Monday, 27 November 2017

Time to set up local Diptera Groups?

There are lots of species of Hoverfly and other Diptera that are eminently findable but are under-recorded. Some will only be found by sweeping and retaining specimens of similar species, but others could be sought by visual searches. This winter is an ideal time to start to develop local groups to seek out species that have either not been found or might be re-found in a particular area. Working at a County level is probably the practical way of organising but one could also do this at a regional level.

There are already some great exemplars. In Northamptonshire there is a local group that has weekly field meetings during the spring and summer. In Devon there is a group that meets (I believe) on a monthly basis. Opportunities exist elsewhere.

What about a 'New Forest' group, a 'Black Country' group or a 'Thames Estuary' group? More adventurous still - a 'High Altitude Group'. Developing and leading such a group is not dependent upon high levels of skills as a Dipterist but upon bags of enthusiasm and a willingness to act as a fulcrum around which others gather. That is a great role for relative newcomers - perhaps one for recent graduates wanting to make their mark? What is needed is an ability to enthuse and create an inclusive group whose meetings are not only instructive but also social. Don't worry if the group includes people with limited skills or experience - what you need to think about is creating a happy atmosphere and to set targets that are achievable and to which everybody feels they have contributed.

I wonder about a 'top ten' of targets for 2018? Here are a few ideas (over 10 - I can still count!)

1. Anasimyia interupta - grazing marshes and the river valleys of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

2. Callicera rufa - creating and monitoring artificial rot holes

3. Callicera spinolae - scattered records across East Anglia but possibly more widespread - surveying places with old trees and Ivy in September as a 'safari'.

4. Caliprobola speciosa in the New Forest and at Windsor Great Park.

5. Chrysotoxum vernale on Dorset heaths

6. Doros conopseus in Yealand Allotment and at Martin Down (Wiltshire)

7. Lejops vittatus in Essex, Kent, Pevensey Levels, Somerset Levels, Gwent Levels and Norfolk. (also perhaps look for Hybomitra muelfeldi and Atylotus rusticus)

8. Microdon analis on Surrey and Hampshire heaths

9. Microdon devius on the North Downs of Surrey

10. Microdon mutabilis larvae and puparia - north and western Britain but perhaps also the Welsh and West Country coasts? They live in slightly different places to M. myrmicae which can be found in tussock nests of the ant Myrmica scabrinodis.

11. Odontomyia ornata and other wetland species - various grazing levels but also scattered wetlands inland. One of several possible targets linked to wet ditch systems and pond edges.

12. Pelecocera tricincta on the Hampshire and Surrey heaths - there are lots of old records but limited recent records for places such as Chobham Common and Hankley Heath.

13. Parhelophilus consimilis - Somerset Levels and maybe other grazing marshes

14. Platycheirus melanopsis - the higher peaks of the Lake District and Scotland

15. Stratiomys longicornis - coastal sites. Maybe look for other saltmarsh specialisties such as Atylotus latistriatus?

16. Gap-filling in areas such as the upper Pennines, parts of mid-Wales, southern Scotland, and of course the many Islands. 

Any takers?

My targets for this year are to find new sites for Microdon mutabilis (and secure some material to try to help to work out how to split this and M. myrmicae. I have also got plans to look for Hammerschmidtia ferruginea away from its Speyside haunts and am hoping to find a few more sites for Lejogaster tarsata in the Iris flushes of the west coast of Scotland.

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