Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Spring 2018

I apologise for not posting anything here for some time. Very remiss of me. After a cold and wet start to the Spring we moved into a period of warm weather before things started to get very warm and dry. Generally British flies like mild dampish conditions and do not cope well in either the cold and wet or in prolonged hot, dry conditions so this year has been a mixed bag from a recording point of view.

The warm weather in May and June did produce a large emergence of our local comb-horned craneflies Dictenidia bimaculata and Ctenophora pectinicornis. In most years I get one or two records of these species at best but this Spring I had records from new sites and a very large emergence at Yardley Chase. They have the common name "comb-horned" as the males have antennae which bear two rows of branches, like the teeth of combs. The cranefly larvae live in rotting wood in mature trees, often high up in branches. The adults are occasionally seen near the ground after emergence. The comb-horned antennae are thought to be an adaptation to allow the males to find females by detecting their pheromones. In the tree canopy sensitive detectors would be needed to find a mate.

The reason for the sudden increase in records is probably down to the tendency for these insects to emerge in warm conditions.

Dictenidia bimaculata male showing the "comb-horned" antennae

Ctenophora pectinicornis female. This mimics a wasp but the projecting spike at the end of the abdomen is harmless. It is the ovipositor for laying eggs.

Neither species is very common. They are best looked for near ancient trees with rotten branches in woods or parks on warm days in late May and June. They often rest on tree trunks or nearby vegetation. Photos of them with details of location and date would help us find more sites for them. There are a few other comb-horned craneflies in Britain, some are extremely rare, so do try to photograph any you may come across. Photos can be posted on the Facebook WILDside Project Group.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Diptera Identification Workshops

There are two workshops coming up that may be of interest to dipterists.

On Saturday, 12th May, John and Barbara Ismay and Jann Billker hold an Acalyptrate Clinic in the Collections area of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It is from 10 am to late afternoon. They will help you with the identification of Acalyptrata families (Diptera)  to family level and many of these to genus or species. Please bring a few specimens that you find difficult or would like confirmed. The clinic is restricted to a maximum of 8 participants, so please let John and Barbara Ismay ( ) know if you would like to come. It would also be useful if you could let them know which families you are interested in. They will also bring some draft keys to smaller families that you could use.

I shall be holding a workshop at Pitsford Water on Sunday 22nd April. This will consist of identification of pre-pinned specimens and some field work. The balance will depend on the weather and attendees preferences. This is part of the WILDside project and attendees should contact Ryan Clark at the Northants Biodiversity Records Centre to book a place. The aim is to provide people who have already attended a fly identification workshop some practice as the season gets started.