Long-winged Cone-heads in Devon

Prior to 1990 the Long-winged cone-head (Conocephalus discolor) was a nationally scarce species restricted to a few localised sites along the south coast of England. After 1990 the species underwent a dramatic range expansion. It was first recorded in Devon in 1994 at Dittisham. The species appears to be continuting to expand and it found in a wide variety of places in the county. It prefers to inhabit rough ungrazed grassland such as road verges and waste ground.

Long-winged cone-head

They are secretive animals which can be found by searching long vegetation. However the easiest way to locate them is by using a bat detector. Their call resembles an old fashioned chugging tractor!

Song of the Long-winged cone-head heard through a Batbox Duet bat detector set at 40KHz.

The current range of the Long-winged Cone-head is set out in the following map. This map is undoubtedly an underestimate of their current distribution.

Long-winged cone-heads can be confused with Short-winged cone-head (Conocephalus dorsalis) – in 2014 I produced a blog which enabled the reader to tell the two species apart – see here.

If you see or hear any Cone-heads in Devon – please let me know – I’m the county Recorder for Orthoptera – email me: adrian dot colston at gmail dot com …. many thanks

Great day in the field – Roesel’s Bush-cricket

The sun came out this afternoon so I headed into the field in search of Roesel’s Bush-cricket – a species first recorded in Devon in 2014 which until now I have failed to find! Went to a couple of areas where it had been recorded before. I found a single adult in an uncut road verge on the south side of Rewe and then found three individuals by the food alleviation scheme in Exwick directly adjacent to to the north side of Station Road.

Roesel’s Bush-cricket – long-winged specimen f.dilata in Exwick

Roesel’s Bush-crickets are tricky to find but with the use of a bat detector (which makes their distinctive but inaudible songs audible) they can be tracked down. I use a Batbox Duet set at 40kHz and their songs then become audible.

Roesel’s Bush-cricket played through a Batbox Duet at 40KHz

Here is the current known (to me) distribution of Roesel’s Bush-cricket in Devon

And this is the classic habitat – rough uncut grassland

If you see or hear any Roesel’s Bush-crickets in Devon – please let me know – I’m the county Recorder for Orthoptera – email me: adrian dot colston at gmail dot com …. many thanks

Roesel’s Bush-cricket in Devon

Prior to 1980 Roesel’s Bush-cricket had a restricted distribution in the UK being found in coastal grasslands from Kent to the Humber. After 1980 the species began a dramatic range expansion north and west.

The species was finally recorded in Devon in 2014 but is colonisation of the county has been slow.

Below is a list of all the records of Roesel’s Bush-cricket in Devon, I’m sure it is an under-estimate and I am keen to receive further records if you have seen it in Devon.

SpeciesDateLocationGrid ReferenceRecorderNumberComments
Metrioptera roeselii08/08/2014Flockmill, ReweSS960007Karim Vahed1f. diluta
Metrioptera roeselii29/07/2017Trinity Hall Nature Reserve, AxminsterSY308957Alex WorsleyMultiple 
Metrioptera roeselii06/07/2018Dawlish WarrenSX9878Philip Chambers1f. diluta
Metrioptera roeselii21/08/2019Flockmill, ReweSS960007Gabriel Vahed1Male
Metrioptera roeselii26/08/2019A3052, WestonSY173907Kevin Rylands1 
Metrioptera roeselii01/09/2019Seaton MarshesSY2591Dave SmallshireMultiple 
Metrioptera roeselii25/06/2020Ross Meadow, Fingle WoodsSX795888Tom Williams1 
Metrioptera roeselii21/07/2020Axmouth – Lyme Regis CliffsSY273896John WaltersMultiple 
Metrioptera roeselii08/08/2020Halsden Farm, ExmouthSX9982Will Scott1 
Metrioptera roeselii09/08/2020Exwick, Exe ValleySX9093Will Scott1 
Metrioptera roeselii03/08/2021Beer meadowSY213894Christopher HodgsonMultiple 
This is a photo of the first record – found by Professor Karim Vahed at the Flockmill in Rewe, near Exeter. This is a ‘macropterous’ (f. diluta) individual i.e. it has long wings which enables it to fly and therefore disperse and colonise new areas. (Photo Karim Vahed)
Here is a male (non macropterous, known as brachypterous) individual, photographed at the same site in 2017 and found by Karim’s son Gabriel. This discovery would imply that a founder colony was formed in 2014 and persisted to 2017. The green strip on the pronotum and spots on the side of the thorax are diagnostic. (Photo Karim Vahed.)
Here is another male, this time photographed at Ross Meadow in Fingle Woods on Dartmoor in 2020. (Photo Tom Williams)

To date this year I have received one record from a new site at Beer, found by Christopher Hodgson. The species favours long unkempt grass and can be quite difficult to spot as individuals skulk. However Roesel’s Bush-crickets have a very distinctive song which is audible to those with good hearing. I use a bat detector to pick up the call now I’m older!

Follow this link to the website of Orthoptera UK and you can play a sound clip to hear how distinctive the song is. The individuals which the long wings stridulate and produce a loud song which to me sounds like standing under a high voltage electric pylon in the rain!

Now is the time to go out and find Roesel’s Bush-crickets. Majority of the Devon records are to the east of Exeter. On a hot sunny day see if you can see or hear any…. and if you do, please let me know as I’m the County Recorder for Devon for Orthoptera.

Life and death in the meadow

I went for a short walk around the parkland at Parke yesterday after work in the evening sunshine. The grassland was alive with long-winged coneheads – it has a been a really good year for this bush cricket – they were ‘singing’ everywhere.

Longwinged conehead
Here is a male long-winged conehead

 And here is a recording of their song captured through a bat detector – which enables their very high pitched noises to become audible (recorded earlier in the week in a glade at Hembury Woods).


Wasp spiderOne of the main predators of coneheads and other grasshoppers – the wasp spider are also common too. You can see a female long-winged cone head in this picture which has been caught in the spider’s web and then wrapped up for consumption later….

Reminds me a bit of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings or was it Harry Potter?

It’s August so its grasshoppers and bush cricket time

When it comes to sunny days in August I like to go out and look for bush crickets and grasshoppers (I’m the county recorder for Orthoptera i.e. bush crickets, grasshoppers etc.). I always take a bat detector with me so I can hear their high pitched songs which help identify animals to species. Without the bat detector I can’t hear their songs!

Bat detector
My Batbox Duet detector

Roesel’s bush cricket – first recorded in Devon last summer by Karim Vahed – photo by K Bellis – a very distinctive song: like standing under high power electricity cables in the rain! Lets hope I can find some more today!

Long-winged  conehead 1The long winged cone head – sounds like a little tractor chugging along. Now very common in long grass in Devon – only arrived here a few decades ago. Should find lots of these today.

Wonder what else might turn up!