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  • Writer's pictureDan Asaw

Colney Heath H.I.P Day

Originally posted April 28, 2019 1:00 pm

SO yesterday marked the first HIP meeting of the year, for the less informed H.I.P stands for the 'Hertfordshire Invertebrate Project', who are a rag tag bunch of invertebrate enthusiasts who traipse round Herts to dig up some invertebrate data.

Our days are incredibly varied, and our expertise as varied as we are, we range from those with specialisms (Hemiptera, Coleoptera, Diptera) to absolute generalists. All of us will admit we are' nothing more than amateurs', but in reality there is a lot of knowledge within many of us.

Yesterdays site was a SSSI in Colney Heath, which consists largely of acid grassland, punctuated with blocks of gorse, and a surrounding of woodland. The weather was cold, grey and incredibly windy, which doesn't bode well for those of us using sweep nets, where all the contents are gracefully removed by the wind before we even had a chance to look at them.

Colney Heath Via Wikicommons

In true 'Dan fashion', I arrived late but was greeted with a barrage of tubes. The first contained, what I suspect to be Lochmaea suturalis, a heather specialist (but sent it to our resident beetle guru to double check). The second tube held captive a GIGANTIC Pterostichus niger (which looks very similar to our resident Abax sp.) and a pill beetle. Through later microscopic inspection this turned out to be Byrrhus pilula!

Dispite the 12 degrees weather and terrible wind, we even managed to find a hunkered down Nomada sp. which gave us some hope in the unforgiving wind.

Initially I was disappointed by the lack of fresh cow pats (usually a beetle guarantee) but was gifted a spinal column from a random spaniel that happened to appear from seemingly nowhere!

By bashing the metaphorical out of it, I was gifted an especially smart looking Nitulid, which I only recognised because it stood out when keying out some others earlier in the week. As a result I was able to open mikes insect keys in the field and ID them in the field. They were Omosita discoidea, a carrion specialist- 7 of them!

Omosita discoidea Udo Schmidt

In amongst the Omosita there was a stowaway, an Elaterid (luckily one of the more readily identifiable species) Agriotes linearis, which stands out due its squat, compact shape and striped elytra.

Agriote linearis via

I was then alerted by Ian Carle (our Orthoptera man) to a badger latrine, which i made a beeline for.

Within seconds I had gloves on and was on my stomach digging through with blind enthusiasm. Fighting through the stink and ignoring the looks from the others (I'm used to it by now) my efforts were rewarded...

This is Ontholestes an absolute belter of a Staph, a specialist of dung and carrion. There are 2 Ontholestes species in the UK and they are split by their leg colouration. if they are pale they are O.tesselatus, but if they are black, like this one, it is O.murinus!

Within the badger excrement there was also a dead Sphaeridium, these can be a pain to ID so i took it home where I could positively ID it as S.scaraboides when comparing to my reference collection.

The rest of the morning yielded various Weevils and a two Anapsis species which required keying under the scope to ID correctly. Unfortunately they are incredibly fragile and require a fair amount of manoeuvring to key, and in my efforts the specimens decided to dismantle themselves. I was able to keep all the parts, and I was able to ID them to species, but they look less than professional within my collection.

In reality this doesn't really matter, they still do the job as voucher specimens and can be used to verify their presence on site. Don't be tempted to throw away 'tatty specimens'!

After lunch we hit the nearby woodland. Gail came running up to me asking 'whose back end is this?' and displayed the abdomen of a Geotrupes. She escorted me back to where she found it to see if we could find any more of it, but alas I could only find pieces of Ocypus olens, but it was another species to add to the list along with the Platyderus depressus nestled beside it!

In total I saw over 20 Coleoptera species (and many more from other groups) including a couple of lifers!

The records will be sent to local recorders and records centres to help build up a decent species for life.


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So I figured I would start to collate a list of resources so its all in one place, this is a fluid list and I will add to it as deemed fit! General Beetley Goodness: Moths and Man: A great list of ID


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