Colleagues in technical services report on a rare (in recent times) record of a badger (Meles meles) in Whiteknights park:
“Testing 3 of our field cameras which did not show good results on the recent Ecology module. Cameras pointing to the same location from different angles between 23rd and 25th April 2024. As you can see, they worked very well although each recorded different animals, perhaps showing the challenge of siting, timing and luck!
Helen, Jenny and Chris Technical services”
If anyone else has recent records of badger activity in the area we’d be interested to hear about them (though please do not reveal the location of active setts in any public comments).
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Guide to Common Campus Centipedes

This month’s blog comes to us courtesy of Dawid Martyniuk, a Zoology student at the University of Reading.

Lifting a log or stone, you may have noticed a centipede quickly scurrying away and squeezing itself into a crevice or under leaves, disappearing from sight. Since they are so fast, the only observations you may be able to make is that they are brownish, with long bodies, antennae, and many legs. But centipedes are much more than multi-legged, scurrying creatures; they have a diverse range of shapes or sizes and possess many interesting and complex structures seen only up-close. Although fierce and vicious predators to other small organisms they share their habitat with, they (British species) are harmless to humans and fascinating to observe.

I have always shown some slight interest in centipedes, but after taking a Centipede Identification course with the FSC (Field Studies Council), my centipede Identification skills have considerably improved, as has my interest in them, and I hope that you will be able to say the same after reading this short guide that I have put together on some of the most common centipede species on Campus.

Order Lithobiomorpha

Lithobius variegatus
The most common species on Campus, Lithobius variegatus is quite large and very distinct. It has Yellowish-brown colouration with a faint pattern and paler legs. The main way to distinguish this species from others is to look at the rear legs which are distinctly banded with pale and dark bands. This species also has larger forcipules (jaws) compared to other species.

Lithobius forficatus
Lithobius forficatus is also very common and arguably the largest species on Campus. It is brown and has distinct eyes and 15 pairs of legs (adult), typical characteristics of Lithobiomorph centipedes. the main difference separating it from other brown species is its large size of up to 3cm and the sharp projections on the edges of the 9th, 11th, and 13th tergites (segment plates).

Lithobius microps
This species is brown like Lithobius forficatus, but much smaller, to a maximum of 1cm long. The legs also appear slightly shorter, and its eyes are made up of only 3 ocelli (lenses) each, making it seem like the centipede has a row of 3 eyes on either side of the head, although this is very tricky to see, even with a microscope/hand lens. The antennae of this centipede are made up of 23-27 segments each

Order Scolopendromorpha

Cryptops hortensis
Like other members of the Order Scolopendromorpha ,it is relatively long, orange with long hind legs, and no eyes. Cryptops hortensis has a ‘prefemoral groove’, a distinct dent or depression along the underside of the first segments of the last pair of legs. This structure distinguishes it from other Cryptops species found in the UK and can be seen by temporarily putting the centipede into a clear, flat plastic bag, and looking at its underside through a hand lens or microscope. They tend to lose a hind leg when threatened, so finding individuals missing a hind leg or two is normal.

Order Geophilomorpha

Schendyla nemorensis
This species is very long and blind, characteristics typical of the Order Geophilomorpha. It has a reddish head and yellowish body that can grow to a modest 2cm in length. Individuals have 37-43 pairs of legs and 4 ‘coxal pores’ (holes located on the underside, behind the last pair of legs) which can only be viewed with a good hand lens or microscope. A very similar species, Geophilus truncorum also exists on Campus, but it has 37-41 pairs of legs and its hind legs have a claw at the end, whereas the hind legs of Schendyla nemorensis have no claw and appear more ‘swollen’.

Geophilus flavus
Another Geophilomorph with a reddish head and yellow body like Schendyla nemorensis, but this species is much larger, reaching lengths of up to 4.5cm. It has a claw at the end of its hind legs like Geophilus truncorum but has 49-57 pairs of legs. Another useful characteristic is the long antennae which are almost 5 times the length of the head.

Haplophilus subterraneus
The longest centipede on Campus, growing to a huge 7cm, and one with the most legs too, boasting 77-83 pairs of legs. The hind legs are thin, claw-less, curving outwards, and there are many small coxal pores present. Like other Geophilomorphs, they can be found under logs and stones, but also underground, pushing their way through the soil in search of prey. This species seems to stay deeper underground during winter but is common under wood in spring and summer.

