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An Ecological Study of the Insects and Mites in the Nests of certain Birds in Britain

  • G. E. Woodroffe (a1)


The chief aims of the survey and an important conclusion reached during some preliminary work are briefly stated. This latter was the recognition of two distinct nest types—the wet nest, exposed to rain, and the dry nest, sheltered from rain.

The methods used to examine materials and record results are described. They were closely similar to those described in a previous publication.

The insect fauna is listed under three headings: (a) ectoparasites of birds, which includes 12 species; (b) scavengers, including 66 species; and (c) predators, comprising 14 species. Figures are given for the frequency of occurrence and the abundance of the more important nidicole species, abundance being given as an arbitrary estimate. The importance of each as a pest is also briefly stated, and detailed records are given for uncommon or particularly interesting species.

The mite fauna is dealt with in a similar manner. It includes one ectoparasite, 10 scavengers and 11 predators.

The basic composition of nests and the temperature and humidity conditions within them are described briefly and the possible influence of these factors upon the nest fauna is discussed.

The species of the dry nest community are classified, according to their feeding habits, as ectoparasites of birds, scavengers and predators, and according to their status in the nest, as regular, occasional and incidental inhabitants. The distribution of the group of species which truly characterises this community is discussed.



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Deal, J. (1941). The temperature preferendum of certain insects.—J. Anim. Ecol., 10, pp. 323356.
Ford, L. T. (1949). A guide to the smaller British Lepidoptera.—230 pp. London, S. Lond. ent. nat. Hist. Soc.
Hinton, H. E. (1945). A monograph of the beetles associated with stored products. Vol. I.—443 pp. London, Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.).
Hughes, A. M. (1948). The mites associated with stored food products.—168 pp. London, Minist. Agric. Fish., H.M.S.O.
Linsley, E. G. (1944). Natural sources, habitats and reservoirs of insects associated with stored food products.—Hilgardia, 16, pp. 187224.
Nordberg, S. (1936). Biologisch-ökologische Untersuchungen über die Vogel-nidieolen.—Acta zool. fenn., 21, pp. 1168.
Weidner, H. (1952). Die Insekten der Kulturwüste.—Mitt, hamburg. zool. Mus., 51, pp. 189–173.
Woodeoffe, G. E. (1950). The identity of the case-bearing clothes moth (Lep., Tineidae).—Ent. mon. Mag., 86, p. 181.
Woodroffe, G. E. (1951). A life-history study of the Brown House Moth, Hofmannophila pseudospretella (Staint.) (Lep. Oecophoridae).—Bull, ent. Res., 41, pp. 529553.
Woodroffe, G. E. & Southgate, B. J. (1951 a). Birds' nests as a source of domestic pests.—Proc. zool. Soc. Lond., 121, pp. 5562.
Woodroffe, G. E. & Southgate, B. J. (1951 b). A common host and habitat of Apanteles carpatus Say (Hym. Braconidae) in Britain.—Ent. mon. Mag., 87, p. 171.
Woodroffe, G. E. & Southgate, B. J. (1952). Monopis crocicapitella (Clem.) (Lep., Tineidae) infesting felt lagging on a water pipe at Harrow, Middlesex.—Ent. mon. Mag., 88, p. 288.
Since this manuscript was written, DrHall, W. J. of the Commonwealth Institute of Entomology, has drawn my attention to the following recent publication:—
Hicks, E. A. (1953). Observations on the insect fauna of birds' nests.—J. Kans. ent. Soc, 26, pp. 1118.
This paper is of no great importance, but it gives some useful references. In particular, the following two are ecological studies of nest fauna, that of Leleup (1947) being of considerable interest.
Heselhaus, S. J. (1915). Weitere Beiträage zur Kenntnis der Nidicolen.—Tijdschr. Ent., 58, pp. 251274.
Leleup, N. (1947). Contribution à l'étude des Arthropodes nidicoles et microcavernicoles de Belgique.—Bull. Ann. Soc. ent. Belg., 83, pp. 304343.

An Ecological Study of the Insects and Mites in the Nests of certain Birds in Britain

  • G. E. Woodroffe (a1)


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