Friday, 10 January 2014

Bits of twig and mothy things

When Neil Randon kindly awarded me a Rambler for my blogging last year, he did mention that one of the things that he particularly liked about North Downs and beyond in 2013 was a certain lack of 'bits of twig and mothy things'. Neil, look away now...

Up at Box Hill this afternoon I decided to check the leaves that are still left on the trees for mines. I'm no expert (pure novice), but I thought that I'd give it a go. First up was Holly, and, if I've got it right, there is only one species that mines a holly leaf, and that is the fly Phytomyza ilicis. There were plenty of mined holly leaves on show. Is it all this easy? Next up was this mine on a bramble:


Looking at the leafminer website (all interests are catered for on the web!!) I first plumped for this mine being made by Stigmella splendidissimella, but then decided upon Stigmella aurella. Looking at the Smaller Moths of Surrey book, maybe these two species are best left lumped on a mine alone. Any ideas out there?

Oh so much to learn and so little time to do it in.

10 comments:

  1. Hi Steve. You are right about ilicis being the only mine on holly so you can have that one. The Stigmella mines on brambles can be tricky but your photo is of S. aurella. Splendidissimella is longer, narrower and tends to re-cross its track. To be certain of splendidissimella you ought to breed it through but mines matching the description above usually are this species. I also find splendidissimella much more frequently on Dewberry than on R. fruticosus agg. If you go to the Weymouth & Portland area you also have S, auromarginella to worry about but you're safe in Surrey!

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    1. Thanks 'Gilbert', that is really useful. I will keep on looking at leaf mines, I don't know why I've ignored them before. It is great having such a good resource as the leaf miner website - without it I'd be totally lost as to where to start.

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  2. I find leaf mine hunting great fun too. Quite often I will try to rear them on. Sometimes, they emerge pretty soon but often they have me looking into the pots on a near daily basis for many months to the point that I question whether it has shrivelled up and died or not.

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    1. Can you just put a leaf into a sealed plastic bag Andrew?

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  3. John Langmaid, who possibly knows more than anybody else regards microleps in Britain, told me that he's repeatedly bred through the 'wrong' species from bramble mines. If he can't tell aurella from splendidisimella from the form of the mine I'd be inclined to either breed through or lump 'em! Also, if you do rear through, be prepared for lots of tiny, tiny wasps.

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    1. You've gone and made it all sound a bit difficult there Seth - just when I was thinking that it might not be so difficult after all!! Oh well, maybe I'll stick to big, colourful life forms...

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  4. Mate, breed through a few Phyllonoryctors and check them out under magnification. They'll utterly blow your mind! Who needs 'big. colourful life forms' when you have microleps and a microscope...you do have a microscope, right?

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    1. I do have a microscope Seth although it is a bit dusty at the mo...

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  5. Spent ages commenting on Seth's assertion in detail yesterday, only to find that the comment didn't appear. Really can't face doing it all again so the abbreviated version is: I've been in the field with JRL on very many occasions when he has recorded S. aurella from vacated mines just like the one in Steve's photo. There are actually more problems with many of the Phyllonorycters which cannot be done as safely as the keys suggest without breeding through.

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    1. Thanks Gilbert. As somebody who lacks the experience to usefully engage in this conversation, I'll stand back now...

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