Now that you have read this guide, maybe the next time you see a centipede you will be curious enough to have a closer look and try and give a go at identifying it (If you can catch it!). This guide is relatively basic, so if you would like to read about other species and more features useful in centipede identification, I highly recommend the AIDGAP Key to British Centipedes available at:
or just a look at the BMIG species list:

Findings can be submitted to to improve current distribution maps and aid researchers.

Many thanks to Dawid! If you’re interested in contributing to the Whiteknights blog, please get in tough with Vicky Boult: v.l.boult(at)

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Every Flower Counts

This month’s blog comes to us courtesy of Chris Foster and Jonathan Mitchley, lecturers in the School of Biological Sciences.

Pollination is one of the most important ecosystem services and a great example of plant-animal interactions which are essential for maintenance of biodiversity. On the University of Reading campus there are hundreds of different wild and cultivated plants pollinated by a wide variety of insects.  In recent times, modern agriculture and other land uses have reduced the variety and abundance of pollinators through use of pesticides and inappropriate management and increasingly, conservation organisations are encouraging people to be more aware of the importance of pollinators.  

For example, the conservation charity Plantlife has been running the ‘No Mow May campaign for some years now, encouraging the public and local authorities to cut back on mowing to allow wild flowers to bloom. Letting flowers bloom on your lawn helps provide a vital source of nectar for bees and other insects, and at the end of the month you can count the flowers on your lawn to take part in Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts survey. You’ll then get your own Personal Nectar Score, which tells you how many bees your garden is helping to support.   

The University of Reading campus is home to a wide variety of grassland habitats and last spring Chris Foster and Jonathan Mitchley from the School of Biological Sciences decided to check out this Plantlife method to quantify the potential for pollinators on Whiteknights campus.  Starting last year several amenity grassland areas have been left as unmown ‘pollinator lawns, providing additional flower-rich habitat to the well-established flowering meadows, and we surveyed both of these habitats. This video introduces one of the areas and the map shows the grassland areas of different sizes which were. surveyed. 

Survey locations across Whiteknights campus

In June 2021 we counted the flowers in 1m x 1 m quadrats and following the Plantlife method the number of quadrats was calculated according to the size of the area – bigger areas sampled with more quadrats.  Twenty-four flowering species were recorded overall and the six commonest flowers recorded (in order of abundance) were Meadow Buttercup, Common Daisy, Hairy Vetch, Bulbous Buttercup, Red Clover and Common Mouse ear. 

Once the quadrat work was done the data were collated and the flower numbers for each species were input into the Plantlife online tool.  The results from tool output are shown in the table below.  Remember these are predicted numbers of pollinators using Plantlife’s algorithm, not actual pollinator measurements, but they provide a useful guide to the pollinator potential of the campus grasslands. The headline result was that the most pollinators per unit area were supported in the amenity grassland areas with lots of daisies and dandelions which are great plants for pollinators.  However, these areas tended to be smaller than the bigger less flowery meadows, so overall it was the larger areas that are likely to support the greatest number of pollinators.  

The outputs of the Plantlife online tool estimating how many pollinators each area supports

The analysis showed that the greatest number of pollinators was supported by meadow #22 (ca. 4 bees m-2) which was ca. four times as many as meadow #11 though both areas had roughly the same number of flowers (ca. 60 m-2).  This result is likely because meadow #22 had the largest numbers of the most nectar-rich plant species such as Buttercups and Red Clover.  

These results support the results of bee data collected on campus a few years back, which showed the amenity grasslands hosting slightly more bee species than the meadows, but a particularly high abundance of some of the commoner bumblebee species in the meadows once they were in full flower. More work by staff and students in the future should reveal in more detail how pollinators are using the varied flower rich habitats on Whiteknights campus throughout the year.  

Keep an eye on the Plantlife website to participate in this year’s ‘Every Flower Counts’ survey: 

Many thanks to Chris and Jonathan! If you’re interested in contributing to the Whiteknights blog, please get in tough with Vicky Boult: v.l.boult(at)

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Guide to five common millipedes on Whiteknights Campus

This month’s blog comes to us courtesy of Dawid Martyniuk, a Zoology student at the University of Reading.

