Orthoptera and allied insects
Some of our most familiar insects are included within this recording scheme – from the grasshoppers and bush-crickets that provide the soundtrack to summer to those that provoke slightly less warm feelings in some people such as earwigs and cockroaches. There are currently around 22 species to be seen living wild in Hertfordshire.
We have eight species of bush-cricket in the county. None of them are particularly rare apart from the Great Green Bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima), which is only found in a few places around Stevenage, where it was introduced a few years ago. Short-winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis) is not common and appears to be confined to rushy habitats on floodplain grassland with records from such grassland near the Lea and the Chess. Records from elsewhere will be gratefully received!
Roesel's Bush-cricket (Roeseliana roeselii) and Long-winged Conehead (C. fuscus) are relatively recent arrivals spreading up from the south to colonise the county in the last 30 years. They have been joined by Southern Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema meridionale) a species that arrived on imported trees and is now well established around urban areas in Hertfordshire. The other three species to be found - Oak Bush-cricket (M. thalassinum, attracted to lights and often found indoors if windows are left open on warm late summer nights), Dark Bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) and Speckled Bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) are common within the county. Oak Bush-crickets are associated with broadleaved trees and oak in particular, whilst Dark Bush-cricket can be found in bramble in open woodlands and grassland. Speckled is found in nettles and other coarse vegetation.
There are no species of cricket living wild in the county. Occasionally sightings are reported, but they tend to be of crickets kept to feed exotic pets – escapees can sometimes survive for several months provided the temperatures are mild – or of Mole Crickets (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) that have been imported in soil around plants.
Of our six species of grasshopper, two are rare in Hertfordshire and both are considered Herts Species of Conservation Concern. Mottled Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) is found at only two sites in short grassland with bare patches and Stripe-winged Grasshopper (Stenobothrus lineatus) just three sites in flower rich grassland with areas of short turf and bare areas. Both of these species are relatively common outside the county. Mottled Grasshopper in particular seems to lack the ability to disperse to new sites. Stripe-winged Grasshopper on the other hand does seem to be going through a bit of a range expansion elsewhere in the country. Records for these species should be accompanied by photographs showing the key identification features.
The remaining four species of grasshopper are fairly common in our area. Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) is found in habitats similar to Mottled, the smaller males are sometimes misidentified as such - short grassland with some bare areas, but unlike mottled it can be found on lawns and on the edges of arable fields. The other three species - Common Green (Omocestus viridulus), Meadow (C. parallelus) and Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (C. albomarginatus) are found in longer grass. Common Green tends to be found in flower rich grassland and Lesser Marsh in damper grassland although it is also be found in dry grassland too.
I have produced an ID guide to the adults of the most numerous species groups – the bush-crickets and grasshoppers downloadable here. Most of our species are readily identifiable in the field or from clear photographs with the one or two key identification features visible.
Groundhoppers are represented in Hertfordshire by the Slender (Tetrix subulata) and Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata). Adults of the two species are easy to tell apart – Slender has long wings (beyond the tip of the abdomen), Common does not. However, long-winged specimens now need to be checked carefully as Cepero’s Groundhopper (Tetrix ceperoi) is being found inland on sites near streams and ponds. Cepero’s eyes are less widely separated on the top of the head – the gap is no more than 1.5 times the width of an eye, the head in side-view protrudes higher, and the mid femora viewed from the side has wavy edges.
Cockroaches are perhaps the most infamous members of the recording scheme! However, there are several species that are not associated with human habitation. These species are natural components of our countryside and are not pests. We have records for Tawny (Ectobius pallidus), Dusky (E. lapponicus) and a recent arrival Garden Cockroach (E. vittiventris), and an unconfirmed record of Variable Cockroach (Planuncus tingitanus). The exact number of these non-pest species in Hertfordshire is uncertain at the moment, our ID guides have not kept up with the arrival of species from Europe. If you do find a cockroach (they are attracted to moth traps) collect a specimen and contact George Beccaloni, former curator of cockroaches at the Natural History Museum:
Finally in terms of wild species in the county, another of the much maligned insect groups is the earwigs. Female Common earwigs (Forficula auricularia) protect their eggs after they have been laid and when they hatch they feed the nymphs until they can look after themselves . It is unusual for insects to parent their young in this way! In addition to Common Earwig we have two other species – Lesne’s (F. lesnei) – currently known from only one site (and thus a Herts Species of Conservation Concern) just to the north of Potters Bar. Lesser (Labia minor) is far more common, associated with dung and compost heaps and is occasionally attracted to moth traps. It is definitely worth keeping an eye out for more Lesne’s sites and possibly Short-winged (Apterygida media - sometimes known as Hop-garden), which seems to be relatively common just over the border in Essex.
I am happy to take a look at photos, but please include a location and date with them. I am also an active verifier on iRecord if you would like to submit records via that route.