And the top insect of 2012 is….

Number 1:  Bombus campestris (a Cuckoo Bumble Bee)
Discovery Centre, Craven Arms

Its not that often that I see a species of Bumble Bee that I’ve never seen before, which is why this little cutie gets the top slot for this year’s inverts!  Bombus campestris is a cuckoo bee that usurps the nests of carder bees.  Cuckoo Bumble Bees don’t have workers, just queens and males, so they are not seen as often as ‘true’ Bumble Bees.

Number 2:  Chrysolina fastuosa, (Dead Nettle Leaf Beetle)
The Grange, Walsall

This species gets in at number 2 based on ‘bling’.  I mean, really, just look at it!  Just goes to show that common species can be truly spectacular, and so based purely on looks, the Dead Nettle Leaf Beetle goes in at #2.

Number 3:  Polistes metricus (a Paper Wasp)
Sea World, Orlando, Fl.

Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but this little beastie is a sleek, stunning little thing – so I was surrounded by dolphins, killer whales and the riches of the ocean, and I spend ten minutes photographing this AMAZING paper wasp, the only Florida species in its genus to not have yellow markings.

Number 4: Tritomegas bicolor (Pied Shield Bug)
The Grange, Walsall

Another first for me, this little shield bug can be found on white dead-nettle, and was the find of the day at this year’s Spring BioBlitz!

Number 5:  Queen Dolichovespula media (Median Wasp)
Merrions Wood, Walsall

One of my first finds of the year, I was rolling over logs looking for beetles, etc in February in Merrions Wood, and found this amazing queen median wasp – I’ll admit at first I thought it was a hornet, but the key feature is the ‘Nike’ symbol – a tick on each ‘shoulder blade’.  This takes the social wasp count at Merrions Wood to 3 species – a fantastic diversity of species for a handkerchief reserve.

Number 6:  Nepa cinerea (Water Scorpion)
Fibbersley Nature Reserve, Walsall

This ferocious looking beast is actually an impressive, yet harmless aquatic bug called a Water Scorpion.  Found during a Great Crested Newt training event (training the surveyors, not the newts!) at Fibbersley, always a nice surprise to come across!

Number 7:  Bombus pratorum (Early Bumble Bee)
Morston Marshes, Norfolk

This is a very common, small social bumble bee, and whilst on holiday during national insect week and taking in the sites of Blakeney and Cley, I found several of these bees.  So what’s so special about them?  See that white spot?  Bombus pratorum doesn’t have any white fur!!!  These are partial albino bees!  An incredible find, and it wasn’t just one individual.  Three bees that I caught had albinism in patches on various parts of their abdomens!

Number 8:  Stigmus pendulus (a Solitary Wasp)
Merrions Wood, Walsall

Some of you may be familiar with this little tinsel-faced stunner, as he is my find of the year!  Only a second ever record for the species in the West Midlands (the other being at Sott’s Hole), this solitary wasp is on the westernmost edge of its biogeographical range.  So it may be tiny, easy to overlook, but a fantastic record for Merrions Wood.

Number 9:  Urophora cardui (creeping Thistle Gall fly)
Merrions Wood, Walsall

So I’m really not a fly person, but Picture-Wing flies are pretty endearing, as they wave their wings alternatively in a little dance in order to woo women.  Just another example of how the role that sexual selection plays in evolution produces good-looking men!  (Women like pretty wings, so the flies with the prettiest wings (and best waving technique) get the girl – and get to pass on their genes to the next generation!).  Thanks to Andy from Staffordshire Invertebrates Group for the ID!

Number 10:  Glomeris marginata (Pill Millipede)
Merrions Wood, Walsall

And last but not.. um, okay so I guess least, but by no means the loser, is the fabulous pill millipede.  One of my best entomological experiences of the year was during the spring walk I lead at Merrions Wood.  We found one of these little guys, and around 10 of us were huddled around him on someone’s hand, cheering for him to uncurl and show his face – which he did to great cheers and delight from his fans!  They are pretty special things to find, and to my knowledge, the only place in Walsall that they are present is in Merrions Wood.

And Honorable Mention goes to …this Weevil (Curculio sp?) found on Cley Beach in June!

Weevils rock.  A lot.  They look like the clangers, they are super cute, weird and alien-looking, happy to sit on the beach for an hour with you while your husband is fishing.  So this little dude gets an honorable mention award for hanging out with me on holiday. 🙂

…and Barr Beacon’s first Tiger Beetles (Cicindela campestris)!

Yes, he’s looking at you like he’s thinking about eating you.  He probably is.  But he sure is purdee!


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