Strange things at the church…

It’s not just rats and stoats that have been spotted (and dispatched) by St Mary’s Church pest control officer David Riddell.  Other marvels of the animal and other kingdoms are also noted  and admired.

A few weeks ago he came across this beautiful… thing growing on an old dead tree stump behind the church.

Its common name is Dog Vomit Slime Mould, Fuligo septica, and when asked to say what it actually was he hesitated.

“Ah.  The slime moulds aren’t even a single kingdom.  Aaargh.”  And retreated to a heavy book for more information.


Dog vomit slime mould
Dog vomit slime mould. Somebody loves it, possibly its mother?


“These things don’t have individual cells, they are one big mass of cytoplasm with lots of nuclei embedded in it.  They’re not rare but most of the time they live below the surface quietly digesting organic material from around themselves.  They look like fungi but they have a branch on the Tree of Life all to themselves.”

When conditions dry out, they form these above ground structures that release reproductive cells. A week later the slime mould looked like this –


Slime mould


Just weeks before this, Ratcatcher Riddell came across another natural history curiosity – some beetles known as Devil’s coachhorses, Creophilus oculatus.


Devil's coachhorse


These little guys were on a dead rat that had been sitting in the trap for several days.  They eat blowfly maggots and are fairly common.  There is a very similar species that lives in Britain which, according to folklore, ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and anyone who crushes one is forgiven seven sins.

They look sinister but they help to decompose decaying animal matter and keep the number of blowfiles down.   Handy things to have around.

For the record on pest control, the tally currently stands at two stoats, three Norway rats, one ship rat.  Trapping continues.




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One thought on “Strange things at the church…

  • May 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    Interesting. It sounds like the pest control officer and Creophilus oculatus have been busyat St Mary’s.


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