Winter 2004

Remarkable insect find

but how short-winged conehead Conocephalus dorsalis got here is a mystery

Article by Phil Smith

The Sefton Coast is the proud owner of a new long-horned grasshopper or bush-cricket for north-west England. A small colony of the Short-winged Conehead Conocephalus dorsalis has been discovered on the salt-marsh at Marshside. The finder, in early July, was Steve Palmer with later observations and photographs by Neil Hunt and Phil Smith. This insect is quite small - from 1cm to 2cm long - and is mainly green with a brown stripe down the back. The female has a long, boat-shaped ovipositor or egg-laying tube and both sexes have long, sweeping antennae. They are very wary and difficult to find in the vegetation.

Short-Winged Conehead

The conehead has a mainly southern and eastern distribution in Britain, its nearest known site being at Newborough Warren in Anglesey. Since it is unable to fly, the question arises how did it get to Marshside? One published suggestion is that the eggs are carried by the tide in flotsam. That would fit quite nicely.

Further field work will be required to determine how widespread the insect is here and what measures are needed to conserve it.