Saturday, 20 December 2014

Latest keys published

Here is a list of the new keys that have been published on my website.  These have appeared in late November and during December.
New beetle keys enabling the identification of a further 125 species
  Attelabidae - 2 species of a type of weevil
  Lampyridae - 3 species (glow-worms)
  Latridiidae  - 56 species (minute brown scavenger beetles)
  Monotomidae 23 species (root-eating beetles) 
  Mordellidae 17 species (tumbling flower beetles)
  Noteridae       2 species (water beetles)
  Rhynchitidae  17 species of a type of weevil
  Tetratomidae 4 species (polypore fungus beetles)

New fly key
   Ulidiidae 20 species of picture-winged flies

As usual if you find that they work, please let me know.  If you find any problems, such as terms used that are not explained or things that are unclear, again please let me know.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Dysdera crocata

Being called to the downstairs toilet to remove a spider, I found a species I hadn't seen before. Keying it through to family Dysderidae was very straightforward using the AIDGAP key to the families of British Families by Jones-Walters (1989), combining the six eyes with the long basal segment of the fangs (chelicerae).  The size of the male at 10 mm. and the detail of the palps led easily to Dysdera crocata.  It was difficult to photograph as I had to do a stack and it wouldn't always keep its legs still.  In addition it had to be taken through glass as I had given my word that it would not escape.  The image below was the best I could do.    

It will be released in the strawberry bed as its prey is predominantly woodlice and they are a bit of a problem there.

Those of you who are keen on identifying ground beetles may be interested that I have added a few more genus keys at  I would like to get these finished some time soon. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Bothrideridae and Cucujidae published

A very pleasant week in north France with the family gave a little time to work on a couple more small families of beetles.  These are the families Bothrideridae (5 species) and Cucujidae (2 species).  The files on the website should enable identification of these species.  They can be found at and /cucujidae.  As usual if you find anything that needs improving, doesn't work or does work please let me know. 

Bought home a leaf of Elaeagnus macrophylla from Hardelot and was delighted at the beauty of the scales on the leaf which are a characteristic of the family.  They are like miniature flowers on the leaf.  These are the scales on the top surface.  Those on the underneath are so dense you can't make out the individual scales.

                       Elaeagnus macrophylla - scales on the upper surface of a leaf

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

New key to Cryptophagidae published

Peter Barnard in Identifying British Insects and Arachnids: An Annotated Bibliography of Key Works writes about the beetle family Cryptophagidae that there is "no comprehensive key work to the group yet available"

This is a first attempt to make a contribution to this gap in knowledge on the web.  I've just published an illustrated key to the genera of Cryptophagidae which includes keys to species of all the genera except the big two, Atomaria and Cryptophagus.  I am working on translations of these as I can and will publish them in due course.  The key is published at

As always if you use this key (or any on the site) please let me have your comments so that I can improve their quality and clarity.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

New keys for families Megalopodidae and Scraptiidae

I have just published keys to the British species of Megalopodidae and Scraptiidae (beetles), which can be found here -



The Scraptiidae beetles are found as adults on the blossom of spring-flowering shrubs, particularly hawthorn.  Males are relatively easy to identify as they have appendages under the abdomen which are characteristic for different species.  The most recent beetle checklist has fourteen species listed, but another is listed on the NBN distribution maps.  This is all mentioned in the key.  

The three species of Megalopodidae, all in genus Zeugophora are associated with poplars.  One of them is restricted to the Scottish Highlands while the other two have a more general distribution in Britain.

As always if you find the keys useful, please tell me.  If you find some things are difficult to follow or are plain inaccurate, please let me know and I'll correct them.  It is my aim to have a resource that will be of use to entomologists.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The North Hampshire Aspleniaceae

There are four species of the spleenwort family (Aspleniaceae) found in the wild in North Hampshire.  I've been looking out for the final one for some time and stumbled across Ceterach officinarum (rusty-back fern) on a wall on the footpath going east from the car park by Whitchurch library.  This wall also had also specimens of Asplenium trichomanes.  I had found this species before on a wall alongside the railway by the old station at Oakley on the site of Basingstoke Building Supplies.  I have found the other two species on the old Roman walls at Silchester.  Here are photos of the four species:

  Asplenium adiantum-nigrum

Asplenium ruta-muraria

 Asplenium trichomanes

 Ceterach officinarum

New Beetle Keys - Dermestidae, Tenebrionidae and Oedemeridae

I have recently posted keys to three families of beetle on the site.  These are keys to the British species of 
  • Dermestidae,
  • Tenebrionidae
  • Oedemeridae. 
This adds illustrated identification guides for a further 97 species of British beetles.  They are illustrated mostly using the images from the Iconographia Coleopterorum Poloniae, with permission kindly granted by Lech Borowiec.  I hope you find them useful.  If you find any problems with them or points for improvement, please drop me an e-mail. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Phytomyza flavicornis

Popped the water trap out again today and caught a rather attractive agromyzid fly, keying to Phytomyza flavicornis.  The Agromyzidae spend their larval life as miners or borers of plant tissue, pupating in the plant or in the ground nearby.  The flavicornis refers to the yellow (flavus) antennae (corne).  This species combines yellow coloration on the legs, top of head, sides of thorax and antennae along with darkened top of thorax and scutellum.  The larvae feed on the stems of stinging nettles and the adults emerge quite early in the year.  There didn't seem to be a definitive image of the species on the net so I thought I would put one here.  The specimen is a male. It is taken in water (thus a few spots due to the lighting) and made into a composite image of 15 photographs using Zerene Stacker software.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Psychoda albipennis

Cleared the Psychoda female from Saturday 8th March in potassium hydroxide for 24 hours and then washed in water.  Transferred to a microscope slide and abdomen removed using mounted needles.  Checked that it was lower surface upwards and then cover slip on top.  Traced it through the key to Psychodidae and keyed easily to Psychoda albipennis.  The shape of the subgenital plate is different from our other species so it should be possible to identify this species again with confidence at reasonably low power using the binocular microscope.  The photos show the whole insect as it would be seen in a water trap sample, the abdomen cleared,  viewed from below and the detail of the subgenital plate under high power.  As an aside saw probably my last redwings of the winter today, a flock of 8 heading northwards.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Spring, reports time and a plethora of insects

Last weekend was the first really spring-like weather.  Walking to church on Sunday was great hearing folk chatting in their gardens, catching up on the jobs and generally happy.  The year's first blackcap was singing away happily.  Back home five species of butterfly were on the wing - small white, peacock, small tortoiseshell, comma and brimstone and there was plenty to look at in the water trap.  There had obviously been a mass emergence of the ephydid fly Hydrellia griseola and there were other species there as well.  It being busy time with report writing at work, time has been squeezed, so the trap has been bought inside for another time. 

I had a key to the whirligig beetles of Britain on the go so that is now published on the website at  Do have a look.  The photographs from the Polish collection are as usual really nice.

So back to reports...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

More Chrysomelid keys (leaf beetles)

Rather than put out the water trap for the last few days I've been concentrating on getting some more of the beetle keys into a publishable state.  You will now find there are keys to genera of all the subfamilies of Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles) at  The key to subfamilies has been updated to take account of genus Phratora which would have keyed into the wrong subfamily.  I have also completed keys to the British species of subfamilies Bruchinae, Cassidinae and Donaciinae.  The keys to species of subfamilies Chrysomelinae and Galerucinae are still very much works in progress.  In the Chrysomelinae, the sticky genus is Chrysolina which is unsatisfactory in Joy's Handbook but the translation from the German key is leading to some problems in interpretation that I really need to examine museum material to unravel.  The Galerucinae is such a large subfamily that it will be some time before I complete it.  Tribe Galerucini is done and is now on the website along with the large genus Longitarsus from tribe Alticini.  You will have to wait for the rest I'm afraid.

If you use the keys please send me feedback as I'm keen to improve them so they are a useful tool for British entomologists.

Here's a picture of a female of genus Psychoda caught today.  In order to get it to species I need to examine the subgenital plate at high power so it is popped into the potassium hydroxide for 24 hours and then I'll update the ID.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Longitarsus luridus

After working on translating the key to genus Longitarsus to identify all the British species, it turns out that the species I had collected earlier in the week was the commonest one in the country.  Still the world now has a reasonable illustrated key to the British species of the genus at It does seem that host plant is going to be very important in the identification and I hope to do some targeted collection to increase my familiarity with the genus.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Philosepidon humeralis

After a couple of days of catching nothing but springtails, caught a male psychodid fly, a very small beetle of genus Longitarsus (Chrysomelidae) and Empoasca vitis (Cicidellidae, Hemiptera).

