Wheldrake: 601 species in two years

[Note: The following has been written by Julian Small at Wheldrake. To have identified this many species from one trap highlights the real potential there is in the RIS network beyond the 'bread and butter' of macro-moths. If anyone is interested in looking at non-lepidopteran taxa in the network then don't hesitate to contact me. Chris]

Rothamsted Trap no.644, at the Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve office in Wheldrake, close to York, will have been running for two years in May. While obviously the priority has been recording every individual macro-moth to contribute to the core dataset of the light-trap scheme, I have been keen to record as much of the by-catch as possible – simply to see how many species actually come to light in our area. We recently passed 600 species recorded for the trap, broken down as follows;

Macro-moths – 211 spp

Micro-moths – 147 spp

True Flies – 139 spp

Caddisflies – 34 spp

Beetles – 32 spp

Bugs – 19 spp

Lacewings and Scorpion Flies – 7 spp

Hymenoptera – 4 spp

Mayflies – 4 spp

Barklice – 2 spp

Spider – 1 spp

Earwigs – 1 spp

The true number of species in these 23 months will have been considerably greater, the limiting factors in identifying specimens being time, availability of keys and skill. Although, in excess of 17,200 individual insects have been identified, they probably represent only around a third of all the little beasties that have found themselves in the killing jar so far. The most diverse groups where relatively little effort has been applied to their identification so far are; parasitic wasps, fungus gnats and non-biting midges.

Most of the species recorded, as you would expect, have been abundant or quite common. A few species stand out as being more unusual, especially Oecetis notata, a caddisfly with confirmed records previously no nearer to Yorkshire than the River Severn. The macro-moth list is very similar to lists generated from comprehensive trapping at other sites in lowland Yorkshire - the stand-out species being Yellow Belle, which has not been recorded inland in Yorkshire before.




The data we are collecting will hopefully be useful in many ways as it accumulate. We hope for instance to be able to generate flight-period data for a range of winter-flying flies. But most of all, it has been exciting and interesting to try and get to grips with the by-catch, and has certainly been a great spur in improving my entomological skills.


Julian Small

Senior Reserve Manager, Humberhead Peatlands NNR


First published April 16 2013.