Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Wart-biter

Back in August we visited Castle Hill in East Sussex hoping to see the Wart-biter Bush Cricket. A large and rare cricket which as its scientific name Decticus verrucivorus (biting verruca eater) suggests was once used to bite warts from the skin. It is only found in around five sites in the UK and Castle Hill is one of them. It was going to be really difficult to find as they hide in dense grass tussocks and the only way of seeing one is by first locating it by listening for its stridulations, a series of  rapid clicks that are supposed to sound a bit like a bicycle freewheeling downhill. I can't confirm or deny that because when Andy heard one and pointed out where the sound was coming from I couldn't hear anything. I'm not sure I actually heard one all day. I could hear other crickets and grasshoppers but not the Wart-biter, which must sing in a particular pitch that I've lost the ability to hear due to my age. Oh joy! The male making the sound was deep inside a tussock, we were able to just about see him but he wasn't exposed enough to get a decent photo. We walked around the reserve enjoying the wildflowers and butterflies and eventually Andy spotted another Wart-biter, this time a female which was much more out in the open. On looking closely we could see that she had just mated and had the spermataphore attached to her abdomen and was busy eating the 'food gift' part of this which is probably why she wasn't as wary as normal and stayed put for some photos. There was a lovely showing of the beautiful rare wildflower Round -headed Rampion and several Clouded Yellows including my first ever sighting of the helice form.


The Castle Hill reserve in East Sussex a superb example of the type of unimproved calcareous grassland that the crickets require.



The spermataphore is clearly visible on the end of the abdomen below the base of the ovipositor.


Wart-biter Bush-cricket - Decticus verrucivorus


Round-headed Rampion - Phyteuma orbiculare


 
Clouded Yellow - Colias croceus
 

The helice form of Clouded Yellow.
 Unfortunately it didn't stay put long enough for a better photo.
Maybe next year.

 
Decticus verrucivorus
Decticus verrucivorus
Decticus verrucivorusname suggests ( it tarnaslates to was once used to bite warts from

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