Insect collection: Blaps and Sphodrus

David Green has been working with the Worcester City museum collection of beetles. David gives some background information about the collection and the nineteenth century and early twentieth century collectors who compiled it in his previous ResearchWorcestershire post.

In this post, he looks specifically at Blaps mucronata Latreille, 1804 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) and Sphodrus leucophthalmus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in the Coleoptera collection of Worcester City Museum. These beetles were traditionally found in cellars, but are now much less common because of the changing use of these spaces. Other researchers have suggested that  Sphodrus leucophthalmus might now be extinct in Britain, making the Worcester collection particularly interesting as historical evidence.

Beetle specimens categorised and pinned in rows

top left three: Sphodrus leucophthalmus (all the specimens in the Worcester Museum collection)

remainder: Blaps mucronata from the Worcester Museum collection

 

Insect specimen labels
All specimen labels – layout same as specimens. Bloom’s specimens have no provanence data, the label records the purchase of his specimens by the museum. Fletcher’s specimens possess a data label in his handwriting, as is the case with virtually all Fletchers insect specimens in the museum & there is usually no other label. (But when Fletcher received the specimen from another entomologist the provenance on Fletcher’s label is usually only the name & provenance of the entomologist, not the specimen itself.)

 

A recent record of Blaps mucronata Latreille, 1804 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) in Kemerton and a review of Worcestershire records (Green & Poloni 2015) makes it relevant to review records I have compiled for the species from specimens in Worcester City Museum Coleoptera collection. Also I include the records of Sphodrus leucophthalmus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Coleoptera: Carabidae) which shares the same synanthropic habitat such as cellars. Picture 1 shows all the specimens of both species in the museum. The following table lists records.

Species Num Collection Provenance
Blaps mucronata 1 Fletcher Indoors, Worcester 1883-July
Blaps mucronata 1 Fletcher Indoors, Worcester 1885-August-28
Blaps mucronata 2 Fletcher In cellar, Worcester 1856-July
Blaps mucronata 1 Fletcher Skin[?] …, Worcester 1893-July-20
Blaps mucronata 3 Bloom. Purchd from Bloom Collection 1909 (no provanance otherwise)
Sphodrus leucophthalmus 3 Fletcher In cellar, Worcester, by Alfred Burrow 1857

Key to table:

  • Num: number of specimens
  • Collection: The collection from which specimen originated; these are combined mostly into one cabinet in the museum.
Both species are now generally known to have declined with the reduction of synanthropic habitat in cellars, stores and mills. Of Sphodrus leucophthalmus Duff 2012 states: no British records since 1979, and, “in cellars and stores, usually in urban areas, apparently preying on larvae of Blaps spp”.
Worcester’s collector John E Fletcher’s Blaps mucronata records of “indoors” suggests the species was common in 19th century Worcester when there were more dark/damp places with more cereals and vegetable matter available for food indoors and protective containment of such food only partial. The Green & Poloni (2015) list of Blaps mucronata records for Worcestershire indicates it is now found occasionally in villages.
It seems possible Sphodrus leucophthalmus might be extinct in Britain so it would be relevant to look for it particularly where Blaps mucronata is found and to avoid use use of insecticides on synanthropic insects generally especially in dark/damp places indoors.

David M. Green

David M. Green is an entomologist who has been identifying/cataloguing & doing some basic curation of the Museum collections of Coleoptera & Diptera for some years & has a background in wildlife invertebrate survey.

Acknowledgements

To curators Garston Philips, Deborah Fox, and other staff, my thanks for providing access to the Worcester City Museum insect collection for long term work and recent photography.
To Harry Green, for information/article in prep. (Green & Poloni 2015) that caused the writing of this article.

References

  • Duff, Andrew G. 2012 Beetles of Britain and Ireland Vol 1: Sphaeriusidae to Silphidae: p199. West Runton, Norfolk: A.G. Duff
  • Green, Harry & Poloni, Jake 2015. Cellar Beetle Blaps mucronata at Kemerton, Worcestershire 2015. Worcester Record 39:20-23
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