Big Nature Day

Today Matt & I attended “Big Nature Day” at the Natural History Museum, in London – a day for wildlife organisations to show what they do. The weather was  hot & sunny and the event was very colourful and well-attended, with lots of events for children.

Many thanks to Lucy Carter and all those that helped organise the event and make it so successful.

Some name changes

Belshaw’s 1993 handbook was a great improvement over the nomenclature used in van Emden but since then many of the names have changed. This is pretty boring stuff, so I apologise in advance, but here are the changes and explanations, as far as I know them:

  • Timavia Robineau-Desvoidy 1863 is a junior synonym of Smidtia Robineau-Desvoidy 1830 so Timavia amoena becomes Smidtia amoena Meigen 1824.
  • Erycilla Mesnil 1957 is a junior synonym of Allophorocera Hendel 1901 so Erycilla ferruginea becomes Allophorocera ferruginea (Meigen 1824).
  • Chrysocosmius Bezzi, 1907 not a valid genus name by ICZN rules (complicated story) so Chrysosomopsis Townsend, 1916 is used instead, which means that Chrysocosmius aurata becomes Chrysosomopsis aurata (Fallen 1820).
  • Microsoma exigua Meigen 1824 is corrected to Microsoma exiguum Meigen 1824.
  • Actia nudibasis Stein 1924 is a junior synonym of Actia resinellae Schrank 1781, which replaces it.
  • Peribaea fissicornis Strobl 1909 is a junior synonym of Peribaea setinervis Thomson 1869, which replaces it.
  • Siphona mesnili Andersen 1982 is a junior synonym of Siphona confusa Mesnil 1961, which replaces it.
  • Ernestia Robineau-Desvoidy 1830 is a junior synonym of Panzeria Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830 – this has quite a far-reaching effect because Ernestia puparumrudis, vagans & laevigata all move to Panzeria
  • Cyrtophleba Rondani, 1856 is corrected to Cyrtophloeba Rondani, 1856 following the rule of the first reviser. See explanation in Botria (below).

Taxa not in Belshaw:

  • Bothria Rondani, 1868 is corrected to Botria Rondani, 1856 following the rule of the first reviser. Rondani was very poor at forming linguistically correct names and used many different variations of spelling – often in the same publication, which causes the initial confusion. The next time he used one of those spellings he became the “first reviser” under ICZN rules because he chose the “correct” spelling and so it is this that we have to use. For more information on this issue see: O’Hara, Cerretti, Pape & Evenhuis (2011) Nomenclatural Studies Toward a World List of Diptera Genus-Group Names. Part II: Camillo Rondani.
This website will be changed to reflect these changes (many have been done already) but I am holding back for a little while with some until I work out the best way to do this without confusing people. In particular the changes from Ernestia to Panzeria are potentially quite confusing.

Panzeria, Eurithia, Appendicia & Fausta male genitalia

This is a reprint of the genitalia figures from van Emden’s 1957 handbook – out of print for many years. I find them quite useful for double-checking males – if I get good feedback then I might turn this into a larger article.

For reference the key to this diagram is:

PPanzeria laevigata, APanzeria rudis, BPanzeria vagans, IFausta nemorum, JAppendicia truncata, KEurithia anthophila, LEurithia caesia, QEurithia intermedia, REurithia connivens, SEurithia vivida, TEurithia consobrina

sf = superior forceps = cercus, if = inferior forceps = surstylus

Botria subalpina found in Scotland

Botria (=Bothria) subalpina is a Spring species previously thought to be found in northern & eastern Europe – I have specimens from Finland and Bavaria. But recently Murdo Macdonald sent some flies to the National Museum of Scotland and David Horsfield spotted a fly that keyed out to Bothria subalpina in the Central European key. He sent the specimen to Hans-Peter Tschorsnig in Germany who confirmed the identification!

Apparently the name has changed from Bothria to Botria due to a Rondani misspelling that has only recently come to light. Also Villeneuve wrote in his 1910 type description for subalpina that he had been sent a specimen taken near Birmingham by Wainwright. It would be interesting to track down this specimen and confirm the identification and locality.

Here is a photo of a specimen from Finland and a very bad photo of one from Germany:

Currently, in Belshaw, this species would get lost around couplet #27  because it looks like it should go to #28 (Phorocera/Parasetigena) but the basals are between 2-3x as long as the scutellum so it is weak here and of course if you go to #28 it isn’t Parasetigena because Botria has median discals and it isn’t Phorocera because the male genitalia are all wrong (smaller than Phorocera) and it has pale tibiae. I think the pale tibiae are probably the best way to split Botria out but I need to double-check all of the other alternatives from #27 onwards.

