Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

It's the final countdown

Made it to my target of 1000 new species in a year with three days to spare! For most of the year it has been a really pleasurable experience and I have learnt loads, but the last few days do seem to have been a bit of a chore.

The final half dozen were:

6. Ilyocoris cimicoides (Saucer Bug). A common species in ponds in the southern half of England and Wales. This one was caught in the pond outside my office on 1st October.

5. BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot. A bird!

4. Balclutha punctata. A fairly common grassland species, mine was found in Chiddingfold Forest in late September. This was the only hopper that I could positively identify, out of several examined, as all the others lead to comments like 'the species in this genus are very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to identify'. Clearly a total beginner couldn't claim such species without expert verification.

Photo: www.britishbugs.org.uk
3. Coelioxys conoidea. Gave up on hoppers and had a go at this oddly-shaped bee. It is a cleptoparasite of a leaf-cutter bee and is fairly common on the coast and heaths of south-east England. I found a number on the beach at Shell Ness on the Isle of Sheppey in July.

Photo: www.bwars.com
2. Allantus cinctus. A common sawfly whose larvae feed on various plants in the rose family (and one of the few I've ever managed to get to run smoothly through the keys).

Photo: www.insecte.org
1. Oxybelus uniglumis. A widespread and common solitary wasp which preys mainly on Muscid flies. Mine was found at the same time as the Coelioxys. Oh the joys of using old keys! We may moan about modern keys but it seems that older ones were deliberately written to make them inaccessible to everyone who wasn't already an expert. Why did they think it was a good idea to use terms which weren't explained anywhere? This species is a classic example. I was pretty sure that it was uniglumis but the confirmatory feature was the shape of the mucro. What the hell is that? Half an hour on Google finally produced an American paper which revealed that it is the upper median propodeal projection! Another couple of minutes on Google and I finally knew what to look at. 

Achieving 1000 new species in a year would have been utterly impossible without the help of many individuals and organisations who ran field meetings, confirmed identifications, told me where to see things, joined me on field trips, etc. My thanks to them all. Now what daft challenge can I come up with for next year?

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