Numbering the Weevils

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Thanks to this rather excellent beast, the Scarce Fungus Weevil* Platyrhinus resinosus**, I’ve now seen over 140 species of beetle. It’s a good number, but given their astonishing diversity – even here in the diminutive, isolated, northerly British Isles – I have a long way to go. In fact my total represents a mere 3.5% of the British beetle fauna! Of the insect orders I’ve only seen more lepidopterans: 292, or about 12% of the British fauna. Moths alone account for 251 of those, level-pegging with my 251 birds (42% of the British list, though a large proportion of the species recorded in Britain, and a few on my list too, are vagrants that don’t breed here or even regularly overwinter)

Why the numbers game? It’s all a bit of fun, of course. But also a way, through friendly competition (with my past self, among others!), of encouraging exploration of species groups and habitats I have hitherto ignored as a naturalist. I try not to take a twitching approach to listing – tick and run, if you like – preferring to identify things myself and endeavour, as far as possible, to have learned enough to recognise the species if I see it again. I fail to meet these high standards often, but my memory is only so good! And if I know I’ve seen a species and I was present where it was found, it seems rude not to honour it with a place on my list.

So, my target now for the remainder of 2015 is to reach 200 beetles and to increase my overall species total from 1314 to at least 1500. Fortunately I’ll be spending a lot of time working my way through thousands of preserved specimens collected as part of my PhD research over the last few summers. Bound to be a few good surprises lurking amongst them! For more information on this recording all species lark, head to the Pan-species listing website, where you will find me lurking somewhere in the lower half of the rankings….

*Not technically a weevil: the fungus weevils are in their own family, Anthribidae.

**Photographed below is the first I saw, an initially rather sorry looking soggy specimen dragged out of a flight intercept trap that has now dried out quite nicely. At least I have been able to preserve it for posterity. A week later I almost walked right past a log sporting a few bulbous fruiting bodies of the fungus Daldinia concentrica, variously known as King Alfred’s cakes or cramp balls, but recalled just in time that it is the larval host for Platyrhinus. I was surprised but indeed delighted to find not one, not two, but three live and kicking specimens of the beetle, as shown in the pictures at the top of this post.**

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