Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 51
Baranowskiella ehnstromi confirmed in Britain This is really a co-operative adventure between Norfolk and Suffolk, the story begins for me at least with an email from the Norfolk County Fungus Recorder, Dr Tony Leech, asking members of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group if they had any records for Norfolk of the bracket fungus Phellinus conchatus. I had found this at Framlingham Mere, Suffolk, in January 2010 (Plate 16) and again at Hadleigh Riverside Walk July 2007 (Plate 17) and more recently in the campus grounds of the UEA, Norwich 2014. It emerged that fellow member of the NFSG, Andrew Duff, was also passionate about beetles and had recently discovered that Europe’s smallest beetle Baranowskiella ehnstromi had not yet been found in Britain despite records that its host, the fungus P. conchatus was reasonably widespread in the UK and he wondered if the fungus occurred in Norfolk. So I got back to Tony and Andrew and we arranged to meet up at the UEA down by the River Yare for me to show them where the fungus was. In the meantime, I could not resist the temptation to return to Framlingham to see if the fungus was still growing there and indeed it was. I collected some samples and resisted looking at them until the very morning I was due to meet Andrew and Tony, so one hour before I was due to set off I placed my samples under the dissection microscope and carefully examined the fungus pores for the tell-tale signs of tiny bums sticking out! Having previously scanned the internet for all I could find out about these tiny beetles which measure 0.5 mm long by 0.16 mm wide, I discovered they spend their entire life head first in the tiny pores of this fungus eating the spores. I managed to count about 10 beetles and extracted 2 dead specimens to photograph (Plate 18) and quickly sent an email with photo to Tony in Norfolk so that, should we manage to find them at the UEA, we could officially say that both were found in Norfolk and Suffolk on the same day (note: Suffolk specimens were found 1.5 hours before Norfolk’s!). So, I quickly rushed up to Norfolk to meet Tony and Andrew and lead them down to the river where I had located he fungus in very marshy soil. I knew there were about four Salix x fragilis trees the fungus was growing on and before long we were collecting samples for Andrew to examine and within 10 minutes Andrew had spotted the beetles from a fresh sample I had given him. Soon the news has got out in Suffolk and I was showing Howard Mendel the site at Framlingham Mere. Can I take this opportunity of first thanking Tony and Andrew for informing me of this beetle and secondly, can I appeal to all budding coelopterists not to go removing all the brackets of this fungus to look for the beetle, remembering this is their home and food supply and the fungus will not continue to produce spores if removed from the tree or log it is growing on. A fuller description of this discovery will appear in a forthcoming issue of The Coleopterist (Duff, Mahler & Leech, in press). Reference Duff, A. G., Mahler, N. B. & Leech, A. R. (in press) Europe’s smallest beetle, Baranowskiella ehnstromi Sörensson, 1997 (Ptiliidae), new to Britain. The Coleopterist. Neil Mahler, 11 Riverdale Court, King George’s Ave, Leiston, Suffolk IP16 4JU Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 51 (2015)
N. Mahler N. Mahler
Plate 16: Pore surface of Phellinus conchatus from Framlingham Mere. (p. 18).
Plate 17: Phellinus conchatus, Hadleigh. (p. 18).
Plate 18: Baranowskiella ehnstromi on surface of fungal pores. (p. 18).