One may come into contact with millipedes when moving logs and stones or uncovering leaf litter. Whatever the encounter, chances are that it was by accident (unless you study soil invertebrates) so you may not have had a good look at them, which can be forgiven considering their small size, usually dull colouration, and tendency to run away from light. I hope that this simple guide to five of the most common and easily identifiable millipedes on Campus will encourage readers to pay more attention to these creatures, as only with willingness to look closer can one appreciate their complexity and diversity.

Pill millipede (Glomeris marginata)         adults ~1.5cm

One of the most distinct, most common, but also one of the most overlooked millipedes on campus. Pill millipedes may look like the well-known ‘Pill bug’ (Armadillidium spp.), but these are crustacean, while Pill millipedes are of course, millipedes.
The most reliable way to distinguish them is to look at them from the side and see how many legs they have. Woodlice such as Pill-bugs all have 7 pairs of legs, while Pill millipedes have many more (17-18 pairs). Another way to tell the difference is to look at the colours and patterns. Pill bugs tend to be grey, many with faint patterns, whereas adult Pill millipedes are usually black or dark brown with distinct pale outlines on each segment.


Flat-back millipede (Polydesmus angustus)       adults ~2cm

In my opinion, the most common millipede on campus, the flat-back millipede is known for its flat, clearly segmented appearance. They are brown with a bumpy texture and have close to 30 pairs of legs that can be seen from above.
There are many species of flat-back millipedes (Order Polydesmida) which are difficult to distinguish without microscope examination, but Polydesmus angustus is the most common woodland species on Campus so we can assume an individual is Polydesmus angustus unless proven otherwise. All flat-back millipedes do not have eyes, so a hand lens/good camera may be useful in identification.


Blunt-tailed snake millipede (Cylindroiulus punctatus)       adults ~2cm

This millipede has a shape typical of most millipedes: long and cylindrical, with many small legs. It is pinkish brown, with a pale underside and has spots along its side. The most important feature is the rounded/blunt ‘tail tip’ (tail telson) which is unique to this species (and two others, but they are significantly larger). You may need a hand lens or good camera to check this, but this can be vital in identification as there are other species such as Cylindroiulus britannicus that look identical but lack such a ‘tail tip’.


White-legged snake millipede (Tachypodoiulus niger)      adults ~3cm

A distinct and relatively large species, this millipede is shiny black with white legs and a pointy ‘tail tip’ (tail telson). As with most other millipedes, you can sometimes find them resting in a curled position. Juveniles might not be as dark in colour and therefore be confused with species of similar shape and size, such as Ophyiulus pilosus but this species is hairier and browner. White-legged snake millipedes also have the very end of the tail tip bent slightly upwards, but this can only be seen with a good hand lens or microscope.


False flat-back millipede (Nanogona polydesmoides)       adults ~2cm

These millipedes resemble the flat-back millipedes, but in truth they are from a completely different order (Chordeumatida). Unlike flat-back millipedes, these millipedes have conspicuous eyes and are generally more shiny or iridescent in the light. Other differences include thinner antennae and 30 body segments when adult (true flat-back millipedes only have 20).
Again, it may be useful to have a hand lens/ decent camera to see such details.


I hope that now, with this new knowledge, finding a millipede will be a much more interesting experience. You can submit your findings to to contribute to the National Recording Scheme.

For information on more species and how to identify them, see the BMIG millipede species list:

Many thanks to Dawid! If you’re interested in contributing to the Whiteknights blog, please get in tough with Vicky Boult: v.l.boult(at)

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Pollinator Lawn

The average lawn contains many more plant species than you might think, and where rich in flowers like Ground Ivy, Daisies, Dandelions and Birds-foot Trefoil can be important habitat for pollinating insects. Additional selected areas of short grass on campus are now being left uncut for longer through the spring and summer to provide habitat for bees, hoverflies and many other groups of flower-visiting insect. Some are left uncut specifically to protect flowering Bee Orchids, which can be seen in grass verges near the Hopkins and RSSL buildings. Short grass can provide valuable habitat for pollinators too as regular cuts trigger repeated flowering cycles, and short swards tend to have more bare patches which are ideal nesting habitat for solitary bees. The best overall approach is to provide habitat heterogeneity, boosting the total number of plant and insect species present on campus.