The psychodid fly keyed to Psilosepidon humeralis,  This was a very simple identification and you might be able to pick out the defining features on the image below.  It was photographed again in water so the stacking software tried to stack tiny bits suspended in the water.  There are two forked veins on the wings with two veins in between.  The lower processes at the end of the abdomen run horizontally and then vertically, each of them bearing two very thin projections which have the appearance of matchsticks with a darkened slightly swollen head.  Eaton (1904) mentions the palps are very long - these are the segmented mouthparts extending from below the head.  You can see that they are longer than the height of the head.  I last saw this species on 30th June 1990 in Bishopstoke so it was nice to see it again.  The antennae have 16 segments with the last three tiny and rounded (one has fallen off one of the antennae) and the 13th segment has no neck.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Colydiidae key and Tephrochlamys rufiventris

The illustrated key to the twelve species of wood-boring beetles of family Colydiidae, translated from the German can now be found at  I was awaiting permission from the copyright holder of one of the images before publishing it.  If you have any specimens of the family please give the key a go.  I'm sorry about the first couplet as this involves viewing the underside of the beetle which might be difficult depending on how the specimen is mounted.  Please send me any comments on how it can be improved.

Some slightly larger species are now turning up in the water trap with a male Tephrochlamys rufiventris illustrated today.  This has been the commonest member of family Heleomyzidae in my garden.  The family is characterised by the bristles along the leading edge of the wing; some are stronger and then there are weaker ones in between.  There are several other families with this arrangement.  The Heleomyzidae are identified by the combination of a strong pair of bristles at the front of the mouth opening (called vibrissae), and a bristle on the top surface of the tibia of the back leg (you can just about see that on the photograph).  To identify this species combine the colour pattern with the presence of two backwardly curved bristles on top of the head above the eyes, a distinct bristle on the head below the lower back edge of the eye and the long bristles on the top of the thorax starting behind the suture that crosses the thorax.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Ectopsocus briggsi and female chironomid

Today's catch in the yellow water trap was a bit disappointing as most of the diptera were females which are more tricky to identify. 

Ectopsocus briggsi however was straightforward and is illustrated below meaning two members of Psocoptera have turned up in the past week or so. 

A female chironomid keyed to subfamily Orthocladiinae with the front tibia longer than the first segment of the front tarsus.  The wings, squama and eyes were all bare.  It is probably Smittia pratorum which I've found as the male before in the garden. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Trioza urticae

In yesterday's catch in the water trap was a female of Trioza urticae, which means that two of the four common members of family Triozidae have turned up in my garden in February.  There are 19 species on the British list in this family in four genera.  Of these six are rare or based on very few records and six are uncommon.  Of the remaining seven, four are locally common and three are common to very common.  One of the remaining common species is associated with oaks and the other with willows, so the latter could turn up with the ornamental willows in the garden.  There are no oaks particularly nearby. 

Today's image shows Lauritrioza alacris and Trioza urticae next to one another.  They differ in particular in the length of the front vein which goes past the Y-fork in the second vein in Trioza and ends well short of the fork in Lauritrioza.  Below the eyes there are two triangular projections known as the genal cones.  These are pale in Lauritrioza and black in Trioza.  Seen side by side a number of other differences are apparent.  Lauritrioza alacris is associated with bay trees (scientific name Laurus nobilis - hence the insect's name).  Trioza urticae is found on nettles (Urtica dioica -again giving the insect its name)

Omitted to mention that the frogs were in the pond well over a week earlier this year although they have not begun spawning yet.  This year it there were sixteen in the pond on the 19th February; last year it was the first week of March before any turned up.


Trichopsocus brincki and Lauritrioza alacris

Put out a yellow pan trap (yellow plate containing water and a couple of drops of washing up liquid) to catch insects in the garden at the beginning of February and this has turned up some insects I had not seen before.

These included Trichopsocus brincki, a member of family Psocoptera (the bark lice).  Working from the old key this was identified to family Trichopsocidae due to the hairs on the back wing being alternately long and short (required about x100 magnification to see).  It was clear that the patterning on the wings didn't fit the species there so went to Keith Alexander's site and identified the species easily using the illustrations there of wing patterning (  This was recorded on February 9th, 16th-18th and 21st.

A second one new to me was Lauritrioza alacris (Psyllidae, Hemiptera).  I had previously constructed a key to the 24 species listed as common in the Royal Entomological Society's Handbook to Psylloidea and got in a real mess trying to see the microscopic surface spicules on the wing.  This species didn't appear to have them so I went back to the full key and found it tracked to this species which is listed as locally common.  That is now added to my key and posted at