Kingsbridge. Report from the Entomology Section

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Author(s): Wootton. Robin; Year published: 2013; Origin: Section Conference Reports; Pages: 
Topic(s): entomology; Location(s): Kingsbridge

Kingsbridge, like most towns, is not an insect haven. The South Hams. however, are so packed with notable species that this paragraph could easily be Latin names wall-to-wall. Ruthless selection is necessary.

Slapton and Widdicombe Leys are rich in aquatic insects. Slapton has the Slender Water-scorpion, Ranatra linearis, with penknife-like claws in front and a long breathing-tube behind; many damselflies and dragonflies, including the agile Black-tailed Skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum and the Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense; and the little ‘Angler’s Curse’ mayfly, Caenis, whose sub-adults swarm in thousands in July, moulting after a few hours to the short-lived adult. Marshes along the Dart are the only known south Devon locality for the Reed Beetle, Donacia thalassina, breathing air under water (how?) and have the most south-westerly record in Britain for the Water Ladybird, Anisosticta novodecempunctata.

The wetlands of the creeks and damp valleys around the Kingsbridge and Avon estuaries are home to a range of fine hoverflies – to the elegant Short-winged Conehead bush cricket, Conocephalus dorsalis, and to the beautifully patterned cranefly, Pedicia rivosa.

South Hams butterflies include Dark Green Fritillaries, with the occasional Pearl-bordered or Small Pearl-bordered at a few sites. Also relatively common are the Green Hairstreak, the Grayling. Orange Tip, Ringlet and Wall Brown. Inland, the Dartington Hall estate and some traditional orchards have notable dead-wood beetles including the formidable Tanner Beetle, Prionus coriarius; the Ivy Woodworm, Anobium inexpectatum; the fungus-feeding Symbiotes latus; and the nationally scarce Darkling Beetle Prionychus ater which develops in loose wood mould accumulations in the base of hollow trunks of old fruit trees.

Entomologically, the outstanding feature of the South Hams is certainly the internationally important hard rock coast. On the rocky shores in the Bigbury Bay to Start Bay area are four species of the fly Aphrosylus whose larvae, unexpectedly, feed on barnacles! The cliffs are packed with rare invertebrates: beetles, including a red data book weevil Cathormiocerus myrmecophilus; three species of the fascinating Oil Beetle, Meloé (to be starred at the Annual Conference), and the coastal ground beetle Masoreus wetterhalii; the RDB ant Strongylognathus testaceus, a social parasite of the more widespread Tetramorium caespitum; a range of solitary bees and wasps, including the Ivy Bee Colletes hederae, and several Andrena species, variously parasitized by wasp-like nomad bees, Nomada, and by the beautiful ‘Dotted Bee-fly’ Bombylius discolor; and several uncommon moths including Mythimna putrescens, the Devonshire Wainscot, recorded from Bolt Tail, and two pretty, wasp-like clearwing moths, Synansphecia muscaeformis, the Thrift Clearwing, and Bembecia ichneumoniformis, the Six-belted Clearwing. Last, and most definitely least, on Bolberry Down is found Britain’s smallest moth, Enteucha acetosae, with a 3-4 mm wing span. The larvae make an elegant spiral mine in leaves of the sorrel Rumex acetosa. Small is beautiful.

Robin Wootton

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