Eye-catching Invertebrates at Gosforth Nature Reserve

Owing to a diverse mosaic of habitats, including plentiful dead wood, Gosforth Nature Reserve is a fantastic place at which to indulge a fascination for the North East’s smaller wildlife.

This Rhinocerous Beetle (Sinodendron cylindricum) was, without doubt, the star of the show last week. A first for me, this glossy, cylindrical beetle (a male) definitely lived up to its name – sporting a distinct, rhinoceros-like projection on its head. A species known to rely on the presence of dead and decaying wood, it was not usual to encounter this beetle here, but nevertheless, it was a pleasure to finally see one up close.

Recent visits have yielded no less than three eye-catching Longhorn Beetles – each known only by an obscure, hard to pronounce scientific name. The vivid, orange and black individual I believe to be the Four-banded Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata); while the second species observed feeding on Hogweed blooms may be the Speckled Longhorn (Pachytodes cerambyciformis). The tiny longhorn, also observed on hogweed tops, may be Grammoptera ruficornis.

This year, I have been making a concerted effort to learn more about Britain’s hoverflies, with limited success – they are a tricky bunch! Anyways, five minutes by the entrance to Gosforth Nature Reserve provided an opportunity to scrutinise a dozen are so species. It was nice to be able to compare and contrast two of the eye-catching Helophilus species, the common and abundant Footballer (Helophilus pendulous) and Helophilus hybridus. Pellucid Fly (Volucella pellucens) and Batman Hoverfly (Myathropa florea) were both conspicuous, as were the eerily red-eyed Dark-winged Chrysogaster (Chrysogaster solstitialis).

Almost as exciting as the encounter with the aforementioned beetle was a chance meeting with two ‘busy’ moths in the interior of the reserve. Immediately recognisable from moth guides and excitable tweets alike, these turned out to be Red-necked Footman (Atolmis rubricollis). This would appear to be a scarce species in the North East, with records this far North often attributed to migration from the continent. To see the pair mating gives hope that a colony of these pretty moths might just appear here in the near future…

Red-necked Footman

On the ponds at the nature reserve, it was lovely to watch both Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies on the wing; while the warm weather had brought out a fantastic variety of butterflies including Large Skipper, Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and my first Ringlet of the year.

In terms of bees, the usual array of bumblebees were all present – including a handsome male Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis). More interesting was a fresh-looking Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa) by the reserve entrance. It was also fantastic to catch up with not one but two Orange Ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata) – these little woodland specialists really are quite splendid!

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