Tag Archives: garden

Less is more, or small is beautiful, but certainly two is a colony

It’s the little things that get me excited. Take this tiny (4 mm) longhorn beetle, Nathrius brevipennis. The longhorns are a diverse group of beetles, but most of them are relatively large (some UK species to 50 mm not including the long antennae) and others are brightly coloured. Nathrius must rank as our smallest and dullest.

Nathrius brevipennis is too small to have an English name, but at 4 mm I'm thinking "short longhorn".

Nathrius brevipennis is too small to have an English name, but at 4 mm I’m thinking “short longhorn”.

But when this one crawled over my small garden table on Monday (14 July) I nearly fell off my chair. Nathrius, I knew, is very rare; so rare, in fact, that it is barely regarded as being British at all. Some of the older books do not include it, some others say “naturalized”. Occasionally specimens emerge from decorative twigs of uncertain provenance bought in florist shops, others chew their way out of wicker baskets imported from who knows where. Records in genuine outdoor habitats, in the wild, are scant.

My Nathrius is special, not because it is so rare, or even because I found it out of doors, but because it is the second specimen I have found out of doors in my garden. The first specimen crawled over my arm as I sat outside reading the newspaper on 18 July 2010. Of course I enthusiastically reported its presence in the entomological press here.

So, two specimens in 4 years makes my garden the largest known UK colony of this small but fascinating insect.

Surely it’s a bit late to find new things in the garden?

Actually, no. Apparently not.

Otherwise I would not have noticed an odd-looking leaf-hopper sunning itself on an ivy leaf in the afternoon sunshine. Sleeker and a tad longer than the common spittle bug, Philaenus spumarius, it had a couple of pale flecks at the wing-tips. And I wondered…..yes, Fieberiella florii.

Fieberiella florii.

Fieberiella florii.

As usual, this is a pretty rubbish photo, taken on my phone down the barrel of a microscope. Much better images here on the British Bugs website, take a look.

First discovered in the UK in 1998 (its originally from North America), it’s been found a few times in the London area. But this is the first time I’ve come across it.