Saturday, 23 March 2019

Holm Oaks

Having had several Ecotoedemia heringella adults in my garden over the past 3 years I was keen to see another scarce Nep that feeds on Holm Oak. During the past 2 winters I have been collecting what I had presumed to be Stigmella suberivora mines found on trees at 5 different sites in Worcestershire. However on inspection with a 10x handlens the completed mines always seemed to have been vacated and exhibited a neat crescent-like exit slit at the end.
Mines on Holm Oak

 About 8 lots of leaves h...ave been over-wintered but all that ever emerged were black flies, tiny wasps and a few dark beetles. Having just seen a Glossy Ibis in south Worcestershire on the 2nd March I remembered I was just a short distance away from a huge lone Holm Oak near Longon village. LIke a Sri Lankan 'tea picker' I just quickly stuffed about 100 leaves into a plastic pouch and set off home. Inspecting a few mines later I was hopeful that at least some contained heingella larva which would pupate and produce. Lightly spraying the leaves every 2 days, a few flies stated to appear inside the tub. Then on the 20th March, a late night check saw a tiny black shape on the underside of the fine muslin cover. Thinking it would be another black beetle, I rather nonchalantly peeled the gauze back and saw the insect had dropped onto one of the top leaves. A slender glass pot was to hand and I managed to get the beast in without any fuss. Imagine my absolute delight when I spotted the bright orange head, subtle purple-bronze gloss on all dark wings - at last Stigmella suberivora.
Stigmella suberivora (Steve Whitehouse)

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