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.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

New to Britain

Whenever I'm trying to identify something and fail to make it run through a key successfully, or match any of the pictures in a book, I say 'Must be new to Britain'. It's the only logical explanation really, it can't be anything to do with my utter incompetence can it? Over the years I must have had dozens of 'new species to Britain' but now, finally, I have a real one!

A few weeks ago I sent a small number of Ichneumon wasp specimens to Dr Gavin Broad at the Natural History Museum for identification. All bar one were collected during 2013, the exception having been lurking unnoticed in a store box since 1996! This latter specimen proved to be Aphanistes gliscens - new to Wales. Pretty good, as were a couple of Enicospilus species which Gavin had few records of, and a scarce wetland species Netelia fuscicarpus, but his last paragraph started 'Best of the bunch....'.

Hang on. Best of the bunch? I've already got a new to Wales and some other stuff that you're pleased with. What can be better than those? Lymantrichneumon disparis can - a new species and genus to Britain.

Lymantrichneumon disparis Photo: Gavin Broad / NHM
This species is a parasite of the Gypsy Moth and possibly other Lymantriid moth species. Gypsy Moth has been colonising parts of southern England in the last few years and is now considered to be breeding at a couple of sites in Sussex ( Pratt, C.R., in prep. A complete history of the butterflies and moths of Sussex. Supplement number 3) but neither of these are close to the Broadwater Warren RSPB reserve where I caught the disparis. I am sure that the warden will be looking next year to see if there is an overlooked Gypsy colony.

Over the last few weeks I have been identifying a large number of micro-moths for a recorder in East Sussex. His specimens have included Monochroa arundinetella (new to Sussex and 3rd British record since 1930) and Lyonetia prunifoliella (also new to Sussex and 4th British record since about 1900), as well as a couple of other species that are new to East Sussex. All quite exciting but also a bit frustrating as they don't count on my Pan Species List! The identification of the Lymantrichneumon disparis by Gavin is therefore possibly the first recorded case of Pan Species Karma!


  1. Superb stuff! We all dream of finding a first for Britain.

    Have only just stumbled across your blog, and am enjoying it immensely. Many thanks, and please keep it up.


    1. Thanks for your kind comments Jon. I know it's 'only a wasp' but I'm as chuffed as a chuffman in chuffland! Will do my best to keep things going during the winter but not entirely sure what I'm going to find to write about.