Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mourning Gnats

Fungus gnats Sciara hemerobioides. Photo: John Gill
Click on the photo to see the gnats in all their glory.

On Monday, at our open air committee meeting at Cleaver Heath, we spotted several fungus gnats. John Gill, Wirral Wildlife's Treasurer, has been interested in these insects since first seeing them 5 years ago:

"Back in 2004 I first noticed these flies on Thurstaston Common when there were large numbers of them, all associated with the purple moor grass. I managed to get them positively identified as Sciara hemerobioides. This is a species of the group known as fungus gnats and doesn’t seem to have an accepted English name. The German name though translates as “mourning gnats” which I think is very appropriate with their black colouration.

2005 saw about one tenth of the numbers of mourning gnats at Thurstaston, and 2006 was even leaner with just a few individuals to be found (late July to early September seems to the period to find them, with August being the best time). 2007 saw an increase in numbers and 2008 was a big year again. I haven’t been to Thurstaston since the beginning of August yet so I don’t know how they are faring this year; but I found none in July.

Monday was the first time I have spotted mourning gnats anywhere other than Thurstaston Common, so finding about a dozen at Cleaver Heath was very good. As an update, this afternoon (Wednesday) I visited Heswall Dales and found another 11 mourning gnats on the purple moor grass there. Another first for me!"

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