Hope you guys can help me out here even if its just a little bit.
Does anyone within the community here know of any really helpful sites, books or have any methods of identifying British bugs?
I've tasked with finding some names for certain bugs and i'm not very sure where to start looking, so far the The Amateur Entomologists' Society website has been fairly useful but its not given me an answer on a couple of other little critters.
Any help on this would be greatly appriciated.
Thank you for reading.
I would immediately recommend Tristan Bantock & Joseph Botting's British Bugs web site
Have a wander around it and I am sure you will be impressed.
Just by way of an example, here's the page on anatomical terminology
Thank you very much. that site is very helpful and a huge thank you for the anatomical terms picture. I think my refering to nearly everything as "that bit there" was starting to become un-helpful.
This is a 16-spot ladybird, Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata
This is not to be confused with:
- 19-spot ladybird (water ladybird), Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata (in its autumn beige colouration)
- 14-spot ladybird, Propylea quattuordecimpunctata
Thank you Mike for helping with the Identification! I am working with weber134 to try and identify some of the selection. I am currently trying to identify this species, I have not seen this species before: -
No I haven't heard of sticky traps before, where were the images posted of insects on sticky traps? However I have worked with weber134 with a simple pitfall trap design as seen in the natural history museum video. The pitfall trap was just placed in the ground and filled with tap water. That is where the two pictures of above came from.
It is a marsh damsel bug, Nabis limbatus.
Note: The reed damsel bug, Nabis lineatus, is very similar - but appears slimmer.
Thank you so much Mike! That would of taken me a long time to work out through the insect keys! The survey is being carried out on a one year old Wildflower Buffer Strip to identify the diversity of species that have been benefiting from the Natural England Improvement!
We currently have 17 species left that I am unsure of!. If you could identify only a couple it would be extremly helpful!
1. A weevil; I can't say which species, nor even genus.
2. A centipede. There are several rather similar to this one.
"There are several very similar species which can only be confidently identified using a key and a microscope or good lens. As there are other very similar species in this genus, which means that detailed examination of the specimen is generally needed to identify the exact species..."
3. I can't tell from the photo.
Melissa et al.,
If I may make some points regarding identifications,
my aim being to help you help us.
ID keys have their place, but they can have shortcomings (eg. they may not include all possible species, and they may rely on characters unknown and unknowable to you. Also, even if a key does include a particular species, you may have an abnormal instance of it (young stages of many invertebrates often give problems because of that).
Photo galleries have their place, but they have shortcomings, too; somewhat similar to ID keys.
You often have to use a mixture of both.
Over time (years), experience enables you to take short-cuts, eg. to recognize some species automatically, or to have a strong feeling which genus a creature belongs to, or to know particular groups of easily-confusable organisms and know which characters to pay particular attention to (which is especially important in the field, if the organism is being observed rather than collected).
As important as knowing species or genera through experience, is knowing where to look for information (you can't be expected to know every species off the top of your head). That means books, your personal research notes, online resources (including fora such as NaturePlus), and people (again, partly through fora, but also through museums).
Experts come in various shapes and forms. Nobody is expert at everything. In any particular domain, some experts will be more expert than others. Some folks may be experts about a particular group of animals or plants, others about a particular locality, say. So you need to accept that an expert should be treated as a source of information - and that information ought to be verified by you, and weighed with information from other sources. If multiple experts agree on an ID, that obviously helps in that respect. But there is always a chance of a mistake. And that is greater when the expert is given poor information from which to try to make the ID.
The expert may be able to home-in on an ID immediately. But in general, he/she will try to:
1. guess the right ball-park through experience
2. narrow the list of candidates by using keys and/or photo galleries, also bearing in mind the location when choosing or using them
3. make a short-list, then rule candidates out by considering particular factors (perhaps time of year for a flower or moth, say)
4. hope to have one and only one candidate left - the species in question!
The expert knows he/she may fail at (4).
So when you ask experts, it helps a lot if you can think like them. That means providing:
- location (with geology, an exact location can be very useful)
- date (and perhaps time of day/night)
- photos - showing as many characters as possible that may be relevant in differentiating one species from another, and showing the scale (by text if not in the photo), and we are always grateful for photos that are detailed, well-lit, well-exposed, cropped to remove extraneous areas, and downsized to keep the file size small so long as doing so does not compromise sharpness
- what species you have already considered, and why you consider them viable candidates or why you have ruled them out
- what tests you have done (eg. determining the density or magnetic properties of a piece of rock)
- any other observations (eg. if there were a lot of them, or if it smelled)
Even if you do all that, an exact ID may not be possible. That's because:
- species may be very similar, requiring microscopic examination to separate them
- species may be under-documented (there may be only an old drawing, no photo)
- species may be documented well but in a language foreign to the expert
- with quite a few organisms, experts differ on how particular species should be defined (this is science in action)
- new species my be discovered, or unusual forms of existing species
Lastly, you the enquirer, have to decide how precise an ID you need: species?, subspecies?, forma?, cultivar?, genus? The greater the required precision, the less likely you will get a reliable ID. You also have to decide what to do with a partial ID. It can really upset you recording system if it is designed to accept species but you know only genus. (Dealing with that is a whole other question.)
