Saucer bug – a new species for Gwynedd

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts recently, had a manic few weeks at uni. But I am now back for Easter and whilst I have a lot of work to do, the posts should be more regular. Now, on with today’s topic.

Last Sunday, two friends and I decided to take a trip down to Treborth Botanical gardens in search of a Saucer bug (Ilyocoris cimicoides), a large, aquatic, predatory bug. It is a true bug (belonging to the order Hemiptera), they’re found in densely vegetated ponds and actively hunt other invertebrates, as well as tadpoles and small newts. Whilst this species has been recorded in Anglesey, they had never been properly recorded in the county of Gwynedd. However, on a field trip for 1st year Bangor University zoology students, one of the lecturers thought that he saw one, but sadly did not acquire a picture or a specimen. So, my friends (both of whom are active entomologists), decided to see if we could catch one and record it. The recording of a species requires at least a picture, but a specimen is preferable.

There are two main ponds at Treborth and after acquiring some nets and buckets, we set off to the first one. However, after a good couple of hours of searching we were unable to find one, although we did catch an interesting water boatman species (Notonecta glauca), and so we moved on to the second. Immediately, this pond showed more potential, with tadpoles, as well as damselfly and dragonfly larvae being frequent catches. And with these being optimal food sources for the Ilyocoris cimicoides, things looked hopeful. However, after another couple of hours, there was still no sign of this impressive, aquatic predator, so we took a break and went for a wander around the woods. Upon returning, we decided to give the pond dipping one more go. After 10 or 15 minutes, I saw something of substantial size, swimming just below the surface and stabbed my net into the water, hoping to catch whatever was lurking beneath. As I peered into the net, surveying my catch, there was definitely a larger creature moving around, but due to it being covered in vegetation, we were unable to identify it. Eventually, we extracted the culprit and were delighted to see that it was, in fact, a saucer bug! The feeling was incredible, we snapped a few good pictures for ID purposes and then continued to survey the pond. By this time, the day had warmed up and the bugs were becoming increasingly active and we managed to spot a few more individuals. Once convinced that the one we had caught was not the only individual in the pond, we kept it as a specimen, to ensure that we could correctly ID it.

 

pond dipping.jpg
Matt and George pond dipping, hunting for the elusive saucer bug.

After receiving confirmation from a more experienced entomologist and one with an expertise in Hemipterans, we could relax in the knowledge that we had indeed caught a Saucer bug. And so, logged the record onto the website ‘irecord’. Knowing that we are responsible for the first record of this species in the county Gwynedd, where we attend university is a fantastic feeling, and contributing the recording of species is brilliant. Overall, it was a fantastic day, brilliant weather and an exciting find, providing the perfect break from working. If you have read my previous posts, you would have realised that I like to show people that we, here in Britain, have some fantastic wildlife, and often do this by talking about our bird species. And whilst it is true, we have brilliant birds, I am an entomologist at heart and the diversity of our invertebrate life is brilliant. There are so many different orders, families, genera and species out there and, in my opinion, can be even more interesting than the larger animals. One of the reasons that I find entomology so interesting is just the sheer diversity of invertebrates. Just as a small example of this, there are approximately 5,000 species of mammal, 6,000 species of amphibian and 10,000 species of birds. But these numbers are dwarfed by the fact that there are approximately 1,000,000 species of insects alone (including 650,000 beetle species – the largest group)! Along with 60,000 spider species and 80,000 species of mites, and those are just a fraction of the invertebrate groups. This just demonstrates the sheer diversity of invertebrates in comparison to vertebrates, and this just one of the reasons why entomology is fascinating. As well as being immensely important to the world’s ecosystems, the hugely diverse number of species also correlates to the diversity of body shapes, behaviours and evolutionary characters, therefore making them an endless source of research opportunities.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, again apologies for the lack of activity recently. We moved on from Treborth after finding the Saucer bug, and actually had a very productive day, entomologically speaking, and so the next post will likely contain details of the other species that we saw. Thank you for reading! Feel free to give it a like and if you’d like to be notified each time I publish a post, hit follow. Until next time.

Credit and thanks go to Matt Hamer and George Humphrey, we caught the Llyocoris cimicoides and made this species record together and had a fantastic day doing so.

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