Panning dung for gold – proper beetling

On Sunday the 8th of October I headed up to one of my fave stomping grounds, the Brackenhurst Campus muck heap. Pulled out on a previous visit was the (probable) county first Philonthus spinipes, a spectacular looking rove beetle. Now I’ve finished going through most of the sample, it looks like I might have another county first on my hands (and that is a big might while I wait for some correspondence to come back), as well as a handful of new beetles to add to my list.


The muck heap!

This evenings post is powered by Primus – The Desaturated Seven, Against me! – Shape Shift With Me and NOFX – First Ditch Effort.

Before the beasts of the heap are discussed, I added a surprise bogey species to the list. In the small watercourse at the base of the park in Southwell I noticed a shape move in the bottom. Peering over I reached for the camera quick, my first ever crayfish… and yup… you guessed it… a signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus. This is a non-native and invasive species and something I’m not going to dwell on much. For more information about this horrid little creature, please see here –


Signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus

Riding high on adding a new species to my pan species list, but at the same time slightly annoyed for seeing it, I headed up to the muck heap along small hedgerows and down winding farm tracks. Everyone knows the first piece of kit out the bag has to be the flask lid to be filled with hot tea and ready to intercept chocolate hobnobs. As far as I’m concerned no other biscuits are available. Second, the sieve kit was removed and before laying out pots and pooter for the inevitable beetle gold I was panning shit for.




The first beetle into the tray was the brilliant looking Anchomenus dorsalis, a carabid which never disappoints the observer. This was followed by a handful of 14 spot ladybirds Propylea quatuordecimpunctata and shortly after by the first new staphylinid on the listQuedius picipes. I was slightly concerned the habitat information didn’t quite match as in the key by Lott (2011) it states in a ‘variety of environments on damp soils
but a dissection of the genitalia I think confirmed it for me. The italics emphasize that I am still waiting for complete confirmation to come through for this species and some of the following.


Anchomenus dorsalis


Bisnius porcus is the next addition to the list, again the genitalia dissection confirmed it. This species is associated with dung and compost heaps.


Bisnius porcus

The common and beautiful Poecilus cupreus was spotted running about the tray before being placed back on the heap. This isn’t a new species for me but it’s always worth a mention… I mean… who can’t appreciate this stunner.


Poecilus cupreus

The second best beetle of the day, in my opinion, was the delightful but ridiculously small Scydmaenus rufus. Measuring in at around 1mm, It was a complete head ache to card but I’m 85 percent happy with the results. Doing a quick literature searched turned up a paper on the species and its prey preference and behavior. I won’t spoil the read and instead, have a look yer’sen – link.


Scydmaenus rufus

Monotoma picipes, a black species with reddish brown legs and antennae, was pooted in the field without any knowledge of what family it might fall within. After gorping at it down the microscope I worked it out, firstly by it having to fall within the super family, Cucujoidea. After that it was easy enough to place in the family Monotomidae before keying it through.


Monotoma picipes

…and saving possibly the best til last, a smallish and mostly black species of beetle. Hydrophilid beetles are generally a no go area for me, but this one just looked a bit different. I took my chances that two labels might be on it by the end of the night, with location and collector details along with its name, instead of a rizzla label with just the date on and no identification. It keyed a dream and I came up with Dactylosternum abdominale, a species added to the British list by Tony Allen in 2003, Dorset. I am still chasing up if any records of this beetle exist in Nottinghamshire so I could, and its a big could, have a county first on my hands and the second in three years from the Brackenhurst dung heap.


Dactylosternum abdominale

Also found was the highest concentration of pseudoscorpians I have ever seen. I stopped counting at 75 and pondered what a juvenile pseudoscorpian might be called…

A pseudoscorpling like you call juvenile spiders spiderlings? I still need to look at the three I pooted up but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Ponk on.




About BeetlePunk

A naturalist from the best county in England, Lincolnshire.
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