The lists of spiders and beetles recorded in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park have both passed significant milestones in the last couple of years, with the 150th spider and 400th beetle.
These impressive totals are the result of years of regular surveys by local spider expert Edward Milner. Edward uses a variety of methods to capture spiders and beetles, including pitfall traps, sweep netting and visual searches. He has been conducting surveys regularly for the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park since 2007, though some of his spider records pre-date this. The beetles are sent to beetle expert Norman Heal for identification.
The 150th spider, captured on 1st June last year, was Trachyzelotes pedestris, which has been given the English name Yellow-legged Zipper (though its legs are more orange than yellow, as the photo on the left shows). The species is confined to southern Britain south of a line from Norfolk to Herefordshire, though widespread in western and central Europe. It usually occurs in chalk and limestone grassland, often under stones in fairly open areas. T. pedestris is locally abundant, especially on dry coastal grassland, but less common inland. This is only the second record for inner London or the former county of Middlesex, though there have been several records in outer London. More information can be found on the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme website.
The 400th beetle, recorded on 4th March 2016, was the flea beetle Longitarsus suturellus (photo left). It is distributed across Europe and Asia from the Pyrenees to Japan. In Britain, it is widespread over most of England and southern Scotland. Both adult beetles and larvae feed on the leaves of ragwort. More information can be found on the National Biodiversity Network website.
For invertebrate groups such as beetles and spiders, most of which can only be identified by experts, it is often said that the number of species recorded on a site says more about how hard people have been looking than it does about the value of the site. However, in this case Edward can compare Cemetery Park with other sites in London where he has carried out intensive surveys, and it is clear that the diversity of beetles and spiders in Cemetery Park is exceptional for an inner London site. This is backed up by the site’s 32 species of butterflies (a much better-recorded group), which is an astonishing number for a site in inner London.
This amazing diversity of invertebrates is due to the management of the site by the Friends of Tower Cemetery Park. This aims to create a wide range of different habitats, with a great many different plants, as well as features such as sandy banks and dead wood. The ever-growing spider, beetle and butterfly lists are a testament to its success.
The spider and beetle lists continue to increase. The latest addition to the beetle list, recorded on 1st December 2017, was Tanysphyrus lemnae, a weevil that feeds on duckweed (see header photo). It is hoped that this new addition to Cemetery Park’s fauna might help to control the amount of duckweed on the ponds. There’s more information about T. lemnae on the National Biodiversity Network website.
Header photo: Tanysphyrus lemnae by Udo Schmidt from Deutschland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Photo top left: Trachyzelotes pedestris by Slimguy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo bottom left: Longitarsus suturellus by Estonian Museum of Natural History (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/)