2014 was a year of mixed fortunes for our Orthoptera and allied insects; some species continue to spread while others appear to be in decline. A few highlights (and low lights) follow:
Des Jenning took this terrific picture of a Speckled Bush-cricket earlier in the summer at Upton Warren. This is certainly a species on the increase. Some records will be the result of better knowledge of where and how to look but there have been sightings of this species across most of the county now. It is often more obvious in spring when the early instars sit quite openly on vegetation. As they mature they move further into cover, especially nettles and brambles making them very hard to find. A bat detector is useful but the call of Speckled Bush-cricket is easily missed even on such a device. A sweep net is also useful for nettle patches but obviously not much use in bramble.
Another one from Des Jennings; this immature Short-winged Conehead proves that the species continues to breed at the site at Fox Hollies near Birmingham. Short-winged Conehead still appears to be reliant on large patches of rushes (Juncus sp.) but this colony is in rushes mixed in with tussock grasses rather than in good wetland sites. This species was also found at a new site this year; an Orthoptera identification day was held at Avon Meadows in Pershore and it proved to be an excellent site for lots of species including Short-winged Conehead. They are very similar to Long-winged Coneheads but the ovipositor is upturned in Short-winged Coneheads as the picture shows. Males are best identified when mature.
Lesne's Earwig has been found at a few new sites in the Avon valley this year. including several sites owned by Vale Landscape Heritage Trust http://valetrust.weebly.com/wildlife.html And I suspect that this handsome earwig could be found anywhere along the river where habitat allows. Interestingly, it has still not been found in Warwickshire. The wild clematis Old-man's-beard is still the key to finding the species, as long as it is in old hedges with good connecting routes as Lesne's Earwig is flightless and so is a good indicator of connected habitats. It was also found at the southern borders of Worcestershire in 2014, near Longdon Marsh where there are miles of Elm hedges. In that situation the usual association with the clematis is replaced by the Elm. The most intriguing record came from the church car park near Grafton Wood NR. A freshly moulted individual was picked up under an Alder tree during a heavy rain shower. Had it been washed out of the tree or did it get transported to the car park by other means? Further searching in that area is needed.
My request for Common Green Grasshopper records resulted in a few reports, but all from the north of the county. Any reports from the south were few and only involved one or two individuals. So this does seem to be a species in trouble in the county; not only in decline but also in a northern contraction of its range. This could be the result of the very wet winter and prolonged flooding in the southern river valleys; Common Green Grasshopper lays its eggs at ground level rather than in the ground, so could its eggs have washed away? Only time will tell.........
Have you seen a Common Green?
The hot weather has allowed the continued spread of some species; including the Meadow Grasshopper which is having the best summer for many years, But the Common Green Grasshopper is disappearing from the countryside. This species usually starts to sing in June, ahead of the other grasshoppers but this year it is very late and appears to have gone from many sites. Its decline has been reported on this site in the past but this year it has only been reported from two sites so far; Pound Green Common on the Worcestershire/Shropshire border and North Littleton near Evesham. Is this species just very late to mature this year or are we seeing a species in serious decline?
Roesel's Bush-cricket continues to spread its wings
Roesel's Bush-cricket, long-winged form.
Wyre Forest 26.07.14 photo N. Farmer
Several long-winged forms of Roesel's Bush-cricket were found together in Wyre Forest on 26th July. This species has been seen in the area but this group marks a new push by the species further into Wyre. The individuals looked to be in very good condition so may actually be local to where we found them and be starting to spread further north-west. It's worth checking areas in the north-west of the county to see if they have made it right across Worcestershire now. This run of hot and humid weather will have been ideal for the Orthoptera so who knows what might turn up on your patch.
Great Green Bush-cricket in Worcestershire!
A male Great Green Bush-cricket was reported from the south of Worcestershire in July 2014. This species has been reported on a few occasions over the years but it has not been possible to verify any of the reports. At best it is thought that the species may be a very occasional migrant in to the county. Most records are more likely mis-identifications (confusion with Oak Bush-cricket is common). However the site and source of the latest report makes it possible that this could be a new breeding species for the county. Further investigation will take place so watch this space.....
First 'singing' grasshoppers of 2014
Female Meadow Grasshopper brown form
at Tiddesley Wood 26.06.14
The first song or more correctly stridulation of grasshoppers this year was reported from Hipton Hill in the Lenches 26.06.14 and Tiddesley Wood near Pershore 29.06.14. Interestingly these were both colonies of Meadow Grasshoppers and not Common Green Grasshopper which is usually the first to sing in the year. The population of Meadow Grasshoppers at Tiddesley Wood contains brown forms which have been quite unusual in this part of the country, so it will be interesting to see if they occur in other parts of Worcestershire now. This form can appear quite similar to Field Grasshoppers at first glance but the females of the Meadow Grasshoppper are short-winged (usually) and the pronotum of Field Grasshopper is more sharply incurved.
The 2014 Cricket Season has started in Worcestershire.
Early instar Roesels Bush-crickets were found at Hipton hill in the Lenches 30th May 2014. Several individuals were found around the site. There was also a very recently hatched first instar and Conehead. Going by the habitat of mixed, tall vegetation it was almost certainly Long-winged Conehead. Short-winged are still confined to wetlands or large patches of rushes within grassland in Worcestershire. An unidentified first instar grasshopper was also found.
Newly hatched Long-winged Conehead
30th May 2014
Early instar Roesels Bush-cricket
30th May 2014
First instar unidentified grasshopper 30th May 2014
Oak, Dark and Speckled Bush-crickets were all present in Tiddesley Wood Nature Reserve on 4th and 5th of May 2014. This marks a return to the 'normal' emergence time, following last year's late start. Let's hope the grasshoppers survived the flooding as their eggs are laid on or in the ground.
Oak Bush-cricket; first instar 04.05.14
Dark Bush-cricket; first instar 05.05.14
Speckled Bush-cricket; first instar 05.05.14
Is the House Cricket extinct in Worcestershire? NO it's not!
Many people can remember the House Cricket (Acheta domesticus) being present in homes and basements of large buildings, including hospitals. After a couple of decades of pesticides such as DDT the species all but died out with the most recent record to come from a domestic dwelling being 2003. I have tried pest controlers to see if they get reports now a days without success. Even suppliers of insects for reptile food do not use Acheta domesticus anymore. I even tried Stratford Butterfly Farm (Warwickshire) to see if I could obtain any House Crickets to photograph but they were unable to track any down. So it does appear that the House Cricket is now extinct in the county (and beyond); unless you know different...... A self-sustaining population has now been reported from buildings at a site near Bewdley so are they anywhere else in the county?
Female House Cricket & nymph. From Worcs' only reported population(?)
Groundhoppers emerged at the end of March 2014
Slender Groundhoppers and Common Groundhoppers were found in Wyre Forest on Saturday 29th March and Slender Groundhoppers were seen in Monk Wood on Sunday 30th March. These two species overwinter as adults and sub-adults so they are usually the first to appear.