Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cold-Blooded and Spineless

Last Friday saw the launch of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Cold-Blooded and Spineless project. Over the next five years it will train volunteers and local wildlife groups to identify and map the distribution of invertebrate animals in the AONB, as well as working with schools and artists to encourage them to appreciate and celebrate the wealth of  smaller elements in the wildlife of the region.

You can read much more about the project at

After the various presentations at the launch, held at the Environmental Centre at Harehope Quarry near Frosterley in Weardale, we went on a short bug hunt. Predictably, there weren't many flying insects about in mid-March, although someone did catch this male mosquito with rather magnificent antennae.

But when we started turning over stones it was a different story.

Lots of ants

A common pygmy woodlouse Trichoniscus pusillus

I think this one is a young specimen of the common shiny woodlouse Oniscus asellus

Lots of black snake millipedes Tachypodoiulus niger

More millipedes, that I've yet to identify

Two very small snails, awaiting identification

Several species of springtail. In the picture above, showing the underside, you can see the forked furca folded under the tail, that it uses like a pole-vaulter's pole to catapult itself into the air.

Click here for more about springtails

A very fine devil's coach horse, with a formidable pair of needle-sharp jaws

Click here for more about devil's coach horses

Numerous ground beetles, including ....

..... this one that played possum when it was turned onto its back, and ... 

.... this one, that was carrying a hitch-hiker on its back, which ...

... looks like it might be a very small tick.

I haven't had time to ID these properly yet, but am posting them now so that those who found them can download the pictures.

It's amazing what you can find if a dozen people spend half an hour turning over stones, even if it is a cold March afternoon!

If you'd like to know more about the Cold-blooded and Spineless project, or would like to become involved, contact 

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