Insects

Home to some of the most beautiful members of the insect world.

The insect life has been very much under-recorded here on the Commons and, whilst seeing the butterflies and moths, wasps and bees, dragonflies and damselflies, is incredibly encouraging, the insects hidden away that we don't see are equally important to the ecology of the Commons.

The last few years have seen us start to record all the wildlife on the Commons and we are starting to build a much better picture of the insect life that lives here.

Butterflies

Over the years 30 species of butterflies have been identified in the Commons. That's more than half of the 58 species that can generally be found in the UK. Summer time sees a surge in Meadow Browns and all common grass and woodland species can be found. More unusual species such as the Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks can also be seen floating gently around the Commons.

Highlights over recent years have included more unusual resident species such as a White Admiral in July 2015, a Purple Emperor in July 2016, and Green Hairstreak in May 2017. In addition there have been occasional records of Silver-washed Fritillary.

 

 

Moths 

Did you know there are a few more day-flying moths in the UK than there are butterflies!?  
Just over 60 compared to the 58 butterflies.  

Considered by many to be annoying little creatures that fly around your lights, there are some 2,500 species of moths in the UK alone.  Over 500 of these have been recorded on the Commons, including some species that are scarce.  The Double Line, for example, in the South East is only found here on the Commons and in Richmond Park.

Double Line moth 

 

 

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Wimbledon Common has earned a reputation as one of the best dragonfly and damselfly sites in London. This is down to sightings of airborne beauties such as the aptly named Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense, one of the smallest hawker dragonflies and recorded just 20 years ago for the first time. 

Overall, 2017 was a record year for number of Dragonfly species recorded (20) but with population numbers at a noticeably lower level than 2016. The first half of the year was particularly lacking in rainfall, causing Bluegate Pond to almost dry up by the end of June, with reduced water levels at most of the other ponds as well. Although this has been a fairly regular occurrence over the years, it remains to be seen how populations will be affected over the next couple of years as a result.

 

Damselflies

Banded Demoiselle – regular in small numbers on Beverley Brook, occasionally turning up elsewhere on the Commons

Emerald Damselfly – fairly common on Bluegate Pond and occasionally recorded on other ponds

Willow Emerald Damselfly – seen for last three years as part of expanding UK population. Only seen in small numbers on Bluegate Pond in 2017

Large Red Damselfly – fairly common on several of the ponds

Azure Damselfly – common on several of the ponds

Common Blue Damselfly – abundant on Queensmere and common on several of the ponds

Blue-tailed Damselfly – fairly common on several of the ponds

Red-eyed Damselfly – regular in small numbers on Queensmere and occasionally on other ponds

Small Red-eyed Damselfly – fairly common on Queensmere and occasionally on other ponds

‘True’ Dragonflies

Hairy Dragonfly – one record on Hookhamslade Pond in 2017 compared to several there and on Bluegate Pond in 2016

Migrant Hawker – fairly regular on several ponds and met with occasionally away from water

Southern Hawker – fairly regular on several ponds and met with occasionally away from water

Brown Hawker – regular on Queensmere and occasionally elsewhere

Emperor Dragonfly – fairly common on Queensmere and regular on most other ponds and away from water

Four-spotted Chaser – regular on Bluegate Pond and Hookhamslade Pond

Broad-bodied Chaser – fairly common on Hookhamslade Pond and regular on Bluegate occasionally and Farm Bog

Black-tailed Skimmer – regular on Bluegate Pond and occasionally on other ponds

Black Darter – one record on Bluegate Pond in 2017, the first since 2009. A star sighting (and photo/film) by David Element. Until the early 2000s there was a significant breeding population, but currently the nearest others are on Esher Common.

Common Darter – as common as its name suggests in most areas, although perhaps less so than 2016

Ruddy Darter – fairly common around Bluegate and Hookhamslade and regular at several other ponds

 

Beetles

Stag Beetles

Wimbledon Common is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because it provides an outstanding habitat for Stag Beetles.  Although widespread throughout the South East, they are extremely rare, if not extinct, across the rest of Britain.  The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has reported that there is persisting anecdotal evidence suggesting that actual numbers are declining in many areas.  


Growing to some 35-75mm long, an adult beetle’s head and thorax (middle section) are shiny black in colour and its wing cases are chestnut brown and they have large antler-like mandibles.  They emerge from mid-May onwards and females are often seen on the ground looking for somewhere to lay their eggs, whereas the males are likely to be seen flying during the late afternoon/early evening looking for a mate. 

If you spot any on the Commons, please make a note of the time and location, and give us a call or send us an e-mail with the details.  Peter, our Conservation and Engagement Officer, will be delighted to hear from you!

 

False Click Beetle

The Commons hit the headlines in 2015 when the Natural History Museum (NHM) confirmed that a globally scarce False Click beetle had been found on the Commons.  Dr Max Barclay, who manages the NHM's 10 million strong beetle collection, said:  “To find such a species at Wimbledon Common shows that the Conservators are taking good care of the site, and managing it for wildlife, and that there are old important trees there that can support populations of rare insects.”

Keita Matsumoto, who found the insect, said: "It was a lucky shot. I'm pleased I was swinging my insect net that afternoon instead of my tennis racquet."

Such validation of our conservation work is encouraging, and shows the importance of regular monitoring.

 

The iridescent longhorn beetle, commonly known as the Musk beetle Aromia moschata whose larvae are found in decaying wood, also calls the plush habitat home.