Last weekend I attended a Wildlife Trust workshop at Ring Haw where we had some interesting presentations by Roger Morris and Stuart Ball on the more challenging hoverfly genera Cheilosia and Platycheirus. They had also brought specimens to practice on. It was a really useful day and I hope it will mean that we get more records of these genera. Getting the chance to see several closely related species together is a great way to understand their differences. It is worth remembering this when starting on any new group of tricky organisms. I have been collecting some fungus gnats over the past few days and am finding that individual specimens are hard to identify to species level without some comparative material. I am trying to identify them as far as I can go but then putting them to one side until I have more material to work with. At some point I think I shall need to visit a museum to check them out. In the meantime, this is what I think I have found in December, although I still have a lot of specimens to work through.
These were taken in Denton Wood by shaking withered oak leaves that were still on the tree over an upturned white umbrella (courtesy of Mike Killerby). Also taken was a wood gnat, Sylvicola cinctus. I still have more specimens to identify.
In the garden today, several swarms of winter gnats were displaying in dancing columns in sunny spots over the lawn and borders. So far they have all turned out to be Trichocera saltator.