Conops strigatus on the Sefton Coast


Figure 1. Conops strigatus Ravenmeols LNR, 12th August 2019

Conops strigatus (Dark-cheeked Beegrabber) (Fig. 1) is a scarce insect in Britain with scattered records as far north as Cumbria and hardly any for Central England. Only 78 records are shown on the NBN Atlas, none of them in the Northwest (VC 58, 59 and 60). This species occurs in flowery meadows, woodland rides and clearings and fixed coastal dunes, flying between July and September. Adults visit a variety of flowers, including thistles (Cirsium) and Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris). Host preferences are unknown. While C. flavipes (Yellow-legged Beegrabber) and C. quadrifasciatus (Four-banded Beegrabber) are relatively common in the Sefton dunes, in 2017 we started to find C. strigatus as well. So far, we have 11 records of 13 individuals, all of which were photographed.  They occurred between 25th July and 18th August at either Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature reserve or Ravenmeols Hills Local Nature Reserve. All were in fixed-dune habitat on flowering Ragwort. It seems likely that this insect is well-established in the dunes and that careful searches in other areas would produce more sightings. Good close-up photographs, especially showing the lower part of the head, the wings and abdomen, are required for a positive identification.