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South Milton Ley Insect Survery

In his review of Devon Birds’ reserves Chris Townend highlighted the need for monitoring to identify and catalogue changes in the species of birds and other fauna and flora before and after major management activities. This was incorporated into the 2016-2020 South Milton Ley management plan and, thanks to Geoff Foale, a South Hams resident together with the Devon Fly and Devon Moth Groups, 477 species of arachnid and insect have now been identified within the reserve boundaries. To the non-specialist it appears to be a long list of incomprehensible names.  Very few flies have English names but some of the more interesting records, listed below, are of national or regional importance:

Stomorhina lunata – North African in origin. Individuals are known to wander over long distances but a small number have been regularly turning up in Northern Europe over the past few years. The larvae are parasitic on locusts so increasing numbers here has created some speculation as to whether they are also able to breed using crickets or grasshoppers as hosts.

Ethiromyia chalybea – a fly belonging to the long-legged fly family, known from only a handful of sites in the county.

Syntormon mikii – nationally this wetland fly is rated Near Threatened (with extinction in Britain).  So far, it has been recorded from just one or two other sites in Devon.

Rhamphomyia caliginosa – a nationally scarce wetland dance fly otherwise known only from a couple of sites around the Exe Estuary in Devon.

Fannia aequilineata – a nationally scarce fly belonging to the lesser house fly family which is associated with rotting wood and sap runs.  There is a thin scattering of records in the county.

Sarcophaga species – these are flesh flies, of which we found a remarkable eight species.  Two, S. agnata and S. sinuata are Nationally Scarce. They were especially numerous around sandy areas at the mouth of the Ley where there were abundant snails which were probably the hosts for many.

Pherbellia knutsoni – this is a nationally rare snail-killing fly.  Please note that this record is provisional pending examination by the national specialist.

Eumerus funeralis – a local hoverfly of a genus with larvae that live in bulbs – there are about a dozen previous records in the county.

Solieria pacifica – a local parasitic fly recorded just once before in the county.

Thereva nobilitata – a local stiletto fly which in Devon is strongly coastal and usually found only on sand dunes.

One area where we currently have a lack of records is the Coleoptera or beetles. If you have or know a non-member with an interest in beetles, who could help in this specialist area, please email alan.pomroy@blueyonder.co.uk for more information.

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