Going for Gold

 I think that everyone that I met yesterday was agreed that it was not much of a day, so it was quite a surprise for the sun to make an appearance late in the afternoon and we were treated to the unusual sight of a rainbow on the Firehills. Shortly, along came the Coastguard helicopter and my fellow dog walkers speculated that they must be out looking for the pot of gold!


A Wasp in Coastguard Field

There is a scrubby sallow growing on the seaward side of the hibernaculum in Coastguard Field. Giving it close examination recently discovered a tiny (1.5mm long) parasitic wasp lurking within its branches. It was a Diglyphus isaea, a species that is commercially available as a biological control for several species of leafminer. An adult wasp will seek out the larvae that create leaf mines (in Chrysanthemums for example) and lay eggs in the leaf mining larva. The process will kill the leaf mining larva, and the emerging wasp larva then uses the leaf mining larva as food. While this might sound like a grisly process, it is entirely natural behaviour that has been utilised for commercial benefit. Introduction of such species as Diglyphus isaea into commercial glasshouses gives opportunity for escape into the natural environment, and the one found in Coastguard Field will have originated this way. As to how many generations of parasitoid have passed between the introduction and this discovery can never be known, but it is another new record for the Country Park.


Diglyphus isaea

A Winter Wasp

A colourful wasp was recently found in the sallow growing before the exposed rockface at the back of the quarry. It is Microterys seyon, a tiny wasp that is a parasitoid of soft brown scale Coccus hesperidum. Its discovery was a first for this area, and most unexpected.

Microterys seyon

International Teamwork Identifies a New Species for the Country Park.

A sunny autumnal stroll along the clifftop path on the Firehills has produced an interesting result. A Thrips was found within the grass and gorse at the point where the cliff falls away, it is a tiny insect of no more than 2mm length, of the Order Thysanoptera. Examination under the microscope proved it to be a Thrips but further identification needed greater expertise. The Thrips was delivered to Dr. Manfred Ulitzka in Offenburg (the world expert) and he has identified it as a female Odontothrips ulicis. Dr.Ulitzka was very pleased to make this identification as he only has one example of this species in his collection, and his is a male – hence he is delighted to have filled a gap in his collection. The record of this Thrips has been placed, and it is only the sixth UK record at the Biological Records Centre and the first record on the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. The Country Park has done it again.


Odontothrips ulicis

A Wasp on the Firehills.

Removal of blocks of single-age gorse on the Firehills has created significant areas of new habitat, and it is interesting to observe colonisation of this new habitat. The past couple of weeks has seen the cut and removal of two year’s growth, and has left a short stubble of gorse and grass. A survey of this seemingly unwelcoming habitat found a most distinctive wasp. It was one of the parasitic wasps that tend to be parasitoids of gall-forming insects or mites. Identification proved a challenge, but we can now relish the thought that Sympiesis dolichogaster has been found in the Country Park. That might not seem too exciting at first reading, but the only other UK record was on the Isles of Scilly, hence it appears to be the first mainland UK record.


Sympiesis dolichogaster