World of Leatherbugs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 22 May 2019 07:37

I've just got back from my monthly visit to the Ken Hill Estate where I am carrying out a series of baseline surveys before they restore some 400 ha to a more natural state. Wow, what a place. On Sunday I recorded the most invertebrates in a day's work I have ever recorded. Currently at least 275 species and with all the specimens collected it will be over 300. It was the bugs that stole the show though. Above is the nationally rare and Critically Endangered Breckland Leatherbug Arenocoris waltlii. I found two of these during the timed counts on a sandy arable field covered in Common Stork's-bill. You can see the 2nd segment of the antennae expands towards the tip and it lacks the white 'v' on the pronotum of the closely related Arenocoris fallenii. Tristan Bantock was telling me that this species is expanding its range but this record is likely to be the most northern record in the country.

After the count was finished I really felt like I needed to cover this area in some more detail so went back for an hour and it really paid off!

Here is the nationally scarce Slender-horned Leatherbug Ceraleptus lividus.

And the very hairy and fairly common Denticulate Leatherbug Coriomeris denticulatus.

I found a Rhombic Leatherbug Syromastus rhombeus too! As I was photographing this, I saw in the view finder that it ran in front of another bug. Which turned out to be the species closely related to the Breckland Leatherbug mentioned above... is the nationally scarce Fallen's Leatherbug Arenocoris fallenii. Both a pale/contrastingly marked one and a browner one closer to the Breckland Leatherbug above. In both individuals though you can see the second segment to the antennae is parallel sided towards the tip and there is a white 'v' of tubercles on the pronotum.

But it didn't stop there! This is what I assume is an early instar Alydus calcaratus nymph (also nationally scarce). An amazing ant mimic.

Other nationally scarce species associated with Common Stork's-bill were Megalonotus praetextus.

And Hypera dauci. It really is just like the Brecks. There was a Woodlark singing nearby too (that refused to show itself during the bird survey). Oh and another Heath Shieldbug Legnotus picipes was there which I picked up last month on a different part of the site!

And to show how sandy it is, the nationally scarce Zelotes electus was also present. This spider is usually found on sand dunes and also the Brecks (see the BAS page above). Oh and I also hit 250 spiders for the year!

Here is that amazing bank and associated fields. With extensive grazing, it's highly likely that this already rich habitat will greatly expand. The continued presence and expansion of these kind of swards in the south could therefore act as a measure of success of the restoration.

Elsewhere in the woods there was also some excitement, with Dendroxena quadrimaculata (nationally scarce b) just sitting on a bramble leaf. This silphid is unusual in that it specialises in hunting caterpillars. It's only about the fith record I have made of this species.

And the striking deadwood cranefly Ctenophora pectinicornis. This nationally scarce species was beaten from recently fallen deadwood.

And how is it that I have seen a third of the UK's beetles but not this before?! Despite seemingly spending half my life beating oak. It's clearly not common in Sussex. The Oak Leaf-roller.

Just looking through the list, it might be the most shieldbugs, squashbugs, leatherbugs and allies that I have ever recorded in one day. Here is the full list in no particular order, 19 in all.

Bishop's-mitre Shieldbug
Slender-horned Leatherbug (NS)
Heath Shieldbug (NS)
Dock Bug
Juniper Shieldbug
Birch Shieldbug
Sloe Bug
Cinnamon Bug
Breckland Leatherbug (NR)
Fallen's Leatherbug (NS)
Rhombic Leatherbug
Denticulate Leatherbug
Small Grass Shieldbug
Green Shieldbug
Rhopalus subrufus
Stictopleurus abutilon
Alydus calcaratus (NS)
Parent Bug
Gorse Shieldbug

Now for some plants. I found a few Wild Service Tree saplings in the woods.

The Vulnerable Prickly Poppy on the sandy field to the south.

And the Near Threatened Hoary Cinquefoil on the Plain.

The bird survey was wrapped up and the highlights included Turtle Doves, Cuckoos, Whimbrel, Woodlark and much more. Wow, if May was this good, I cannot wait until the June visit! The vegetation surveys will start then too rather than just casual observations of plants.

2 Response to "World of Leatherbugs"

Steve Lane Says:

Hi Graeme - contact me. This stuff is typical of north-west Norfolk. The entire area has breck assemblages- it has just been neglected by entomologists who have constantly revisited known breckland sites for breck species and haven't ventured further north-west. Breckland leatherbug is in several north-west Norfolk sites outside Brecks and also in Cambridgeshire Steve Lane

Graeme Lyons Says:

Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. There sure is a huge void of records there in Tristan's provisional shieldbug atlas. I am aware Breckland Leatherbug is spreading but it was an extremely good assemblage considering the site is currently not managed for nature conservation. You can get me at, are you county recorder for beetles in Norfolk?

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