Phytomyptera nigrina seen in Lincolnshire

Had a very good record recently, sent in by Phil Porter, of Phytomyptera nigrina. Richard Davidson took the specimen at Whisby Nature Park on 22nd April. Here is a photo of the specimen – note the “disappearing” median vein and the complete lack of m-cu vein – very rare features:

The first photos through the Leica S8APO

It has taken a while to get the camera hooked up to the microscope because it is quite a complicated process, involving lots of adapters and converters – not to mention getting the optics and the extension tubes correctly arranged. The first shots really weren’t worth looking at but today I started to capture images that are getting a bit better – still not the quality I hope to achieve, but getting there.

Although the microscope is rated at 80x the actual magnification through the microscope tube is related to the size of the sensor and this works out at about 10x – 15x but this is still very good and a perfect range for what I want to do. The lighting in these photos is very rough and contrasty because I haven’t experimented with flash diffusers yet but it gives you an idea of what is possible.

This is a butterfly wing (Eunica coelina):

This is a lateral view of Dinera grisecens, showing a bit of the katepisternum; a nice row of hypopleural bristles; the hind spiracle with hairy flap; haltere and abdominal tergite 1+2:

Contrast that with the spiracle of Exorista rustica, which has a “classic” single-flap arrangement:

Exorista rustica spiracle - showing the single flap

… and the next 2 show classic polideine spiracles, with 2 equally-sized flaps:

Lypha dubia spiracle - showing the 2 equally sized flaps

Lydina aenea spiracle - showing the equally sized flaps

I hope to make a few more photos over the coming days, once I have worked out the problem with parfocality – the camera should be in focus at the same point as the main microscope eyepieces but at the moment it isn’t … a bit more experimentation needed! 😉


Tachina lurida on the wing

Had a nice record from Tristan Bantock on the 17th – a Tachina lurida, seen on Parkland Walk near Crouch Hill tube station. They look superficially like the slightly earlier Tachina ursina but they are slightly less hairy and they lack a white band on the front of tergite 5.

Tachina lurida, © Tristan Bantock, 2012

We’re also getting plenty of reports of Gymnocheta viridis on the wing in the UK – usually seen sunning themselves on fence posts and tree trunks.

Gymnocheta viridis, © Chris Raper, 2011

Natural England funding

It has been a hectic and exciting start to 2012 for the recording scheme, with the recent good news that we had won funding from Natural England!!

For a while the government has been concerned to improve biological recording capacity in the UK and, with the support of Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Natural England they set up the Fund for biological recording in the voluntary sector. It was to this fund that we applied.

Our application had to be submitted in quite a hurry because the deadlines were tight but, thanks to some great help from our friends at the BRC in Wallingford, we managed to make the deadline and were one of under 40 applicants to be successful!

The funding has been given for the purchase of a new Leica S8APO microscope with lights and camera adapters so that we will be able to produce deep-focus photographs of key tachinid structures as well as tutorials on various aspects of entomology. The first articles have been published in the ‘Tutorials’ menu so keep checking back for more in the coming months.

Anyway, here it is – isn’t she a beauty!? 😀

In these photos the camera adapters haven’t been fitted because at the time of writing I am waiting for a few extra tubes to be sent to achieve parfocality with the eyepieces. But you can see the port emerging from the top of the microscope. My trusty Meiji EMZ sits to the left and, with its slightly deeper working distance (90mm instead of 75mm on the Leica), will still be used for sorting malaise trap catches etc.

More early sightings

The warm, sunny Spring weather has brought out the early tachinids and we have already received records for Tachina ursina, Gonia picea, Lypha dubia, Campylocheta praecox, Macquartia tenebricosa & grisea, Brachicheta strigosa & Cyzenis albicans!

Gonia picea on the wing – 21/3/2012

It was a sunny day so I took a short walk across Hartslock Nature Reserve this lunchtime, with a vague idea that I might see some tachinids, like Tachina ursina. But to my great surprise (because they had never been recorded there before) I saw lots of Gonia picea all zigzagging low over the grass. This species seems to have done well recently because we received more records than normal last year and perhaps it has benefited from the recent warm, dry Springs?

Anyway, it shows that there are interesting tachinids flying right now so get out with your nets and cameras on any sunny day! 🙂