That is just my view. I would like to think other experts might nod their head in agreement, but I know some will have alternative views on what I have stated and what I may have omitted.
Thank you for your help and the valuable information! This is the first time we have studied insects, so any information is really useful!. We are currently using a key, photo gallerys, and a 200 X magnifcation video microscope to identify the invetebrates. I have also looked at the links you have sent and they are all very helpful. I am planning to buy/borrow species specific keys/books once I know the most diverse families in the survey.
At the moment I am trying to work out families, although identifying down to genus would be better. As I don't want to identify species incorrectly I understand that I will not be able to determine the genus on some of them. I am currenly having diffculty with the spider species.
The surveys took place once a month between july and september in a lowland arable farm in Essex. The pitfall traps were placed between a hawthorn/blackthorn hedgerow and a wheat field. Half of the samples were from a 1 year old wildflower buffer strip. In a survey I found this contained mostly false oat, with some meadow thistle, wild carrot, ribwort plantain, birds foot trefoil, smaller cats tail, scentless mayweed and yarrow.
Thanks for your update, filling me in; interesting; lots to learn, eh?.
Well done for not being put off by my long posting.
The 200x microscope must be very useful.
Note that your pitfall traps won't catch everything; they are just one of several means of sampling the total population. For instance, for night-flying moths one can use lights, a special guey moth sugar, and ropes soaked in wine - and each of those will attract some species and fail to attract others.
However, if you are monitoring changes in species frequency rather than trying to determine all the species in an area, the selectivity of any particular sampling method will be less significant.
Thanks for the information about the night flying moths survey, that could be another project! I orginally planned to carry out a study on the Natural England improvements by studying the flowers. However someone suggested surveying invetebrates. As I have not studied/sampled invetebrates before I decided it would be really useful to study them and develop my ecology skills.
When I designed the survey I understood that there were limitations with using pitfall traps and that I will not be able to survey the whole populaiton. That is why I decided to monitor the changes in species frequency in the pitfall traps throughout the season.
In my experimental design I chose to set up 54 pitfall traps each month, by placing a cup into a base cup in the ground. A small amount of bottled water and detergent was then added.
There were 6 survey plots on the farm that are all between hedgerows and wheat fields. Three of the sites consist of 6 metre wide wildflower buffer strips and the other three are 6 metre wide barren sites (These sites are soon to be turned into buffer strips).
Each of the 6 survey sites has 9 pitfall traps placed in them in rows of three. The middle row (Row B) is 3 metres from the hedgerow and crop, and the cups are placed 1 metre apart. Row A is 1.5 metres from the hedgerow and the cups are placed 1 metre apart. Row C is 1.5 metres from the crop and the cups are placed 1 metre apart. I decided to do the set up like this to try and gain a fairer representation of the survey plot.
Hopefully my data will give a good representation of the species, but any errors I make will help improve my understanding. So far I have made many interesting observations and learnt good tips for identifying! Although I am currently having difficulty with the smaller spiders!
I sense your ecologicals skills shaping up nicely to match the quality of your writing.
I see many people writing in an over-abbreviated, SMS-ish manner with scant regard for grammar or punctuation. Your posts are a refreshing change to that. Thank you.
By the way, have you allowed for scavengers and predators raiding your pitfall traps?
Thank you for your kind words! I am hoping that my ecology skills will improve a lot from the study! This is the second ecology project I have completed, the first involved completing flora NVC surveys and a Phase 1 habitat survey on the farm! Any work experience, projects, talks, or advice is very valuable as I am aiming to move into the environment field!
The pitfall trap design I chose allowed for scanengers such as badgers and foxes. I used a set up of two plastic cups in the soil and this was then covered by a plastic curved lid raised 2 inches from the ground. The lid was held in the ground by a type of garden wire covered in a plastic coating. During the survey four of the lids were destroyed (most likely by badgers), however they were unable to pull out or make any marks in the garden wire so they didn't get to the traps!
Would I be able to send a photograph/s of some of the spiders I am having difficulty with?
Looks like you're the expert on pitfall traps!
Yes, of course you can post your spiders for ID.
There are folks here much better than me on spiders, so post them in a new topic to help ensure they are seen.