Cullompton. Report from the Entomology Section

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Author(s): Wootton. Robin; Year published: 2016; Origin: Section Conference Reports; Pages: 
Topic(s): entomology; Location(s): Cullompton

A White Letter Hairstreak (in Dorset)

In annually writing this section l am usually spoilt for choice; not so this year. The Cullompton area seems to be pretty short of notable insects , or maybe just of entomologists to note them! Exception: the most recent local record of the uncommon White Letter Hairstreak butterfly is actually from Cullompton itself – some eggs in 2009. It is probably still around, unnoticed. Otherwise one needs to go some way towards the Blackdowns in one direction, or to Killerton Park and Ashclyst Forest in the other for interesting records. Many of these are butterflies. The organisation Butterfly Conservation has recently acquired a small reserve at Little Beach near Culmstock with colonies of several species, not particularly scarce but nice to see: Grayling, Marbled White, Small Pearl- bordered Fritillary, Green Hairstreak.

Maiden Down, near Burlescombe, is an SSSI with records of five fritillary species, including the scarce Marsh Fritillary feeding on Devil’s Bit Scabious in the damp heath at low levels, and the beautiful little Silver-studded Blue. Unfortunately neither seems to have been seen there for several years. In Ashclyst Forest one can find the splendid White Admiral, whose larvae feed on honeysuckle. Ashclyst and Killerton are particularly notable for a remarkable array of beetles feeding on dead wood of veteran trees, including the famous Death Watch beetle in its proper habitat in old, dead oaks.

The sandy bottom of the river Culm, running off the Blackdowns, seems to favour quite a few uncommon river-breeding flies, including two cranefly species (Tipulidae) and a tiny dance-fly (Hybotidae), and there is also a fascinating lacewing, Sisera dalii, whose larvae feed on fresh-water sponges. For excitement, the Exe near Thorverton has one of the largest horseflies, Tabanus cordiger, up to 1.6 cm long. The big species are said to be less inclined to bite people – but don’t bank on it.

We will know still more about Killerton’s insects soon: the National Trust is planning a ‘bioblitz’ there in the summer, in which the Section will certainly be involved. And other sections? – why not? Non-specialist public involvement is part of the bioblitz philosophy, and it is high time the rest of the DA learned some entomology.

Robin Wootton

Photo from Wikimedia Commons – click on it for details

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