body

The spores en masse

dextrinoid centres, hyaline tips

Basidia 4-sterigmate

Cystidia with loose spore

This species has very few records on NBN, as can be seen from the map below. The voucher specimen is currently making its way to the fungarium at RGBE.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Cold morning in a high pressure area and had to scrape ice off the window before driving to Cullaloe. For the second time one of the pitall traps has produced an aquatic larva - most unexpected. This time I think it looks dragonfly-ish, whereas I'm almost sure the previous one was a beetle of some sort.

Anyway, the weather was nice. Birds were singing - Dunnock, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer amongst them. A nice pair of Bullfinch paused briefly in front of me for a decent look. Colt's-foot flowers are emerging around the embankment and filter beds and last night Pink-footed Geese were making the most of the weather to head north over Fife. If spring isn't quite in the air at 2 degrees, then at least signs of it are.

Soon we'll be over this awkward period when winter species have been recorded and the spring push hasn't yet begun.

The beetle from the other day turned out to be Nebria brevicollis ... or N.salina ... or brevicollis ... I can't decide. Thinking salina was going to be less likely I expected it was a dark brevicollis but now I see it has some inland distribution and I'm not sure. Coloration is right for salina and I can't see the setae that would definitively make it brevicollis either.

(after looking at this site I have decided that it is the more common and more expected brevicollis. link)

This site has some nice ground beetle plates:

Monday, 9 March 2015

Lunchtime roundup

This morning I dropped in and set up a few pitfall traps in a rather amateur and haphazard way. At lunchtime I was amazed to see that I had captured a ground beetle which I will attempt to key out later.

A wee bit of log rolling turned up a few White-legged Snake-millipedes (Tachypodoiulus niger) and as a thought while looking at the pond I gave some Pine needle litter a bit of a shake and produced a whopping and excitingly-patterned springtail (whopping and excitingly-patterned for a springtail, that is) - Orchesella cincta. Not a bad trip.

Caught and released millipede

My amateur-hour yoghurt pot pitfall trap

Hazel progression

Oncopsis flavicollis