Smith & Kinsella (2020) reported on six robberflies (Asilidae) they had recorded and photographed in the Sefton Coast sand-dune system, suggesting that four more species might be discovered through field survey, namely Dioctria atricapilla, D. rufipes, Leptogaster cylindrica and Pamponerus germanicus. During the spring and summer of 2020 and despite Covid-19 restrictions, field work resulted in three of those taxa being photographed in the dunes. In addition, several more sightings were made of D. baumhaueri and Lasiopogon cinctus, for which there were few previous records.
Dioctria atricapilla Violet Black-legged Robberfly
There had been two earlier Sefton Coast records but our first was on 8th June 2020, when PHS photographed two males and a female a few centimetres apart in long grass in a sheltered woodland glade at Hightown sand-dunes (tetrad SD20W) (Figs. 1&2). PK found two males on 9th (Fig. 3) and a singleton on 14th June in the same place. This is a widespread but local species in England extending as far north as Yorkshire.
Dioctria baumhaueri Stripe-legged Robberfly
The Sefton Coast is near to the northern limit of this robberfly, which is fairly widespread in England and Wales. There had been only two records here before PHS found one at Range Lane, Formby, on 1st July 2019 (Smith & Kinsella, 2020). In 2020, PHS photographed singles at Range Lane (Fig. 4) and nearby Ravenmeols dunes on 2nd June 2020 (both SD20X) and again at Range Lane on 20th June. PK had one at Alexandra Park, Crosby (SJ39E) on 12th June (Fig. 5) and two at Blundellsands Key Park (SJ39E) on 17th June, finishing off with one at Hightown on 25th June (SD20W).
Dioctria rufipes Common Red-legged Robberfly
While recording in the Hightown glade on 1st June 2020, PK photographed a specimen of Dysmachus trigonus with prey (Fig. 6) (SD20W). Based on leg and antennal characters, the prey species appeared to be Dioctria rufipes, this being confirmed by Diptera expert, Phil Brighton. It was the first record of D. rufipes in Sefton but was followed the next day by two more sightings of single individuals, by PHS at Range Lane, Formby (SD20X) (Fig. 7), and PK again at Hightown. The Formby specimen had prey that was identified by Tony Hunter of World Museum, Liverpool, as the ichneumon wasp Diplazon laetatorius. This parasitic wasp is thought to be fairly common but there are few confirmed records nationally. PK counted five specimens of D. rufipes in the Hightown glade on 9th June 2020 (Fig. 8) and one at Crosby Coastal Park (SJ39E) on 13th June. This distinctive Robberfly is widespread in much of England and Wales, extending north to eastern Scotland.
Leptogaster cylindrica Slender-striped Robberfly
PK photographed the first for the Sefton Coast at Ainsdale NNR (SD20V) on 24th June 2020 (Fig. 9). We had no more sightings in 2020. This species was expected to appear here as it is has been spreading north in recent years. The first Lancashire record was in 1961, since then it has become one of the commonest asilids in the region (Brighton, 2017).
Lasiopogon cinctus Spring Heath Robberfly
Smith & Kinsella (2020) reported that L. cinctus had been recorded several times on the Sefton Coast, the most recent having been photographed by PHS on 14th May 2019. April/May 2020 proved to be productive for this nationally scarce robberfly. Between 10th April and 3rd May, PHS had seven records of nine individuals, including two pairs, at two sites: Wick’s Path, Formby Point (SD20T), and Ravenmeols woods (SD20X). At the former locality, the insects were basking on a south-facing fence (Figs. 10&11), while at Ravenmeols they were on a sunny, sheltered woodland edge dominated by Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) (Fig. 12).
Brighton, P. 2017. The Diptera of Lancashire and Cheshire: soldierflies and their allies. Lancashire & Cheshire Entomological Society.
Smith, P.H. & Kinsella, P. 2020. Robberflies (Asilidae) of the Sefton Coast sand-dunes. Unpublished.