22 May 2010

A beetle for Biodiversity Day 2010

Today, 22 May, is the International Day of Biodiversity.  In the spirit of such an event a group of us, under the auspices of Butterfly Conservation, went on a caterpillar foray in Brede High Woods.

The weather was glorious, but the adult butterflies rather few.  Despite enlightened management species like the grizzled skipper, the green hairstreak or the pearl-bordered fritillary no longer seem to be present.

However, there was a compensation.  In a waist high grove of aspen suckers we found several groups of the larvae of the ladybird-like leaf beetle Gonioctena decemnotata, a Nationally Notable (B) species normally found on aspen.

20100522 BHW Gonioctena decemnotata 003

The remarkable thing was that each group of the black leaf-munching larvae was guarded nearby by an adult, presumably mother.

Such solicitousness for offspring is rare in the insect world and I would imagine a small vegetarian beetle would have minimal ability to drive off a hungry predator.  Does the red colour, I wonder, act as a sort of stop light and say "keep your distance."

The only other East Sussex record for this species I can find is from Bixley Wood a few miles from the Brede High Wood site.

20100522 BHW Gonioctena decemnotata 004