Sunday, 22 April 2012

Three for the price of one

As part of the research that I'm currently carrying out on the eggs and larvae from Soft Rush (click here for a recap), I continue to examine specimens in quite a bit of detail. Yesterday I found what is clearly a minute leafhopper covered with a fine white web:

Frog Hopper on Juncus
My mind immediately leapt to an Entomophthora-type fungus that has killed the leafhopper. A bit of research shows that there is a single fungus - Entomophthora petchii - that kills various members of this huge family of bugs, but at this stage I had no idea which leafhopper I was looking at, or even which stage of the lifecycle it had reached when it was killed (nymph? adult?). A few features need examination: those dotted wing covers seem to be small and incompletely formed. This could suggest a nymph - since bugs all go through various nymph stages (instars) before reaching adulthood, or it might be one of the brachypterous species, where specimens can reach adulthood with either incomplete wings or fully winged. Size is also an issue: this hopper is only 4mm from nose to tail.

I took shots from various angles:

Frog Hopper on Juncus
And eventually found Conomelus anceps on the brilliant UK bugs website:  http://www.britishbugs.org.uk It turns out this is a Juncus feeder, and is quite common, but I've never seen it before, so that's one new species for me. I had also never previously identified the bug-killing fungus Entomophthora petchii, although I've certainly seen leafhoppers killed by a fungus. So that's two new species for my list.

I then decided to check previous records of Entomophthora petchii and found that there are only four existing records in the BI fungal database: all from Yorkshire (Helmsley, Pocklington, Leeds, Holmfirth) (and recorded under Zoophthora petchii), so I have moved the distribution map for this species quite some way to the west. First Irish record.

So one sample has led to three new records: two for my species list and one for Ireland:
Conomelus anceps killed by Entomophthora petchii on Juncus effusus

March and April have both been very variable in terms of weather, with very hot sunshine interspersed with long periods of rain or hail. The early heat has brought out various hoverflies much earlier than usual: this is Helophilus pendulus, which I regard as a summer species:

Helophilus pendulus

And this is a Syrphus:

Syrphus sp. hoverfly
The standard reference says "April onwards", for these two species, but I've certainly never seen them this early.


Post edited to tighten up naming (leafhopper).

1 comment:

Toffeeapple said...

Congratulations for all three things.