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Marbled White update

On Thursday I posted a piece about a new colony of Marbled Whites near Scotts Float at Playden. This bit of river bank has always been part of Bob Greenhalf's regular WeBS route which I and many others have also walked at least monthly every year, so we know it very well and can confirm we have never found this butterfly there before. Yesterday I revisited the site with Keith Palmer to do a botanical survey, finding at least a dozen, possibly 14, Marbled Whites including a pair definitely mating and perhaps a second female. The larval food plants are usually listed as Red and Sheep's Fescues, Yorkshire Fog, Timothy, Cocksfoot and Tor Grass. We could find neither of the fescues but did find Timothy and Cocksfoot grasses. (Interestingly, we also found a locally scarce Ringlet butterfly which also feeds on Tor Grass, so we might have missed that species among the rank vegetation.) In Sussex, Marbled Whites used to be almost confined to the chalk downs but have spread throughout the western Weald and north into the eastern Low Weald, though they remain very localised in the High Weald; east of Eastbourne they were found in only 14 tetrads in the 2010-14 county atlas. But they are continuing to spread, so worth looking out for anywhere.


Lixinae weevils

Recently found Rhinocyllus conicus on marsh thistle Cirsium palustre at a site in Bexhill. This weevil and the closely related Larinus planus used to be quite rare and localised in Sussex but seem to be spreading rapidly in the last few years. Larinus planus is now common on creeping thislte Cirsium arvense along the coast from Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve to Dungeness. It is especially common at Pett Level.

Rhinocyllus conicus (below) has a similar tessellated pattern of pale scales as Larinus planus but the rostrum (the elongated part of a weevils head) is much shorter and broader with a distinct keel along the top.

Two other Lixinae weevils have been recorded in the RX area including Lixus scabricollis which is now common on sea beet Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima on cliffs and shingle from Bexhill to Dungeness. The most spectacular of all is Lixus angustatus, a very large weevil also associated with thistles, which unfortunately was last recorded in Britain in 1923 on the cliffs of Hastings to Fairlight. Another thistle weevil which could occur in the area is Cleonus pigra. It is a large weevil with a double V pattern on its back.

So never pass a patch of thistles in the RX coastal area without checking for Lixinae weevils you could make a significant discovery. All these species are nationally rare or scarce.

Andy Phillips


From the Clifftop

Good to see posts appearing on RX again !

It seems to me at the moment that insects are the new birds, just can't find any unusual birds to report on, but Ive had a run of good moths lately during the warm weather. Last nighr resulted in over 50 species in my Fairlight moth trap, including this scarce migrant, a Small Marbled, easily mistaken for a micro-moth [I potted it thinking it was an interesting tortrix], Obscure Wainscot and Boxworm Moth, both second garden records. Recently I have caught a Northern Rustic-my sixth here since the first ten years ago, and a Sand Dart which had presumably wandered from the dunes at Camber.



Stem nesting bees at Great Dixter

The gardens and meadows at Great Dixter are alive with an abundance and diversity of stem nesting bees and wasps at the moment including two of Britain's smallest bee species the small scissor bee Chelostoma campanularum and the little yellow-face bee Hylaeus pictipes

The tiny Chelostoma campanularum bees can be seen foraging from Campanula and Geranium flowers throughout the gardens and nesting in thatch and beetle borings in wooden posts.

Hylaeus pictipes females forage from many different plant species throughout the gardens. The males of this species conspicuously 'swarm' with large numbers of male pale-footed black wasps Psenulus pallipes around the tops of tall vegetation adjacent to the Great Dixter Barn thatch roof and log pile waiting to intercept females as they return to their stem and tube nests.

The thatch roof at Great Dixter is home to many stem nesting bees and wasps and their associated cleptoparasites, parasitoids and inquilines. 

Andy Phillips

(Photos by Ian Phillips)


Moth Night & Summer Fayre

We will be having a night time moth event at St Helens Wood near the BBQ area this Friday 5th July. We will meet up around 20:45. We will set up traps and see what night time wonders we can find to present to the public the following day when there will be a Summer Fayre at St Helens Wood in the same area. It opens around 2pm on Saturday. All are welcome to come along on either night/day and see what all the fuss is about.