Friday, 15 December 2017

My Great East Anglian Bug Hunt 2017: The Results

For the majority of 2017, I have been on a bit of a bug hunt. I had made myself a tick sheet containing 32 species of invertebrate of my choosing and I have been in search for them all across East Anglia (mostly in Norfolk, Suffolk and Colchester). As today marks the third anniversary since I started this blog, I thought it would be the perfect time to reveal how I got on.

Stag Beetle hunting near Colchester
As you can see, I did quite well with only 8 out of 32 that I failed to find. However, the razor shell only counts as a half tick as I was only able to find them as empty shells and not as a living organism that I wanted. Out of the 8 that I failed with, though, I was more disappointed in failing to find a stag beetle as this was one of my main targets that was top of my list. I had never seen one before and had always dreamt of seeing one. One of the best places in East Anglia to see stag beetles is Colchester. Back in May and June, I made to trips to find them, but was unsuccessful. But though I failed to see a stag beetle, it was still great to see how much this town cares for this rare, large beetle as there were corners of the town that were created for them in mind. I will have to try again next year.
The closest I got to a Stag Beetle (at Colchester Natural History Museum)

Though the stag beetles were a complete bust, I was more fortunate with another target at the top of my wish list. As with the stag beetle, I have always wanted to see an emperor moth in the wild. They are much more widespread than stag beetles, but they still proved to be a challenge to find for me. I have seen the caterpillar before, but never the adult. To increase my chances, I bought a couple of pheromone lures to lure them over to me. After several failed attempts, I finally got lucky at Weeting Heath thanks to one of the wardens there that helped me out and caught two for me. I even got to hold one. A dream come true! I even came across a caterpillar at Minsmere in July this year, too.

Emperor Moth
Emperor Moth Caterpillar

Swallowtail Butterfly
While the stag beetle and emperor moth were high up on my list, the other 30 species that I had chosen to look for were made up of various species that ranged from the rarest to the strangest and from the most beautiful to the ones that are important to the certain ecosystems that they help shape. My search took me to a variety of places and habitats, from the coast to the Brecks and from woodlands to the green spaces of cities and towns. Quite a few of these targets I had seen before but were chosen as subjects to get a closer look into their world and others were chosen because they have a big connection to Norfolk. The swallowtail butterfly, the Norfolk hawker, the ladybird and the edible crab formed, what I called, the 'Norfolk Four'. Thankfully, I managed to find all four and even ate one of them. The edible crab is a bit of a delicacy in Norfolk and has made Cromer famous, so I just had to eat one as part of my challenge.

Swallowtail Caterpillar
Norfolk Hawker
Seven-spot Ladybird

Eating a Cromer Crab (an Edible Crab)

Leopard Slug
Pill Woodlouse

Green Tiger Beetle

Ant-lion catching a Millipede


Great Pied Hoverfly
Acorn Weevil

Great Silver Diving Beetle

Willow Emerald Damselfly
Yellow Dung-fly
Common Razor shell (an empty one)


Water Scorpion
Fen Raft Spider surveying
There were a few other targets on my list that I had never seen before and were satisfyingly ticked off as the year of searching went by. This included the grizzled skipper, the minotaur beetle and the wool carder bee. However, for the fen raft spider, I was more than satisfied. I was very grateful to be invited to join in with one of the surveys back in July for these very rare spiders at a secret location monitored by the RSPB. This was a reintroduction project that happened in 2012 and it was pleasing to see so many of them at this special site, even if I had to cross a very narrow bridge at the end of the survey.

Fen Raft Spider
Grizzled Skipper
Wool Carder Bee
Minotaur Beetle 

As well as the species that were part of my list, I also came across other species that weren't on it but were just as much of a highlight as the ones that were. Here's just a some of those...

Dingy Skipper
Brown Argus
Pale Brindle Beauty caterpillar

Ichneumon Wasp Ephialtes manifestator
Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth
Lime Hawk-moth

Wall Butterfly
Some kind of Spider-hunting Wasp
Banded Demoiselle
Garden Tiger Moth
Garden Tiger Moth Caterpillar
Gold Spot Moth
Box Tree Moth
Garden Snail
Dark Bush-crickets
Spider Web
Pantaloon Bee
Roesel's Bush-cricket

Canary-shouldered Thorn
Red-tipped Clearwing

Black-clouded Longhorn Beetle
Emperor Dragonfly

White Admiral
Scarce Chaser
Common Hermit Crab
Beadlet Anemone
In the end, though I had failed to see everything on my list, I was quite successful for the most part. It gave me an insight into their world. Some were harder to find than others and the reasons for that was due to bad weather and a bit of bad timing and bad luck on my part. Another reason might be because that some of these species are declining fast. Global warming, habitat loss and pesticides are all big factors that may be the cause of such decline, but there's a lot we can do to help. Planting nectar-rich flowers in your garden for pollinators like bees or building bug hotels (piles of logs, leaves and other materials) is a great way to start. So next time you see a bug, don't squash it with your shoe, get down and admire it.

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