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Wooded Meadows

Whiteknights is home to a diverse collection of trees, some dating back to ownership of the estate by the Marquis of Blandford in the early 19th century. There are numerous veteran trees, mostly oak, which are especially notable landscape features where they grow in the open in wooded meadows. Dead branches and other decaying features on these trees provide fantastic invertebrate habitat, as do standing dead trunks of trees felled for safety reasons. Directly behind you is one such area, featuring some spectacular Lebanon Cedars, standing dead and decaying oaks, and patches of scrub which provide good habitat for breeding birds. These are rotationally managed to provide a diversity of habitat structures.

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Rewilding Areas

This area of grassland (to the right of the path from here down to Friends Bridge) received its last hay cut in August 2019 and has since been left unmanaged. Although rewilding is the current buzzword – hence our use of it on this sign – non-intervention on a small area of land does not fit stricter definitions of rewilding, so what is happening here is perhaps better described as ‘wilding’. In the campus habitats management plan it is described as a ‘Succession Area’, and it will indeed provide an ideal living laboratory site for Ecology students on campus to study habitat succession and other natural processes. Most of the small trees you see close to the path are poplars which have ‘suckered’ from the mature specimens on the other side. A study of spiders and beetles in the Whiteknights grasslands conducted in 2021 shows that this area is already starting to diverge in character from the other grasslands.

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Whiteknights has around (ha) of species rich semi-natural grassland, an increasingly rare habitat in Berkshire and indeed nationwide. The areas of grassland to the east of Whiteknights Lake have a drier character, while those on the west side of the lake are lower lying and have a correspondingly damper nature, with some good ancient grassland indicator plants like Pepper Saxifrage and Adder’s Tongue Fern. There are also some recently established meadows that have been sown with wildflower mix, one close to Car Park 3 and another in the Harris Gardens. All are managed with a single hay cut each year, usually taken in August, with some patches cut later to provide shelter for late summer invertebrates such as crickets and grasshoppers. At the height of summer the meadows are rich in plant and insect life, with butterfly species including Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Ringlet, Common Blue and Brown Argus. Perhaps the most important invertebrate, in conservation terms, is the ground beetle Carabus monilis which is a priority species under the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) act.

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Whiteknights Lake

Whiteknights Lake is believed to have been created in the mid-17th century by damming the natural springs which occur in the area.  The lake was further enhanced by the Marquis of Blandford and is now approximately 5.85 hectares in size. The size and length of the lake provides a degree of separation between the north and south of the campus grounds.

Eutrophic in nature, the lake lies towards the centre of Whiteknights. It is a dominant landscape feature and is an important habitat. The lake edges were dense with trees and scrub, but where Laurel and Rhododendron have been removed or trees lost improvement in colonisation and variety of marginal plants has been observed. Yellow Flag Iris and Common Reed are establishing successfully. Due to safety concerns and to provide more opportunities for “wilding” a new strategy of minimal intervention has been implemented since 2020.

There are four pedestrian crossing points that link into a footpath network around the perimeter of the lake and the core academic areas beyond.

Overwintering ducks and gulls are a particular feature of the lake during the autumn and spring terms, particularly on the main lake. Species to look out for include Shovelers, which can be seen swishing their broad spatulate beaks through the water to filter out small invertebrates and seeds. Tufted Duck is the most regular diving duck, along with occasional Pochards. A large flock of gulls winters on campus, dividing their time between resting on the lake and feeding on the playing fields. Among 50 – 100 Black-headed Gulls (which only have their chocolate brown – not black – heads in the breeding season) there are usually a few Common Gulls, which are slightly larger with a pale green-yellow that has a dark smudge about two-thirds of the way to the tip. Little Egrets are increasingly regular in the winter, and a Grey Wagtail can sometimes be seen on the small dam by the pumping station near Stenton Hall.

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The Wilderness

The surprisingly extensive woodland on the east edge of the campus developed on the footprint of the old Whiteknights Estate’s ‘Wilderness’ garden, which would have had a more formal layout. Remnants of the original Wilderness can still be seen – for example if you look to the right soon after passing this sign you can see a row of mature Yew trees. Management includes removal of low-value invasive shrubs such as Laurel and Rhododendron and their replacement with new planting of native tree species. Other work such as coppicing is carried out to encourage ground flora. Dead wood is retained either as standing trunks or in stacks, both of which are fantastic habitat for invertebrates including several notable species of beetle.

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