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A new species for Yorkshire in the York Museum Gardens

As part of the Yorkshire Museum’s collections care procedures we set and monitor a series of sticky traps at groundlevel in our buildings. These traps are designed to capture any invertebrates that walk over them. We regularly check these traps to find out if any museum pests have been caught. 

A by-product of this important work is that non-pest invertebrates often get caught up in the traps too. Spiders, springtails, and some ground beetles are common finds. These non-pest creatures have accidentally wandered inside and were caught. Traps are often set near to exterior doors for this reason.  

On 8 March 2021, I was checking traps from one of the ancillary buildings (in the Museum Gardens) when I spotted something I didn’t recognise. Or rather, something that I hadn’t seen before but had an inkling of what it might be. After a bit of research, it soon became clear that the beastie in question was a rather incredible find!  

A male specimen of Dicranopalpus larvatus had wandered inside onto one of our traps. It doesn’t have a common name, but this species is a type of Harvestman. Harvestmen are Arachnids (same as spiders and scorpions) but much less well known in Britain, despite them being very common creatures.  

  1. larvatushas a characteristic ‘zorro mask’ of dark colouration across their eyes and a dark patch at the back of the abdomen. They have forked pedipalps (the small appendages sticking out front) and long legs for their body size, making them appear quite spider-like at a first glance. The body itself is only 2mm in length but each of the 8 legs measure up to 20mm.  

This discovery is exciting because this is the first time it has been recorded in Yorkshire and is, by far, the most northerly example in the UK. The nearest recorded specimen is in Norfolk! http://srs.britishspiders.org.uk/portal.php/p/Summary/s/Dicranopalpus+larvatus 

This harvestman was first recorded in the UK in 2020 and is now popping up all over the place. It might not be to everyone’s liking but this discovery highlights that there is a whole fascinating, hidden, world of insects and invertebrates going on all around us. Only by looking closely can we see some of these amazing lives in detail.  

The York Museums Gardens has a recent history of rare and interesting discoveries – in 2018 a species of leaf-mining fly, Phytomyza scotina, was found on sage in the gardens and this was the first time it had been seen in the country. https://yorkshiretimes.co.uk/article/New-Species-For-Britain-Found-In-York-Museum-Gardens The gardens also have a population of nationally rare Tansy beetles.  

It is only by looking that we can find these creatures and there are always new discoveries to be made. #Signsofhope