2 Mysterious Species in the UK

Posted on July 15, 2008  Comments (2)

Plane Bug - UK

Mystery insect found in Museum garden

This mystery bug has not been seen in the UK before and has made the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden its home. The tiny bug is baffling insect experts at the Museum who are still trying to identify the mystery newcomer. The almond-shaped bug is red and black and about the size of a grain of rice

Experts checked the new bug with those in the Museum’s national insect collection of more than 28 million specimens. Amazingly, there is no exact match.

The bug closely resembles the fairly rare species Arocatus roeselii, which is usually found in central Europe. However, the roeselii bugs are brighter red than this new bug and they are usually associated with alder trees rather than plane trees.

However, the National Museum in Prague discovered an exact match to the mystery bug in their collections – an insect that was found in Nice and is classified as Arocatus roeselii. ‘There are two possible explanations,’ explains Barclay. ‘That the bug is roeselii and by switching to feed on the plane trees it could suddenly become more abundant, successful and invasive. The other possibility is that the insect in our grounds may not be roeselii at all.’

The Museum is working with international colleagues to analyse the bug’s body shape, form and DNA to see whether it is a newly discovered species or if it is in fact Arocatus roeselii.

Here is a green bug from my trip to Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve that is probably easier to identify. Or how about this insect from the Forest Glen Preserve, Illinois. Or how about this one at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey, in Kentucky.

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Help us find out more about the mysterious alien “Ghost Slug”

The Ghost Slug is an alien species, introduced to Britain around the roots of garden plants. Its nearest relatives live in the mountains of eastern Europe, Georgia and eastern Turkey.

Unlike most slugs, the Ghost Slug is carnivorous, killing earthworms at night with powerful, blade-like teeth, sucking them in like spaghetti. It is also unusual in having no eyes (it is probably blind) and is almost completely white. It spends most of its time underground, squeezing its flexible body into cracks or tunnels to get at earthworms, which it detects by smell or taste.

To help us find out how widespread the Ghost Slug is, we are very keen to hear from anyone who finds it. To help people recognise it we have produced a free colour identification guide to help in finding the slug – you can download this guide below.

2 Responses to “2 Mysterious Species in the UK”

  1. David Bradley
    July 16th, 2008 @ 3:03 am

    It could be that it is the exact same species, but having entered the UK it’s mutated into a differently coloured strain, as has been observed with American grey squirrels, which in and around Letchworth and beyond are often black (we have a mating pair and young in our neighbourhood). Genetic analysis revealed them to be the same species, just different colours.

  2. Curious Cat Science Blog » Bug of the Week: Leaf-footed Bug
    January 27th, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

    “Leaf-footed bugs have sucking mouthparts and sometimes feed of fruit such as cactus fruit, oranges or peaches…”

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