‘Spider-eating’ fly discovered at Braeburn Park nature reserve during Open Day

Friday 15th July 2016

Cllr Eileen Pallen (centre) with staff from London Wildlife Trust & Land TrustCllr Eileen Pallen (centre) with staff from London Wildlife Trust & Land Trust

Crayford’s Braeburn Park nature reserve hosted its first open day last Sunday, attended by the Mayor of Bexley, Councillor Eileen Pallen, and Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis.

We had a great day – it’s amazing to see lizards, butterflies and other wildlife on our doorstep!

Visitors enjoyed guided bird watching walks and bug hunts with London Wildlife Trust and close encounters with giant millipedes and other exotic animals courtesy of the Wiggly Wild Show. 

For local resident Mark Fisher, it was the first time he and his family had explored the nature reserve: “We had a great day – it’s amazing to see lizards, butterflies and other wildlife on our doorstep!”

Councillor Pallen said: “We had a fantastic morning learning about lots of new things. Braeburn Park nature reserve is one of Bexley's little-known treasures and is a great resource for residents and schools alike.”

Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis added: "After attending the first Braeburn Park nature reserve open day, I was excited and pleased with the progress that had been made on this site. A lot of hard work by the staff and volunteers is finally showing how this project is coming together and I look forward to next year’s open day to see further progress."

Ogcodes pallipes. Image credit: Richard JonesThe event was also a wildlife conservation success with a nationally scarce ‘spider-eating’ fly discovered on the reserve for the first time. The larvae of Ogcodes pallipes, pictured, hatch from their eggs and then actively hunt for a spider. When they find a suitable victim they grab hold and penetrate the spider’s body, and then slowly eat the unfortunate arachnid alive from the inside.

Despite the obvious widespread abundance of spiders, the flies are scarce and secretive, hovering low in the grass and vegetation, never visiting flowers — they have no functional mouthparts so are unable to feed as adults. This species is rarely found, and may be short-lived.

Although small (body length 4-7mm) they are distinctively shaped with fat hunched body and bizarrely small head, so are unlikely to be overlooked by insect specialists (entomologists), and they appear to be genuinely rare.

Entomologist Richard Jones, who found the fly while discussing the unusual insects of Braeburn Park with visitors to the Open Day, had never seen one before: "One of the joys of studying insects is their huge diversity; there is always something new turning up, something you've never come across before, something to make you stop and think — what on earth is that?"

Braeburn Park nature reserve is managed by London Wildlife Trust in a long-term partnership with The Land Trust and support from Bexley Council.

Further events are planned at the reserve, kicking off with a Community Clean Up event on Sunday 17th July 2016. More details are on the London Wildlife Trust website www.wildlondon.org.uk