posted in: Beetles, Bugs, Invertebrates, Worcestershire | 0

A trip to Trench Wood this morning gifted an unexpected encounter in the car park with my friend RC – he’s a renownedly early riser, and I’m not, so our flight periods rarely overlap. For the next couple of hours we strolled around the wood together, which not only made for good company and interesting conversation, but allowed me to shamelessly exploit his excellent spotting skills, and collect photos of several nice inverts that I probably wouldn’t have found if I’d been there on my own.

This is an Aspen Leaf-rolling Weevil, a tiny beetle that’s quite common in mainland Europe, but so rare in the UK that it’s thought to be present in as few as fifteen woodland sites. Its primary requirement is a good supply of young aspen saplings, whose leaves the adult weevils roll into protective tubes for their eggs, and because Trench Wood contains a lot of aspen, the site has historically been a stronghold for the weevil. Its status here has been strengthened in recent years by the way in which Worcestershire Wildlife Trust manages the wood, with rotational clearance of ride edges and glades encouraging the growth of new saplings, and as the weevil is continuing to decline in other areas, it’s fair to say that the robustness of the Trench Wood population makes this a site of national importance. Two other local woods – Monkwood and Grafton Wood – also have Aspen Leaf-rollers, but conditions at those sites aren’t quite as perfect for the weevil as they are at Trench.

My extra today is the treehopper Centrotus cornutus, which is very much more common (and at around 10mm in length, considerably bigger) than the Aspen Leaf-rolling Weevil, but it’s cryptic and shy, and tries to avoid drawing attention to itself. I’d never seen one before, and if RC hadn’t spotted this little guy I doubt I’d have seen one today either, but I’ve completely fallen for its ugly charms, and I’ll be searching hard for other specimens from now on. I wish I’d spent a little more time with it, and maybe chosen an angle that showed its horns, but at the time I was riveted by its extended, wavy pronotum, which looks like the handle it would very much rather you didn’t pick it up by. If none of the Art Nouveau designers ever featured this fantastical little beast in their work, they definitely missed a trick.

I’ve put a few images from today’s trip on my Facebook page, if you’d like to see them. They include two more photos of Aspen Leaf-rolling Weevils, one of which is a closer view of this specimen, showing more clearly the spur on the pronotum which indicates that he’s male. But fun as it is to get really close views of something that’s only 5mm long, this is by far my favourite photo of the day, because it sets the weevil in context – while also showing it seemingly not wanting to be set in context, and determinedly marching out of the composition. Which, based on my experience today, is what Aspen Leaf-rolling Weevils spend most of their encounters with macro photographers attempting to do.

There’s an article about the Weevils of Worcestershire here, if you’re interested. It includes a photo of a pair of adult weevils rolling an aspen leaf, in much the same way as a couple of humans might roll a carpet.